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Deathblow To a Voting Machine

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the Dutch-e-voting dept.

Security 140

SiggyRadiation writes "According to their newsletter (my English translation here), the Dutch group that 'doesn't trust the voting computers' has won a round against the industry and the civil servants that seem hell-bent on reintroducing voting machines — NewVote, made by SDU — that the Dutch minister of the interior has suspended. Apparently SDU provided 5 slightly different samples of its machine to the Dutch version of the NSA (well... the very humble Dutch version anyway) for testing purposes. Of those five, four machines emitted radiation in such a way that the votes cast could be monitored. SDU's NewVote received its final deathblow when it became clear that the one machine that stayed within the radiation limits used a green-on-red color-scheme for its screen. And that would be a small problem for the 4% of all men that cannot distinguish between red and green."

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Radiation? (5, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664098)

Of those five, four machines emitted radiation in such a way that the votes cast could be monitored.
*man exits polling booth & his hair immediately starts to fall out in clumps*

Observer: "Looks like somebody voted for Dammechien Peteersrotmensenpoepjespiestnaaktgeborenzeldenthus III!"

Re:Radiation? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17664178)

I know you're kidding, but they are referring to electromagnetic radiation, which can be monitored with Van Eck phreaking [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Radiation? (2, Interesting)

Otter (3800) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664704)

My first thought was to wonder why the Dutch were the only ones freaking out over a vulnerability that probably affects every electronic voting machine on the planet. But of course, Van Eck is a local security bigshot and if he wasn't on the commission himself, his buddies probably were.

Re:Radiation? (1)

rsmith (90057) | more than 7 years ago | (#17665030)

It's not just the radiation.

The old Nedap voting machines use obsolete hardware, and those machines are often not stored in a secure way (so they could be tampered with).

The new machines run Windows and a wireless modem. That doesn't sound like a safe combination to me.

As far as I'm concerned, a voting machine should at least make an immediate print-out of each vote (a good old-fashioned line printer would do), so that a recount can be done to check the machine's results.

Re:Radiation? (1)

Noginbump (146238) | more than 7 years ago | (#17666934)

"As far as I'm concerned, a voting machine should at least make an immediate print-out of each vote (a good old-fashioned line printer would do), so that a recount can be done to check the machine's results."

The last one I used did this on a cash register receipt looking printer.

Re:Radiation? (0)

0xABADC0DA (867955) | more than 7 years ago | (#17665466)

At some point you have to say enough and accept the risk. After all if somebody really wanted to see your vote that badly surely they could just rig a tiny camera watching you vote. I guess the dutch test for these at each polling place? If not it sounds like overreacting to me. They could also use use terahertz frequencies to see through walls and actually watch your vote even on paper. Maybe voting booths should be submerged in water to prevent this??

Re:Radiation? (1)

AngryNick (891056) | more than 7 years ago | (#17666332)

I agree.

I seriously doubt that the high school cafeteria where I vote has been secured against spy cams and x-ray glasses. Electromagnetic-click-sniffing is the least of my concerns when my nosey neighbor is showing me to the voting station or handing me a "I Voted" sticker.

Why overrated? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17666898)

I wonder why this was modded -1, Overrated? Does the moderator not know that terahertz actually can see through walls? Too lazy to look it up in wikipedia? That water will actually block it? No mod category for "-1, disagree"? Maybe they are European and want to make their own selves look better? Didn't realize that something can't be overrated if it's not rated yet at all? Apparently I'm on somebody's "foes" list.

Re:Radiation? (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664618)

"Dammechien Peteersrotmensenpoepjespiestnaaktgeborenzeldenthus III"
I sometimes miss the rough Dutch humour...

Re:Radiation? (1)

p3d0 (42270) | more than 7 years ago | (#17665194)

Can you translate? Is there a Dutch phrase hidden in that name?

Re:Radiation? (2, Informative)

JPDeckers (559434) | more than 7 years ago | (#17665402)

Peteersrotmensenpoepjespiestnaaktgeborenzeldenth us
Peteersstupidpeoplescatpissbornenakedseldomathome

Well, not much of a phrase

(but consists of actual family names like naaktgebored (borne naked) and zeldenthus (seldom at home) )

I knew it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17664104)

the one machine that stayed within the radiation limits used a green-on-red color-scheme for its screen.

Santa Claus has been rigging the elections! You sly old elf!

Not the first time (2, Informative)

Da Fokka (94074) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664134)

In fact, during the general assembly elections of november 2006 a lot of counties decided to revert to old-skool paper and pencil voting because of the same issues. Wijvertrouwenstemcomputersniet.nl [wijvertrou...ersniet.nl] has done some excellent work!

Re:Not the first time (4, Funny)

krbvroc1 (725200) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664540)

a lot of counties decided to revert to old-skool paper and pencil voting because of the same issues

Unfortunately, pencil and paper voting was rejected. Of the 5 prototype pencils tested, 4 contained lead and the one lead-free pencil was determined to lose it sharpness after several votes.

Re:Not the first time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17665458)

Pencils contain graphite, not lead.

Re:Not the first time (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17665868)

It's a joke. laugh.

In fits and starts but it will proceeed... (4, Insightful)

Merkwurdigeliebe (1046824) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664170)

Yes, this is a blow, but in the end, electronic voting will overcome the shortcomings and the missteps and become they way to cast one's ballot. While there are presently insecurites and faults in the machines those will eventually be minimized so that they become more reliable and less fallible than traditional voting methods (which of course are less than infallible --but many don't want to acknowlewdge that.)

Re:In fits and starts but it will proceeed... (4, Insightful)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664604)

Except there's a big difference between forging paper ballots, or having people vote multiple times under different identities, and using a computer-based system which could be altered easily enough to not record votes at all, record the incorrect votes, or have its count altered by an outside agent. Even the idea of a paper trail is somewhat laughable, as you're expecting people to hang on to this piece of paper for a significant time, on the off chance it might be needed to verify how they voted.

Computer-based voting is a long way from being a reliable enough method to be used exclusively. I think for now there should be a concentration on creating ballots that are easily machine-readible, making the counting easier. Purely computer-driven systems will have to be phased in in small numbers, so they can be monitored and bugs ironed out. Perhaps give people a choice of what type of machine they wish to use. You're going to have to do a lot of work to convince me that this technology is robust enough and secure enough to be used exclusively.

Re:In fits and starts but it will proceeed... (2, Insightful)

Merkwurdigeliebe (1046824) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664794)

The methods of fraud might be different, but the real question is what is the impact on the election(s) overall? Which method produces a more accurate count? When electronic voting proves more reliable it should be adopted as such.

The banking system is based on computers (and thedre aren't many examples of exploiting the system --sure there is oversight by the account-bearer but the point is the errors are small overall). The major kinks in the electronic banking system have been worked out; they shall be worked out of electronic voting too --eventually.

Inaccuracies will exist be it because of improper use, tampering, rigging, etc., but they shall be overall inconsequential and thus render the system effective.

Re:In fits and starts but it will proceeed... (4, Interesting)

Sique (173459) | more than 7 years ago | (#17666038)

Electronic voting steals you half of your voting rights: The right to watch the counting. As someone born and raised in the former Eastern Block I know this is important. We had the right to mark a sheet of paper with a pen and put it in a box. But the outcome was predetermined anyway. Most later convictions for voting fraud in East Germany were only possible, because people watched the counting in enough voting places in 1989 to compare their results with the officially stated.

So don't let you take the right to watch the counting!

Re:In fits and starts but it will proceeed... (4, Informative)

cduffy (652) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664832)

No, no, no! That's not how voter-verifiable paper trails work! If you let the voter keep the piece of paper, they can use it to show how they voted (to collect a payment for their vote, or avoid being beat up or fired). If the piece of paper can't be visually read by the voter for them to know what it says, it isn't "voter-verifiable" any longer and doesn't allow immediate detection of fraud. Nobody wants to let the voter keep a piece of paper. (Well, almost nobody. There are some proposals where the paper is only readable using separate equipment which the voter is only allowed to access when alone, but that's a corner case and has problems of its own).

Instead, VVPT systems have a traditional physical lockbox. Think of the paper as being something behind glass; the user looks at it, validates that it says what they want it to say, and then press "yes" or "no". Press yes? It's deposited in a lockbox which can be secured via traditional methods. Press no? It's marked as void, or shredded, or whatever. It's not the voter's responsibility or burden to track the paper; rather, it's kept in the voting system for use in audits and recounts. (Audits being a very important thing -- having the ability to audit means you can take a sample of the physical ballots, check whether the proportions match what the electronic counters said, and know whether you have a big enough problem to require a larger recount).

This is still an improvement over pure paper ballots because you have the usability and accessibility enhancements associated with electronic voting, but the enhanced auditability associated with a piece of paper which a voter has looked at and approved.

Re:In fits and starts but it will proceeed... (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 7 years ago | (#17665200)

Think of the paper as being something behind glass; the user looks at it, validates that it says what they want it to say, and then press "yes" or "no". Press yes? It's deposited in a lockbox which can be secured via traditional methods.

And if someone can reprogram the machine to record votes a certain way, why can't they program it to dispense the correct paper audits as well? And a lock-box? Secure? You're right back to the same problem you have with paper ballots. Locks can be picked, boxes lost... so you end up with all the safeguards you have now plus those required to secure the computers and electronics from tampering. The only way you could be sure that the paper audit would work is the voter retained it, thereby confirming that this was the way they voted, although it does bring up all the problems you outlined.

In the end, there's going to have to be a quantum leap in voting technology to try and remove most of the simple methods of falsifying voting records while maintaining the anonymity of the system.

Re:In fits and starts but it will proceeed... (1)

trianglman (1024223) | more than 7 years ago | (#17666374)

And if someone can reprogram the machine to record votes a certain way, why can't they program it to dispense the correct paper audits as well?

Which is where laws come in that say the paper audits are done by hand and not machine. Most states have the laws written properly now where the paper audit takes precedence over the computed results.

And a lock-box? Secure? You're right back to the same problem you have with paper ballots. Locks can be picked, boxes lost... so you end up with all the safeguards you have now plus those required to secure the computers and electronics from tampering. The only way you could be sure that the paper audit would work is the voter retained it, thereby confirming that this was the way they voted, although it does bring up all the problems you outlined.

Yes, a lock box is only as secure as the lock and the poeple handling it. However, that is more secure than giving a piece of paper to the voters to keep secure. Not to mention the additional fraud, both through voter influencing like pay for votes and forged vote tickets, that will need to be addressed. The most secure way to protect a vote paper trail is through a lock box, it is both simple and allows for fewer methods of failure.

The reason current non-electronic voting methods are so insecure is that the voting record, in most cases, is not human readable or is open to interpretation (hanging chads, marked too much of a circle, etc.) The printed paper trail locked in a lock box, at least here in Missouri, is human readable plain text, no room for other interpretation. This, IMO, is a relatively secure method of protecting my vote and a much better method of auditing the vote should it be required.

Re:In fits and starts but it will proceeed... (2, Insightful)

cduffy (652) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667662)

And if someone can reprogram the machine to record votes a certain way, why can't they program it to dispense the correct paper audits as well?


That's why they're behind glass where the voter can look at the paper before confirming his or her vote. If I told the machine I'm voting for Bob but the piece of paper behind the glass window says Alice, I (the voter) know there's something wrong.

And a lock-box? Secure? You're right back to the same problem you have with paper ballots.


Those problems aren't too bad; We know how to contain them, even though those are largely procedural methods. Folks can look at a lockbox for pick marks, and those boxes don't get lost without it being noticed; once an electronic counter is tampered with, there can be no proof whatsoever that that tampering even occured.

I could cope with electronic voting if its security were only as bad as paper voting. The problem is that as it stands, there's potential for it to be much much worse -- and undetectably so.

Re:In fits and starts but it will proceeed... (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 7 years ago | (#17665656)

And yet I'd much prefer that we just continue voting as we have for the last few centuries. Somehow it has worked just fine.

Re:In fits and starts but it will proceeed... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17665816)

And yet I'd much prefer that we just continue voting as we have for the last few centuries. Somehow it has worked just fine.

Right, because no one ever stuffed a ballot box.

Personally I'd like to see it done on the damned web, with mandatory voting.

Re:In fits and starts but it will proceeed... (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 7 years ago | (#17666394)

Right, because no one ever stuffed a ballot box.

It's quite a bit harder to do that than it will be with e-voting.

I would *never* vote on the web.

Re:In fits and starts but it will proceeed... (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 7 years ago | (#17668494)

"It's quite a bit harder to do that than it will be with e-voting."

How so? Any idiot can stuff a ballot box, pay the right officials and it is done. With e-voting you have to not only corrupt the officials, but you need someone with the tech savy and know-how required to rig that particular type of machine.

Re:In fits and starts but it will proceeed... (1)

OldeTimeGeek (725417) | more than 7 years ago | (#17665776)

Nobody wants to let the voter keep a piece of paper.

And I'll tell you why:

  1. Voting machines with printers cost more.
  2. The printers will jam; which will take the voting machine that it's attached to out of service until someone can fix it. If the machine is in a busy precinct, this may not happen immediately (assuming, of course, that someone *can* fix it - these people are volunteers, remember? They aren't selected for their technical skills). This problem becomes worse if the printer is integrated into the machine as the machines cannot be opened until after polls close.
  3. 50% of the little slips of paper will end up on the ground just outside the door - even if there is a trash bin. Before the voting machines, California ballots came with tear-off receipts and most of *them* didn't make it farther than 10 feet from the door before they were thrown away. I don't think that people have changed since then. The upside, I guess, is that it'll make exit pollers' jobs a bit easier...

Conspiracy theories aside, most local governments (who are the ones who actually run the elections) would have no problems giving receipts to users - when the technical and cost issues are ironed out.

Re:In fits and starts but it will proceeed... (1)

juxel (47764) | more than 7 years ago | (#17665856)

I don't know why there is such a huge debate about the voting machines. All we need to do is have the machine print a receipt (could be as simple as a cash register receipt of sorts), the voter takes the receipt, checks to make sure it's accurate and then places it in a box as we currently do with paper ballots. Then we randomly audit 15-20% of districts to compare the paper receipts to the computer totals and if there are anomalies a full recount can be ordered. Also, when a candidate requests a recount the paper trail is there and there can be no questioning if the machine totals are correct or not. It eliminates the "half-filled" bubbles and hanging chad problem, it speeds up counting in an election when there is no contention to the results, and it's verifiable.

Re:In fits and starts but it will proceeed... (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 7 years ago | (#17666426)

I actually hate the idea that you have to be a candidate in the district to demand recount. I think everyone with the right to vote has also the right to count or at least to watch the counting. Otherwise you end up with cases like Dachau (Germany), where the mayor and the election official were moving ballot boxes between districts to do their own private gerrymandering. Luckily not only the voting was fair, the counting was also public, and enough people noticed the changed counts when the official results were published.

Public counting actually makes a difference, and everything that shortcuts public counting is actually bad.

There is never a reliable system (1)

bussdriver (620565) | more than 7 years ago | (#17666658)

When you put voting in machines you take it from the voters. period.

The USA military doesn't code our hi-tech weapons with Al Qaeda does it? (even back when we were allies) For voting, both "sides" of the political conflict can not be totally excluded nor can you be sure that they are.

BILLIONS of dollars are at stake and LIVES are at stake. This is proper motivation to exploit any system. No man-made and man-operated system can be completely foolproof (unless we find a way to remove the fool from the man.)

A magic black box takes your vote and counts it-- that should sound STUPID to anybody who isn't mystified by computers and knows they don't just magically work.

Re:In fits and starts but it will proceeed... (1)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664624)

Yes, this is a blow, but in the end, electronic voting will overcome the shortcomings and the missteps and become they way to cast one's ballot. While there are presently insecurites and faults in the machines those will eventually be minimized so that they become more reliable and less fallible than traditional voting methods (which of course are less than infallible --but many don't want to acknowlewdge that.)

Yeah, sure. And in the end, Microsoft Office will overcome the shortcomings and the missteps and become the way to save our files. While presently older versions of MSO files are corrupted by newer versions, eventually these problems will be minimized so that Microsoft's indefinite licensing agreements will become more reliable and less fallible than traditional document distribution methods....

- RG>

Re:In fits and starts but it will proceeed... (1)

Mister Whirly (964219) | more than 7 years ago | (#17665340)

Congratulations! It took just a little over half an hour for Microsoft to get mentioned in a subject that has completely zero to do with them... God how I love Slashdot! Now if someone would just mention Nazis...

Re:In fits and starts but it will proceeed... (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664644)

So what... I don't think anyone out there but a few neophytes truly object to computer assisted voting. BUT it needs to be done right, and potentially needs to always be optional.

Re:In fits and starts but it will proceeed... (1)

siriuskase (679431) | more than 7 years ago | (#17666072)

Hey, I went to mod you up, but my points disappeared....

You bring up something that doesn't get mentioned enough needs to always be optional. And someone must keep track of how many votes were cast electronically. If more than a small percentage insist on doint it the old fashioned way, that demonstrates low confidence in the electronic systems.

Re:In fits and starts but it will proceeed... (1)

Fyre2012 (762907) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664664)

I understand what you mean in that eventually all things will just be digital and there's little that can be done to avoid that.
However, in the context of voting, I would suggest that no digital system is secure enough for something as important as the vote.

You can put all the safeguards you want in place, but that can't stop one system admin with an agenda (or other 'insider' with access to the necessary tools), from exercising their own sort of 'veto power'.

Re:In fits and starts but it will proceeed... (1)

Znork (31774) | more than 7 years ago | (#17666066)

"and become they way to cast one's ballot."

Of course they will eventually become the way to cast ones ballot; it's become obvious that certain interests want electronic voting systems and are going to implement them, no matter what.

"which of course are less than infallible"

Certainly, traditional voting methods are fallible, but tell me this: can you devise a paper based system wherein less than a dozen people need to be involved to tailor the result of a particular election to their wishes? That would be trivial with electronic voting.

That's the big difference. You can manipulate votes in either system, but with a paperbased system, to massively modify a result, you need the cooperation of such a large number of people that it becomes almost impossible to keep it secret.

(Of course, abberant voting systems like winner-takes-all elections are easy to manipulate even if you can only modify a few votes, regardless of the ballot form, but that's a built in deficiency in the system itself)

Re:In fits and starts but it will proceeed... (1)

BalanceOfJudgement (962905) | more than 7 years ago | (#17668532)

Ah such blind faith in technology... so typical of our civilization these days. Always believing the 'next big thing' is right around the corner, the one thing that will finally solve all of our problems. Yet never has it been true.. and every time we hope it is, we give something away..

Voting computers, not machines (4, Interesting)

moonbender (547943) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664246)

One of the many good points Rob made during his talk at last year's 23C3 [events.ccc.de] in Berlin was to call the things voting computers as opposed to voting machines. Machine is associated with a simple, understandable and verifiable piece of gear, while computers are very complex, difficult to understand even by experts and unverifiable. Although the commonly used term (in Dutch) was machines, too, they exclusively referred to computers, and within a fairly short period of time everybody called them that way. In a way this was their first major success. Funnily enough, when they - much later - got hold of an actual device, the label on the back said voting computer, too: that's what the manufacturer had called them all along, internally, that is.

Re:Voting computers, not machines (2)

Merkwurdigeliebe (1046824) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664332)

But a voting computer is one that computes votes (not so much a computer that has a right to vote and then so votes). So, it's a bit of an ambiguous term.

Re:Voting computers, not machines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17664518)

I guess call it a "vote computer", then, in the manner that a "flight computer" is not a "flying computer".

Van Eck phreaking? (2, Informative)

Cinnamon Whirl (979637) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664326)

I remember reading about this in a Neal Stephenson novel (Cryptonomicon) some years ago: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_Eck_phreaking [wikipedia.org] I guess thats what they mean by "radiation", and wikipedia seems to confirm it.

Radiation???? (4, Funny)

8127972 (73495) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664346)

"Of those five, four machines emitted radiation in such a way that the votes cast could be monitored."

Some tin foil would solve that problem.

Re:Radiation???? (1)

siriuskase (679431) | more than 7 years ago | (#17665182)

Some tin foil would solve that problem.
You mean to be funny, but it's true. It would take a very naive engineer (or cheapskape company) to forget to properly shield a computer. Since the emissions can be meaningful to someone with the proper test set, more shielding than normal is required if the vote is to remain secret.

Re:Radiation???? (1)

Caesar Tjalbo (1010523) | more than 7 years ago | (#17666726)

AFAIK, they could distinguish between normal characters and accented characters, most noticeably the 'è' which is in the name of the largest political party (Christen Democratisch Appèl). A reduced set of characters and more instructions to the voting committees ("Don't let anyone near with any kind of receiver!") solved this problem.
The principle distrust of voting computers is not alleviated; we thus did gain a distrust of the people who distrusted the voting computers.

crimes against UI (2, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664360)

the one machine that stayed within the radiation limits used a green-on-red color-scheme for its screen
Who designed that one, and which "free Myspace templates" site does he frequent?

On democracy (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17664362)

This whole thing is wildly inaccurate. If you're using these numbers to do anything important, you're insane.

Colourblind (4, Informative)

Petersko (564140) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664372)

"NewVote received its final deathblow when it became clear that the one machine that stayed within the radiation limits used a green-on-red color-scheme for its screen. And that would be a small problem for the 4% of all men that cannot distinguish between red and green."

Good heavens. As a a person with good old-fashioned red/green colourblindness I assure you that this statement is false.

There is no way that 4% of men can't distinguish between red and green. There's some difficulty in some circumstances, but a green on red colour screen on a voting machine would almost certainly be readable. They'll use high-contrast hues.

The vast majority of red-green colourblindness results from a cone deficiency. In some circumstances it's difficult to make out some differences, but if I see a red shirt, I know it's red and not green. Green lettering on the red shirt would likely be completely readable.

However, I seldom see purple. Usually it looks blue to me.

Re:Colourblind (2, Interesting)

govtpiggy (978532) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664478)

Just a verification of the parent. I'm also red/green colorblind and while I can't see this [steverosswick.com] I can tell the difference between red and green. It's colors that are only separated by shades of red or green that are a problem. Think white to pink or blue to purple.

Re:Colourblind (1)

BenjiTheGreat98 (707903) | more than 7 years ago | (#17665840)

I'm color blind (red/green) and I can see the word 'see'. Is that the hidden word they put in there to throw off the color blind or is that what you're supposed to see? It doesn't shine out at me, though....

Re:Colourblind (1)

WalksOnDirt (704461) | more than 7 years ago | (#17666956)

That is a very bad color blindness test image. After converting it to grey scale, the 'S' is still clearly visible. The first 'E' is only a little harder to make out, and the final 'E' can be seen if you know to look for it.

Re:Colourblind (1)

forand (530402) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664590)

You are aware that your condition is not a uniform one correct? I am unsure from your post if you are claiming that because YOU could see it just fine that the statement is incorrect or something else. In any case I can also add a completely irrelevant anecdote to the story: my father in law cannot see red from green in MOST cases. My point is that unless you have some sort of evidence that the statistics mentioned in the article are incorrect then your statement is just as bad if not worse than theirs. Worse in that theirs is at least being published by someone and has some kind of review.

Re:Colourblind (2, Informative)

Petersko (564140) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664810)

You are aware that your condition is not a uniform one correct? I am unsure from your post if you are claiming that because YOU could see it just fine that the statement is incorrect or something else. In any case I can also add a completely irrelevant anecdote to the story: my father in law cannot see red from green in MOST cases. My point is that unless you have some sort of evidence that the statistics mentioned in the article are incorrect then your statement is just as bad if not worse than theirs. Worse in that theirs is at least being published by someone and has some kind of review.

Start HERE [wikipedia.org] .

The article states that 4% of men "can't distinguish between red and green". "Can't" is a pretty strong statement. Deuteranomaly is the type that affects the distinguishing of red/green, and it's not complete, and only in 1% of men.

Re:Colourblind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17666488)

OK, so it's only 1% of men who will have some trouble figuring out the ballot (can we call them stupid idiots if they have trouble reading it? Problems with bad ballot design are always due to stupid idiots using them, not with... let's say, punching out square holes with round pegs), while the other 99% have their eyes melted off by this incredibly garish choice of a color scheme?

It was a stupid idea, why are we defending it and not asking why a cheaper black-and-white LCD wasn't used instead?

Re:Colourblind (1)

Yartrebo (690383) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664736)

Having red-green colorblindness, I can say that your typical high-contrast hues (bright red and normal or dark green) can be extremely hard to tell apart. I've missed stop signs while staring right where the sign should be because of the dark green foliage behind it and I have to get up real close to red-on-black signs to be able to read them (maybe 1/3rd the distance that I need for more legible white-on-black or black-on-white signs).

PS: I prefer to call it red colorblindness, as I have no trouble seeing green and it's the brightest color around.

Re:Colourblind (1)

lazarusdishwasher (968525) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664858)

Where I vote the person that assigns the computer walks you through a few setup screens to get the computer to the point where you are able to vote.

If the only problem with the machine is the colour scheme, Would it be too hard to put a theme menu on the screen before you start that will let you choose from a handfull of prebuilt themes or at leasts prompts for a background colour and a font colour.

Re:Colourblind (1)

araemo (603185) | more than 7 years ago | (#17665358)

Or, you know, it could just be made to use BLACK AND WHITE, because that pair is the highest contrast you can achieve, and everyone who can read text.. can read it(By "Can read text", I mean in the present tense, if they know how to read but their eyes have been removed, they can no longer read. ;) )

Re:Colourblind (1)

psmears (629712) | more than 7 years ago | (#17665960)

Or, you know, it could just be made to use BLACK AND WHITE
I suspect it's not as easy as that: the reason it's not possible to eavesdrop using the radiation is most likely that the whole screen has a similar luminance value, and it's hard to distinguish (from the radiated signal) bright green from bright red. If you change to black&white, it's easier for everyone to read, including the guy next door with his eavesdropping device :-)

Re:Colourblind (1)

lazarusdishwasher (968525) | more than 7 years ago | (#17666188)

That would work, but I was trying to point out the scale of the problem. Unless there is some technical reason that the colors have to be red and green, why can't they say we will use your machine if you just change the colors.

Maybe since this is slashdot people mught understand my point better if I use a car analogy. Suppose I go to a group of automotive engineers and say I want a car that can cruise at mach 1 and I get 5 back. Of the 5 I get back 4 of them have parts that break upon reaching the speed of sound and the fifth has a red exterior and green seats. I would reject the first 4 because they don't do what I wanted them to do. car number 5 can be sent to a paint shop and get the seats reupholstered (future cars could probably be ordered with the proper color scheme).

Re:Colourblind (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664910)

As a a person with good old-fashioned red/green colourblindness [...] if I see a red shirt, I know it's red and not green. Green lettering on the red shirt would likely be completely readable.
 
However, I seldom see purple. Usually it looks blue to me.
So. By "red/green", you meant "purple"?

Re:Colourblind (1)

Hikaru79 (832891) | more than 7 years ago | (#17666746)

No. Blue and purple are seperated only by a shade of red. If he can't see the red because the cones in his retina don't work properly, blue and purple will seem almost identical.

Re:Colourblind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17667738)

I'm red-green colourblind as well, and I encounter this problem constantly. ex: "How can you see the traffic lights then? Do you "go" when you see red? Har Har". But what happens is that we see a colour differently than others, and the purple is an extremely good example. I constantly see blue, and I'm constantly corrected.

What I would love to see is an online colour blindness ichihara (sp?) test that is free, and actually *good*, to show to my wife, etc... Anyone have any info like that?

There's a "Green on Red" colorscheme now?! (1)

kharchenko (303729) | more than 7 years ago | (#17668100)

>There's some difficulty in some circumstances, but a green on red colour screen on a voting machine would almost certainly be readable. They'll use high-contrast hues.

Green on Red with high contrast hues?! It may be readable by 4% of men, but 90% should get a splitting headache, and the remaining 6% will most likely end up having seizures.

Re:Colourblind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17668270)

There is no way that 4% of men can't distinguish between red and green. There's some difficulty in some circumstances, but a green on red colour screen on a voting machine would almost certainly be readable. They'll use high-contrast hues.

It's actually more like 9% to 10% of all males are red/green (aka red deficient) color blind. I didn't RTFA but I have the feeling that you assume they'll use high-contrast hues. They may not have, to get the emissions down.

I too am red/green color blind. However, unlike you, whenever I am presented red and green, even side by, I am not always able to even see there are two colors present. And I almost never see purple :-).

Wrong, voting machines are winning the battle. (3, Insightful)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664374)

The "Wijvertrouwenstemcomputersniet" protesters has been manouevred into a corner by the industry and the state. The group's principal argument has always been this:

"Voting machines (without a paper trail) make it impossible to verify the fairness of an election"

In addition, they have gone to show how election results could be manipulated, and how cast votes could be read from outside the polling station. The protesters have had a lot of success getting a number of machines removed from the elections, and they have certainly managed to put the issue onto the political agenda and the public debates. However, with all this media coverage, they are failing to state, re-state and re-re-state their principle argument: that there is a fundamental problem with using voting machines. I have never heard one of their spokespersons state that fixing these small problems with the computers is not enough, and is basically a side-issue. The machine's proponents have taken this opportunity to turn the fundamental problem into a side-issue.

The press, politicians (who want to use voting machines) and the voting machine manufacturers jumped on the issue, stating: "You are right, there's an issue with certain machines but we'll get it fixed". When the machines get fixed, the protest group's role will have been played out. Any subsequent complaints about the fundamental issues with voting machines will be dismissed by the public as whining from a group who are just looking for any excuse to go on protesting.

Re:Wrong, voting machines are winning the battle. (1)

SupplyMission (1005737) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664864)

The machine's proponents have taken this opportunity to turn the fundamental problem into a side-issue.

That's a good point. I never looked at it that way.

But regardless of whether or not we find electronic voting distasteful, there are many legitimate reasons why is is desirable over paper and pencil. The most obvious is for counting votes -- computers save time and money. In theory, the vote counts can be available the instant the polls close, and we need to hire fewer people to administer an election. Furthermore, it saves time for the voter. You walk in, tap a touchscreen a few times, and you're done. There are many more reasons, but in essence it's time and money.

Then again, I always say, "Yeah, but... elections only come once every 2 to 4 years! How much money will we, the public, really save? Is there a real business case for electronic voting?"

Probably I'm ignorant, but has anyone ever looked at the accounting behind voting computers? All things considered, how much does it cost to design, purchase and operate voting computers during an election, versus doing it the old fashioned people, paper and pencil way?

There is also no technical reason why voting computers are not possible. We already derive benefits from ATMs though old fashioned banking is still available. Millions or billions of bank transactions are reliably processed by ATMs every day. With all the options available, you might even argue that ATMs are more complex than voting computers: withdrawals from various accounts, deposits, money transfers, bill payments... on top of all that, they have to be very secure (though we might argue exactly how secure).

But in response to this, I always ask, "If banks can do it with ATMs, what is wrong with the numbskulls at the e-voting companies? Why don't the banks make the voting computers?"

How much merit is there to the views that the e-voting companies exist for one purpose: to strategically positioning themselves to make immense profits through government contracts? From the public's point of view, how far off the mark is it to say that we don't really need e-voting, for purely business reasons?

Re:Wrong, voting machines are winning the battle. (1)

James McGuigan (852772) | more than 7 years ago | (#17665474)

One of the big differences is the fact its a secret ballot.

With an ATM, it must validate your ID (card and pin) in relationship to a pre-existing bank account and ensure you only perform commands you are allowed to, while keeping a bulletproof audit trail of everything it does.

For a voting system to work the same way, you would need a foolproof national ID system (so you can't have more than one identity or pretend to be someone else), you go to the voting machine, log your citizen ID along with your vote. Its no longer a secret ballot, but it would be fairly robust.

Its a secret ballot for a reason, so as to maintain a free and fair election (ie stop voter intimidation or reprisals), but it poses a few issues regarding the separation of user authentication from counting of the votes, while still retaining data integrity.

Re:Wrong, voting machines are winning the battle. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17665250)

a paper trail is not necessary with the right code. after the hanging chads paper is not as big of an issue. i say they take those nokia 770 tablets and put open source on 'em.

Re:Wrong, in more ways... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17666096)

"humble version of the NSA"???

Do your homework before making such a claim, the AIVD (and previously the BVD) are very heavy agencies, that carefully maintain their "boyscout" image...

If you would know what you were talking about you would not say this...

Re:Wrong, in more ways... (1)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667904)

The AIVD's budget is a tiny fraction of the NSA's budget. They're good at what they do, but their scope is limited.

Re:Wrong, in more ways... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17668608)

In relation to the country they have a very realistic budget, and they use it well...

To call them humble shows a total lack of understanding of the organization.

Re:Wrong, voting machines are winning the battle. (1)

smoker2 (750216) | more than 7 years ago | (#17666140)

Any subsequent complaints about the fundamental issues with voting machines will be dismissed by the public as whining from a group who are just looking for any excuse to go on protesting.
Well they could say "we are no longer the knights that say Wijvertrouwenstemcomputersniet, now we are the knights that say We still don't trust voting computers[but in dutch, natch!]"

Somebody could always start the New Wijvertrouwenstemcomputersniet and complain about something else. And given that there are always hacks to get around any security, I can't see them being sidelined for long.

BTW the site/reports in English [wijvertrou...ersniet.nl] .

I'm no colour co-ordinator but (1)

Headcase88 (828620) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664402)

It doesn't take someone colour-blind/deficient to realize that green text on a red background is one of the fugliest and unpractical colour schemes one could possibly come up with. Why not try teal on light-brown next time guys? Oh I got one: orange on yellow. That will totally enhance the quality of any application. Seriously.

"Deathblow: When someone kills you not because of who you are, but for other reasons entirely"

Re:I'm no colour co-ordinator but (1)

denominateur (194939) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664640)

I assume it it because of the radiation regulation. I'm just pulling this out of my arse but it is well possible that this combination minimises the ability of "van eck phreaking" to be successful.

But what if someone just looked over your shoulder (2, Insightful)

Radon360 (951529) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664468)

It's nice to see that someone cares about the secrecy of the voting process, but I would think that integrity in the vote count itself would take a much higher priority over this issue.

In some remote way, it reminds me of the military's concern long ago (and largely before my time) over the use of IBM Selectric typewriters, as the RF emissions (i.e. coils and motors starting and stopping, a primitive spark-gap transmitter in a sense) from the mechanisms could be detected and reconstituted into what was being typed from a short distance away.

Secrecy and Integrity (1)

sporkme (983186) | more than 7 years ago | (#17665056)

If someone can tell who you voted for, your vote is completely worthless and should not be counted at all.

A union leader or employer could demand that you vote for a certain candidate and verify that you obeyed. Someone could offer you money to vote one way or another, paying up after the vote has been verified--and people complain about votes being "bought and sold" now. A person may indicate one way on an open petition to avoid being ostracized, but can vote his true feelings on a secret ballot. This is a cornerstone of free society.

Re:Secrecy and Integrity (1)

gnu-user (162334) | more than 7 years ago | (#17665300)

If someone can tell who you voted for, your vote is completely worthless and should not be counted at all.
This is clearly an overstatement regarding a legitimate principle.

If I tell my friends who I voted for, that does not render my vote invalid?

A more genericly applicable example, most polls have a "straight ticket" option. If a voter spends a short time in the polling station I can be quite confident that they voted "straight ticket", and the only thing I need to guess is "which direction".

Yes votes should be secret, but automatic disqualification without context amounts to disenfranchisement, something that is a much greater issue.

Re:Secrecy and Integrity (1)

Radon360 (951529) | more than 7 years ago | (#17665404)

Agreed with what you've said about the reasons for secrecy and its importance.

My point is in this particular case, it's not like the result of your vote is displayed on a large overhead display. Rather, someone would have to go through quite a bit of trouble to capture this information. It would be akin to placing one of those nickel-sized camera/transmitters inside the voting booth to see which ovals you filled in on your ballot (or touched on the screen, for that matter). Am I implicating that the problem should be ignored? Hardly. I just think that it's being made out to be a much more serious issue than it probably is in comparison to other ones (i.e. machine tampering/vulnerabilities).

Next, we'll hear that the secrecy was compromised because someone is lifting fingerprints from touchscreens. The obvious counter to this is to randomly switch the order of the candidates on the touchscreens so that their name isn't in the same spot for every voter. In fact, this might be the solution for the case in the article. Of course, this opens up the next can of worms as political parties niggle over whether or not the order was truly randomized, because we all know that way too many people just vote for the candidate on the top of the list.

Re:Secrecy and Integrity (1)

Mister Whirly (964219) | more than 7 years ago | (#17665696)

"If someone can tell who you voted for, your vote is completely worthless and should not be counted at all."

So when the votes are tallied, if they can figure out who you voted for, it isn't counted. Isn't that kind of the opposite of the situation in Florida and Ohio in the last elections? Do you only count those votes that you can't determine who they voted for?? Which candidate gets the indeterminate votes?? This sounds like a brilliant system - I'm sure Katherine Harris would support it...

TEMPEST (2, Insightful)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664882)

ahref=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TEMPESTrel=url2 html-3260 [slashdot.org] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TEMPEST>

a few years ago this was a big deal and everyone was worried that the government was going to use radiation emitted by CRT monitors to reconstruct what was on the screen, people even made special fonts that minimized this by blurring and breaking up the edges of glyphs.

then LCD's became cheap enough for just about anyone to buy.

i wonder if these machines use a CRT monitor

Re:TEMPEST (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#17665920)

then LCD's became cheap enough for just about anyone to buy.

so?

Van Eck phreaking is the process of eavesdropping on the contents of a CRT or LCD display by detecting its electromagnetic emissions. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_Eck_phreaking [wikipedia.org] )

Re:TEMPEST (1)

AnyoneEB (574727) | more than 7 years ago | (#17666290)

I thought Tempest was based on reading the video RAM at a distance, not the monitor?

What's wrong with paper anyay? (2, Insightful)

xtal (49134) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664890)

I love technology as much as the next guy, but what's wrong with paper voting? Canada uses it, it scales nicely, there's a perfect record of who voted for what, with a nice X right there. You can track ballots in, and ballots out. Nobody knows who put the X on the paper.

Pushy sales jobs make me nervous, and these things are being hawked like a $500 used car.

Re:What's wrong with paper anyay? (1)

0xABADC0DA (867955) | more than 7 years ago | (#17665158)

It's not the paper voting that's the problem, it's the paper counting. In the last election (for senate) there were IIRC 9 different measures on my ballot. Sometimes there are only a couple like in a primary, other times there could be a dozen or more. Also, some are yes/no and some are multiple choice + write in.

Keeping a count of all these without some form of help is pretty annoying. I guess you could have stations, where each one counts only a particular ballot measure. That would probably be the most efficient and least error prone. It's still going to take say O(10x) longer than a Canadian election.

Re:What's wrong with paper anyay? (1)

maetenloch (181291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17666482)

There's nothing wrong with paper voting - the catch is that paper ballots have to be counted and almost always this means machine counted. No matter what system you use for marking them, checking a box, fill-in dots or lines, punch out chads, etc., some percentage of people will manage to create a ballot that's inconsistent (voting for more than one candidate in the same contest) and/or ambiguous (dimpled or hanging chads, stray pen marks). One benefit of electronic voting machines is that they prevent these kind of errors. Another is that the ballot can be updated very close to the election day. With paper ballots, once they are printed, it's nearly impossible to make any changes which leads to dead men and withdrawn candidates appearing on the ballots.

A lot of the move toward electronic voting machines is an (over)reaction to the 2000 election fiasco in Miami Beach County. If you accept paper ballots, then you're going to have to accept that a certain number of people will cast spoiled (hence invalid) ballots.

Re:What's wrong with paper anyay? (1)

jridley (9305) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667038)

Optical scan does away with this if properly administered. We put our ballots directly into the scanning machine ourselves. If there's an irregularity, it spits the ballot back out again. There's not really any possibility of having a hard-to-interpret ballot. The machines will reject overvoting, and are sensitive to marks that go more than halfway between one box and the next, and in the case of the machines used in my precinct (Diebold Accu-vote) will reject a ballot that's been marked and then erased. I know a guy who's worked elections for decades, and he says they can run the ballots through 5 times and get the same exact count on every box 5 times in a row.

We do have one machine that's available for disabled folks to use to generate their ballot, but he says nobody's ever used it. We live in a rural community, and honestly anyone who would have to use that probably would have a hard time getting to the voting location anyway, and probably votes absentee.

Re:What's wrong with paper anyay? (1)

maetenloch (181291) | more than 7 years ago | (#17668114)

But optical scanning won't catch ambiguous ballots e.g. a mark that goes less than halfway through the box which would be discovered during a hand recount. One benefit of electronic machines is that they eliminate ambiguity. Personally I'm okay with not counting ballots that are not completely marked or punched. Voting does require a modicum of personal responsibility to ensure your vote does count.

Let me be the first to say (1)

unchiujar (1030510) | more than 7 years ago | (#17664962)

I for one welcome our zombie voting machines overlords.

These aren't the reasons we're looking for (2, Informative)

erroneus (253617) | more than 7 years ago | (#17665044)

We want them gone because their integrity and reliability are in question, not whether they meet the "ADA" (or equivalent in other countries) requirements or that voter privacy might be violated.

In fact, having a machine that specifically reads voter responses for the purpose of comparing them with the machine's reported voting results might be an EXCELLENT thing. If the tally's don't match, we'd know something was afoot.

so what... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17665142)

Who cares about the votes anyway, once elected, not ONE politician will remember what he said to get in his place..
Democracy is a myth.
Won't wotk ever, since the only way to have time to become a succeful politician is to be rich enough (or famous enough, kind of the same more than often) so he can be known.
So the best we can have is either oligarchy or dictatorship....

And about ideas, people only want to hear 'less work and more fun...'

How is this a "Death Blow"? (1)

popo (107611) | more than 7 years ago | (#17665374)

They'll make the modifications, and it will be back by the next election.

Never let the truth get in the way of a sensational headline /.

Brazil use Vouting Machine for 10 years (1)

MGO LoBEL (1052980) | more than 7 years ago | (#17666004)

in the last election, the result for president only last 2 hours. And we have 115 million people voting. Since 2000 we have 100% eletronic voting sistem.

Re:Brazil use Vouting Machine for 10 years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17667240)

Why did it take two hours? The answer was calculated before the polls opened.

Some background info (2, Informative)

InternetVoting (809563) | more than 7 years ago | (#17666008)

A Dutch citizen group "Wij vertrouwen stemcomputers niet" ("We do not trust voting machines"), released a report performing a secuirty review of the the Nedap/Groenendaal ES3B voting systems. Chapter 6 (page 14) covers "Compromising emanations" (i.e. TEMPEST). The Nedap machines are DRE systems, but are not a traditional touchscreen. They use an electromechanical touch sensitive full-face ballot interface (similar to the Shouptronic). However, the TEMPEST issues were not related to the input features, but rather the small LCD screen used to verify votes. Similar to many optical scan voting system readers.

While the subject of compromising emanations is one that deserves attention, ultimately what allowed relevant information to be interpreted from the emissions was that a major political party's name contains an accents, an extended ASCII character (Christen Democratisch Appèl) resulting in an emissions variation, something less likely to be a serious concern in the United states.

"Radiation"
Do not think your standard definition for radiation. Think more like spurious emission [wikipedia.org] . It doesn't mean the voting machine runs on Plutonium... These types of emissions are released at some level from all electronic devices. It only becomes a problem when the emissions escape [wikipedia.org] the device housing.

Report
Check out the full report [wijvertrou...ersniet.nl] . It's a pretty interesting look in this one particular voting machine.

SMS voting? (2, Insightful)

C0rinthian (770164) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667394)

Why don't we make a reality TV show out of the election?

Think about it. You get the candidates on TV, mebbe have them compete somehow. Have some experts in politics and government ask them questions that the candidates must answer. We can even have them tour the country making public appearances to try and gather support!

And here's the best part: The people actually get to vote for who gets to be President! Just send a text message to 1-800-VOTEUSA and choose your favorite candidate!

Imagine the ratings!

eInk? (1)

Dolohov (114209) | more than 7 years ago | (#17667732)

Does anyone know whether electronic ink displays are subject to EM snooping? Given the low refresh rates, I would wonder whether there's enough there to read.

BiMt3h (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17668374)

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