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Secrecy of Voting Machines Ballots At Risk

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the just-another-layer-to-the-cake dept.

Privacy 256

JimBobJoe writes "On Monday, Cnet published the findings I made as an Ohio poll worker regarding a major oversight in my state's election's system: Using a combination of public records, plus the voting machine paper trails, you can figure out how people voted. Though most agree that voting machine paper trails are a necessity, they can cause privacy problems which aren't easily mitigated. 'It's an especially pointed concern in Ohio, a traditional swing state in presidential elections that awarded George Bush a narrow victory over John Kerry three years ago. Ohio law permits anyone to walk into a county election office and obtain two crucial documents: a list of voters in the order they voted, and a time-stamped list of the actual votes. "We simply take the two pieces of paper together, merge them, and then we have which voter voted and in which way," said James Moyer, a longtime privacy activist and poll worker who lives in Columbus, Ohio.'"

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256 comments

How long (0)

AkumaReloaded (1139807) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316277)

How long did they take to figure that out? It seems a bit of an obvious problem. For the rest I do not understand why people are so afraid of saying who they voted for because you should always be proud of what you voted for. If you are not proud of who you voted for then why vote that way? I would vote democrat and would be proud of it, so why would I care if someone knew that.

(obviously I do understand the tensions it can create if everybody in your line of work votes republican, or in your family)

Re:How long (-1, Offtopic)

AkumaReloaded (1139807) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316301)

Also, first post, whow didnt think I would ever accomplish that.

Re:How long (5, Insightful)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316313)

obviously I do understand the tensions it can create if everybody in your line of work votes republican, or in your family

And still you don't understand why people are so afraid of saying who they voted for?

Keeping votes secret is one very important way to make sure any democracy works, since humans can easily be forced to vote for something they do not want to vote for, either by threat of violence to your own person or someone in your family, or by money. Secret votes makes sure that someone can vote how they want, not how peer pressure wants.

And with the machines so hackable who cares? (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316601)

Honestly this is the LEAST of my worries regarding these machines.

Hacking these machines is like using a bump key on a standard lock. Anyone can be shown how [thenation.com] , even idiot politicians.

Why would ANYONE go through the trouble of bribing or threatening the vote when they can just hack the vote?

Re:And with the machines so hackable who cares? (1)

FLEB (312391) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316697)

Different strokes for different folks. Some might be more adept at convincing than hacking. Also, with the exception of the actual coercion (which can easily be performed offsite), the bribe-and-examine method utilizes legal methods that don't involve suspicious "breaking in" to anything.

Re:How long (2)

symes (835608) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316619)

Keeping votes secret is one very important way to make sure any democracy works
I agree. But on a related theme there's a problem with anonymity - it means independent third parties would have a hard time assessing how well voting machines are recording votes, or if there are peculiar distortions which might be attributable to the machines themselves.

Re:How long (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316721)

not true. you mark down when someone votes, you mark down their vote, but you leave no connection between the 2.

if a does not equal b then you have a problem.

Re:How long (4, Insightful)

FLEB (312391) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316731)

If you have paper-trails that are shown to the voter-- even unmarked and nonsequential paper-trails-- there is a physical record that the voter can verify and "throw a flag" on if it comes out incorrect. That, and pre-testing and examination of the process can make voting secure enough that anonymity need not be given up.

Re:How long (5, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316337)

Because there's a bajillion ways to use that information against you, and people are paranoid. (Probably rightly so, most of the time.)

So, you voted against (candidate that won), huh? Well, you must be evil.

So, you voted independent, eh? You must be a communist, trying to subvert our system.

So, you voted for a known communist, eh? You must be a spy.

Yes, there's not a whole lot of logic there. There doesn't NEED to be, because the people that would put those lists together to see who voted what aren't USING a lot of logic.

Anonymous voted should mean that, not 'temporarily anonymous' or 'anonymous unless we want it not to be'.

Re:How long (2, Insightful)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316381)

Or worse yet, So you voted for X who wants to raise my taxes and regulate the industry we are in, Your fired.

Or maybe even worse yet, I says here that you voted for my opponent in the last election, As mayor of this town, I think the new low income subdivision should go in your back yard. Or maybe it is a speeding ticket that turns into a trip downtown with towing your car and everything to get something sorted out and nobody cares because you voted for the other sheriff or the other mayor candidate.

And yes, those have happed before in American history with the political bosses and such.

Re:How long (1)

superbus1929 (1069292) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316987)

Cite some examples, please. I don't buy this.

Re:How long (5, Insightful)

alzoron (210577) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316343)

I believe you'll find an answer to your question somewhere in a history book. I suggest starting with 15th and 16th century Europe, then move onto American history.

Just because you happen to live in a local and era where you don't have to fear for your life when you voice your support for one person over another doesn't mean it's always been like that or will continue to be like that indefinately.

Re:How long (1)

TapioNuut (615924) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316347)

For the rest I do not understand why people are so afraid of saying who they voted for because you should always be proud of what you voted for. If you are not proud of who you voted for then why vote that way? I would vote democrat and would be proud of it, so why would I care if someone knew that.
You will start caring as soon as somebody decides to win the next election, and kills all or most of the people who voted for the wrong candidate this year.

This is to say that even in dictatorships the voting numbers itself don't have to be fabricated. It's only necessary to let the people know that They know who you're voting for and They will take action if you vote the wrong way.

1) Acquire the list of votes and voters
2) In the following years, kill, torture or otherwise affect to the people who voted wrong
3) PROF---Win the election

PS. No, I'm not talking about the US.

Re:How long (2, Insightful)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316353)

There is no need for many people to think differently, all you need is one person in situation of power. I wouldn't want to live in a country where I would vote for someone not because I think he is the least bad candidate, but because I fear to be fired or arrested if I don't. Of course, I'm not american.

Re:How long (2, Interesting)

Televiper2000 (1145415) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316357)

It's not a matter of how proud you are of who you voted for. It's a matter of being able to vote for someone without the threat of intimidation or reprisal. It's not the matter of feeling a little tension when you're the only guy voting Democrat. It's more the matter voting your way on matters of gay marriage, slavery, and abortion in places there are people who would be openly hostile to your views. For the most part I believe that the developed world is much more civil than that. But, history dictates that sometimes the tide turns the other way.

Re:How long (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20316983)

For the most part I believe that the developed world is much more civil than that. But, history dictates that sometimes the tide turns the other way.
It's doesn't take much to scrape off that veneer of civilization even in the developed world, hate is big im the polls right now in the US and EU - no one ever loses the popular vote when they preach hate against gays, immigrants or poor people.

Re:How long (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20316563)

Zimbabwe [usip.org] .

Re:How long (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316603)

For the rest I do not understand why people are so afraid of saying who they voted for because you should always be proud of what you voted for.

(obviously I do understand the tensions it can create if everybody in your line of work votes republican, or in your family)

See. You do understand why people are afraid of saying who they voted for.

Re:How long (2, Insightful)

zik0 (450949) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316683)

It isn't as straight forward as Mr. Moyer suggests. The order you enter the polling place and sign your name is not the same order you finish voting and place your ballot in the box. You have a pretty good guess during slow periods, but not during the rush.


By the way, I encourage everyone to try their hand at working the polls for several reasons:

  • If you don't trust the system, get in there and keep an eye on them.
  • Most of the workers are getting on in years. As careful as they are, their eyesight and memories are starting to go.
  • When they are gone, we need someone who knows how the system works.
  • It's good for you.

Hah (5, Funny)

tttonyyy (726776) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316325)

That's why I'm changing my name by deed poll to a mysql injection attack string.

Try and combine my vote and a date together in a database you b*****rds! ;)

Re:Hah (1)

metaltoad (954564) | more than 6 years ago | (#20317019)

That wouldn't work because they are probably going to be using Access. Ofcourse then it will crash on it's own if there are more than 100 records...

Why do you need a list in the order they voted? (3, Insightful)

Advocadus Diaboli (323784) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316341)

Just print out a catalog of all the voters that need to vote in that election office. If someone votes, then you mark him as "was voting already" but not recording the time of his vote. At the end of the day you have a list of people that voted and a list of votes, but you can't do any correlation on it.

It looks like they need to save paper because election machines are so expensive and now they just record voters data in the order they appear in the voting office.

Re:Why do you need a list in the order they voted? (2, Insightful)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316439)

Most poll in ohio that I have been into have at least 4 machines going with one or two people at the machines by the time I get to one. And I vote at one of the slower districts. I generally finish voting before others already there for some reason. It could be because I already know who and what I am voting for when I get there or it might be that I handle the technology better. But that isn't important because I'm not the only one like that.

I'm thinking the best you can do with a system like this is point to 3 or 4 votes and claim one of them might be yours. It would be real hard to say you voted a certain way unless all the people who voted around your time voted that way.

Anyways, the reason this is a mess is because people demanded the ability to track things. You even had drive by civil rights workers claiming fraud and demanding this. Of course nothing has change with it in place (no fraud has been found) but it isn't going anywhere unless we get away from electronic voting machines.

Re:Why do you need a list in the order they voted? (4, Informative)

ThosLives (686517) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316543)

This was my thought as well; I suppose it depends on how the system determines "order in which you vote". I've never personally used anything but a paper ballot that is read by a scanner (yay for "backwards" states), but the way it works everywhere I've been is:

1. You come in, they simply highlight your name in the Big Book of Names and give you a ballot. I don't even think they write down the ballot number next to your name in the book.
2. You go fill out the ballot and stick it in the machine.

That's it. No timestamps, nothing.

Re:Why do you need a list in the order they voted? (2, Interesting)

jridley (9305) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316783)

IMHO optical mark/sense is currently the best voting technology around. When coupled with a machine to assist disabled people mark theirs, I don't think it can easily be improved upon. It's been working for many years and doesn't have any of the problems of hanging chad or unclear voting that have plagued punch cards and the like in past years.

What you describe is what happens here in my area of Michigan as well.

Re:Why do you need a list in the order they voted? (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316821)

You've obviously not had much experience running a Scantron machine, and you're not thinking like a programmer. Of course the machine can date stamp the vote, it's still a computer. Whether that vote went in on a keyboard or over a scanner hardly makes any difference. Now whether or not it's set up store anything but vote tallys is separate question.

Re:Why do you need a list in the order they voted? (2, Informative)

Ulven (679148) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316963)

It doesn't matter if it stores the timestamp, as the time that he voted is unknown.

You know that John Doe voted, and you know that someone voted for candiate X at 12:30 - but there is no way to tie the two together.

Unless, of course, he was the only person to vote!

Re:Why do you need a list in the order they voted? (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#20317041)

Scantrons can read form numbers encoded on the scantron in magnetic ink. Having it read ballot numbers would be possible. Not saying it is, but would be.

Re:Why do you need a list in the order they voted? (1)

Obyron (615547) | more than 6 years ago | (#20317217)

Exactly. Every time I vote there's some little old lady two machines over that's been there the entire time I've been in line, and I still manage to wait my turn and finish before she does. I thought she was just old and slow, but all this time she's been protecting her identity by letting her timestamp get "stale."

This could be a cause for concern, but I don't see it being an eminent threat to my privacy.

Re:Why do you need a list in the order they voted? (1)

SLi (132609) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316581)

That's security by obscurity, since obviously it's possible to observe who goes in in what order.

However removing the timestamps from the votes is a perfect way to solve this. That happens with traditional paper ballots.

Why timestamps (5, Insightful)

Bananenrepublik (49759) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316359)

Can somebody explain to me why votes need to be timestamped? The only purpose I can think of is that this allows cross-correlation with the actual votes. You don't even need the info on the order in which people voted, as you could just stand in front of the election place with a watch. This sounds like a definite failure at maintaining basic democratic principles.

Re:Why timestamps (2, Insightful)

onion2k (203094) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316393)

Presumably to ensure 50,000 votes aren't added in the space of 0.001 seconds. Coz that'd look a little suspect.

Re:Why timestamps (3, Insightful)

pla (258480) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316417)

Presumably to ensure 50,000 votes aren't added in the space of 0.001 seconds. Coz that'd look a little suspect.

Or, say, negative votes. Or more people voting than exist in the district. Coz that'd look a little suspect too. ;)

Re:Why timestamps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20316671)

Why would you need timestamps to detect either of those things?

Re:Why timestamps (2, Interesting)

pdhenry (671887) | more than 6 years ago | (#20317009)

50,000 votes is the absurd example; here's another

A voting precinct has 1000 voters. At fine minutes to closing time 500 have voted. A timestamp precludes a corrupt precinct boss from entering a couple hundred votes for his chosen candidate in the final minutes, or at least provides evidence that the polling place became very efficient right at the end there.

No need to timestamp THE VOTE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20317065)

Just have a timestamp against the update, internally. No need, either, in that case to even count it against any vote. Just that a vote was registered.

Why are these records even KEPT AT ALL in Ohio?? (2, Insightful)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316401)

For that matter why should anyone have access to the records of who voted at all?

IMO there is no difference in the privacy of who you voted for, and the privacy of if you even voted. It is your right to vote or not to vote. I mean - imagine a week after the election, your local busybody comes by your house and asks why you didn't vote. WTF? Whose business is that?

Obviously someone could just watch for you at your local polling station, but they would have to know who you were in advance for that to work.

The only reason I see for recording that information AT ALL is to ensure no one votes twice, and that function is only valid while the election is in progresss, because it is not something you can even audit afterwards.

Therefore once the election is complete that information should be permanently destroyed.

Re:Why are these records even KEPT AT ALL in Ohio? (1, Informative)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316505)

If they destroyed all that info, when a republican beats a democrat, all you will hear is how voter fraud and all happened. This shows there wasn't any and all that jazz. BTW, it has been this way in Ohio for a while now.

It is a no win situation and the answer is probably going to be not to change anything.

Re:Why are these records even KEPT AT ALL in Ohio? (1)

trewornan (608722) | more than 6 years ago | (#20317111)

I'd have thought it would be a good idea for each voter to be able to check their vote was correct but nobody elses.

You could take the name and DOB of the voter, plus a password entered at the time and do an md5 hash then publish the hashes on the web alongside the candidate voted for (in the clear). Anybody wanting to check would simply have to hash their name, DOB and password and could then look up the hash in the list and check the vote was recorded correctly.

Because the candidate voted for is in the clear the election results could be easily checked as you could total up the number of votes for each candidate yourself.

If large numbers of people started claiming their votes had been incorrectly registered they could give out their passwords so others could check that the votes weren't recorded the way they claim they voted.

Re:Why are these records even KEPT AT ALL in Ohio? (2, Insightful)

Televiper2000 (1145415) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316513)

Then that leaves everything in the hands of a potentially corrupt elections board. So a year down the road when investigators suspect shady business they have no idea of knowing how many of the district's voters were registered at the grave yard vs. how many were turned away from the poll, or couldn't even make it to the poll. Corruption adores keeping secrets, and destroying voting records immediately after the fact is a perfect way of keeping secrets. Storing voting records will help keep the system transparent. It is something you can audit afterwards, and it's probably something that should absolutely be audited.

Re:Why are these records even KEPT AT ALL in Ohio? (1)

DonkeySpew (683848) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316855)

Maybe they keep them so they can catch all those sneaky corpses that keep digging themselves up to vote.

Re:Why timestamps (1)

Televiper2000 (1145415) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316443)

They're probably time stamping as way of preventing voter fraud and ballot stuffing. As for the list of voters being in the order they voted it, they're most likely publishing the logs as they written at the polls. It's a matter of two pieces of information being made public in their rawest form. Obviously the election office in this case lacked the oversight it would have taken to analyze the data they make available publicly for potentials like this.

Fear (2, Insightful)

AkumaReloaded (1139807) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316369)

Ok so it creates tensions, however if seems all of you fear your country and your fellow citizens so much that if someone knew how you voted you would immediately be forced to vote otherwise. I have to say that you guys/girl are somewhat fearful in that democracy you call the USA. As a student of American Studies I already knew that Americans have a healthy distrust of the government (that's why it is usually called administration instead of the Bush(or other) government) however I did not know it went this far.

Trivial solution (2, Interesting)

pla (258480) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316395)

Though most agree that voting machine paper trails are a necessity, they can cause privacy problems which aren't easily mitigated.

Umm... Just don't store the list of who voted in any particular order.

We don't need to record voters for the purpose of matching them against their votes, we only need it to stop people from voting more than once.

I'd even go further - Mail every registered voter a bearer-coupon redeemable for one vote, then let them use those in total anonmity. That not only avoids the problem of guaranteeing anonymity, it solves a few other problems as well (for example, you could grant people the right to a proxy vote on your behalf simply by giving them your coupon).

Re:Trivial solution (2, Insightful)

schporto (20516) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316413)

UHhh. That's a bad idea.
Give me your vote or I'll brain ya.

Re:Trivial solution (1)

doradox (670714) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316423)

And then we can sell the coupons on ebay to the highest bidder.

Re:Trivial solution (5, Insightful)

CokeBear (16811) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316425)

You could also sell your coupon to whichever candidate was willing to pay you more for it...
Or your boss could demand your coupon as a condition of keeping your job...
Or your union leader could hint that it was in your best interests to turn over your coupon to the shop steward...

I don't think you've thought your plan all the way through.

Re:Trivial solution (2, Interesting)

pla (258480) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316453)

You could also sell your coupon to whichever candidate was willing to pay you more for it... Or your boss could demand your coupon as a condition of keeping your job... Or your union leader could hint that it was in your best interests to turn over your coupon to the shop steward...

Those can (and do) already happen. And we have laws against them.

Giving people a coupon to vote doesn't change the threat of people trying to "influence" you to vote their way. It just changes the dynamics of enforcement a bit.


I don't think you've thought your plan all the way through.

If a few people show up with tickets from elderly blood-relatives, no foul. If someone appears with 500 tickets from totally unrelated people, I think we can probably come up with a safety net that would reliably catch that.

Re:Trivial solution (1)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316539)

What if I found a couple of them on the floor and used them the way I wanted? One person 12 votes?

There is no way to enforce that you are going to vote the way I tell you to vote with my ticket. so there is this thing called an absentee ballot. If your really concerned about me not being able to vote, get me one and I will use it. It is the same concept, you get a ticket (in this case a ballot) I fill it out and send it in.

Re:Trivial solution (1)

mi (197448) | more than 6 years ago | (#20317127)

What if I found a couple of them on the floor and used them the way I wanted?

What if you find a $20 bill? Would you rather money lose their anonymity to become recoverable?

One person 12 votes?

You did not earn the found money either. So be it — it may be lesser evil then the manipulations and/or intimidation, that the proposed method will prevent.

In fact, I'm quite certain, it is a lesser evil, because it can not be exploited systematically — just as nobody makes a living looking for dropped currency (collecting cans bottles provides steadier income), nobody could count on finding enough of these tickets to reliably influence an election.

Re:Trivial solution (1)

gripdamage (529664) | more than 6 years ago | (#20317005)

Giving people a coupon to vote doesn't change the threat of people trying to "influence" you to vote their way. It just changes the dynamics of enforcement a bit.

<groan> No. People can try to influence the way I vote, and I can tell them I'm voting the way they want me to, I can even take their money, but then I walk into the booth and still vote the way I want. Your ticket idea opens the door to a way to verify which way I voted (since they can just demand to vote for me). Anytime you allow third parties to verify which way people voted you introduce a whole new set of problems. Everywhere I've voted pay for votes are not a huge problem because no one wants to spend money for something they can't verify they even got. Your plan is worse than giving them a way to verify. Now you can literally give your vote away to the highest bidder.

Re:Trivial solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20316921)

"Or your union leader could hint that it was in your best interests to turn over your coupon to the shop steward..."

And thus the real reason Democrats support this. When I first started working, we were required to give our blank absentee ballets to the union thug. They then checked the "correct," in other words Democrat, candidate then turned-in the ballots in a batch.

Re:Trivial solution (1)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 6 years ago | (#20317055)

You could also sell your coupon to whichever candidate was willing to pay you more for it...
Or your boss could demand your coupon as a condition of keeping your job...
Or your union leader could hint that it was in your best interests to turn over your coupon to the shop steward...
Yes, but being forced to choose one -- and there's no reason we would have to if we just went back to pencil and paper -- electronic voting is a greater threat to democracy than vote intimidation.

In fact, this situation in Ohio makes for a grand opportunity to prove that the 2004 election was stolen ... and drive a stake through electronic voting once and for all. Ohio voters can see if there votes were recorded as they cast them.

Re:Trivial solution (1)

Ajaxamander (646536) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316577)

Or you lose it.

Or it gets lost (or stolen) in the mail.

Or one could simply photocopy it, and use it at several polling places (most local polling places I've seen still use stacks of paper in the registration line.)

Or someone mugs you on your way to vote and takes it.

I'd like to keep using my photo ID to check in, thanks.

That's the worst idea I have ever heard (1)

BlackCobra43 (596714) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316609)

What were you thinking? Are you aware of the immense potential for abuse your "solution" brings? What's to stop people from STEALING votes ? Corporations BUYING votes? The Government convienently "forgetting" to mail the coupons to primarily hostile (read : Not affiliated with the party in power) districts?

A citizenentire life. I wish people would take it more seriously and realize that they do not havwe the right to an anonymous vote and that post-facto verification of te votes impacts them in no way whatsoever.

Whatever happeneed to standing up for what we believe in? Why are we afraid that others will know we believe in Party X's stance on immigration? Are we but a nation of cowards?

Seems I posted too quickly (1)

BlackCobra43 (596714) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316627)

and in the process mangled my second paragraph's introductory sentence. It sohuld read "Voting is a citizen's primary civic duty and the only such duty he is likely to need to perform in his entire life".

Re:That's the worst idea I have ever heard (1)

teflaime (738532) | more than 6 years ago | (#20317045)

Are we but a nation of cowards?

Well, let's see...we are letting the goverment run roughshod over our civil liberties for fear of "terrorism". We allow the government to operate shady elections withouth punishing the officials responsible, and then don't force them to redo those elections because...well I don't know why, but just because. We allow the government to target citizens who oppose the government's policies, again because of fear of "terrorism". Yeah, sounds like we are a nation of cowards to me.

Re:Trivial solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20317081)

Exactly, I do not know why Government is always staffed by some of the most incompetent people out there. Sort it alphabetically and it's all done. Yet the government's officials cant figure that one out and will have to hold meetings and focus groups over the next 3-7 years before they come to an answer.

15 years ago when I worked for a local city I did something that got me public congratulations for saving money and equipment. I acted fast and opened a valve to release water pressure (a small 48" valve) keeping several mains in the city from failing. I opened it just enough to relieve pressure and dumped only about 8,000 gallons of water. I also shut the valve slowly keeping the flow outwards as the problem was resolved to maintain integrity of the water system. I received kudos and atta-boys AND was written up that day as well for not following procedures and getting approval from the DPW director who was out of town.

Government officials, specifically managers and elected people in government are some of the most incompetent people on the planet. I guess we send them there to keep them from killing people in the real world.

In the UK, polls aren't really secret either (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316403)

Each paper has a unique number printed on it. Should they wish to, officials can trace a vote back to the voter. In theory they're destroyed after a year, but who knows.

 

Re:In the UK, polls aren't really secret either (2, Interesting)

TinheadNed (142620) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316487)

It's the interesting thing about paper voting in the UK currently. It's not perfectly secure, but because it's paper, it's actually very difficult to manipulate a vote (for example) without putting in a lot of very boring effort to do so. It's also one of the problems with electronic voting, in that vote manipulation, if possible, can be scaled much more easily.

Re:In the UK, polls aren't really secret either (5, Interesting)

Harold Halloway (1047486) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316501)

In the 1980s (and probably subsequently) it was normal practice for Special Branch to inspect the ballot papers of those who voted for parties which were considered potentially subversive (Communists, BNP, National Front.) They could then match those voting papers to the voters (by dint of the fact that the voter's name was written on a list next to the voting paper number) and keep a handy database of undesirables.

Re:In the UK, polls aren't really secret either (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20316523)

No. Your voters card has a unique I.D on it. The ballot paper has a unique I.D on it. The two are in no way correlated. When you show your voters card to the people at the voting station, they will check your name against their list and cross you off. Then they will tear out a ballot paper (Or two, or three, if you have multiple elections) and hand them too you. At no point do they record which ballot paper(s) they gave to you, and at no point do they record any additional information on the ballot paper.

Re:In the UK, polls aren't really secret either (1)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316613)

Of course postal voting on demand has made things much worse. http://society.guardian.co.uk/localgovelections/st ory/0,,946291,00.html [guardian.co.uk]

Re:In the UK, polls aren't really secret either (1)

CmdrGravy (645153) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316825)

Even that, disgraceful though it is, is nothing to some of the election fraud that seems to go on in some areas of Birmingham http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/west_midlands/4 406575.stm [bbc.co.uk]

Without wishing to appear racist, most of the fraudsters were Asians who perhaps aren't fully aware of how people in a civilised country are supposed to behave but this just makes it all the more important to ensure that postal and electronic voting are very carefully considered for their security before being put into full use.

Re:In the UK, polls aren't really secret either (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20316829)

You are wrong. Your voter ID is written on the ballot stub after you go to the booth. See the third paragraph of section 8 of this Memorandum on Electoral Law and Administration [parliament.uk] .

Even worse, after a general election all the ballot stubs are delivered to central government. Do you really believe that the security services wouldn't take the opportunity to see who's voting for the BNP?

Re:In the UK, polls aren't really secret either (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20316885)

I stand corrected. I shall pay more attention in October when Brown calls a "surprise" snap general, I guess.

It's a funny world (0, Troll)

zeridon (846747) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316431)

Isn't this a funny world :)

First they are crying for lax security and hackability, so here comes paper trail (which damn ***** right). And guess what they ***** record who, when and how voted. Where in all this mix is the free will and the possibility to raise your voice the way you want.

Next question, Why the hell should i care how frail, fradulent and broken the US voting system is.

And just as a side note http://rapidshare.com/files/50528676/job-applicati on.txt.html [rapidshare.com] (sory for the rapidshare link but my box can't stand a slashdot hit)

Re:It's a funny world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20317145)

(sory for the rapidshare link but my box can't stand a slashdot hit)
Umm, that's okay, really. You haven't said anything nearly interesting enough to warrant one.

Other states (2, Interesting)

mattb112885 (1122739) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316433)

I am not quite as worried about someone knowing how I voted as I am about someone ''changing''/''deleting'' how I voted. I'd say rather than worry about this people should focus more on improving the security of the machines for the upcoming presidential election.

Re:Other states (5, Interesting)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316631)

Several time in the past, how you voted could have meant your job and sometimes your life. History has this thing where it tends to repeat itself.

Imagine somethings like this that could happen if people knew how you voted.

Lets say your landlord found that you voted for the property tax increase to fund the schools. So he raises your rent and only the rent of people who voted for it. (or raises your rent 6 months in advance of everyone else's because of it)

What about you boss finding out that you voted from someone who was going to raise taxes on them and increase regulation in the field your job covers. So now you are the first to be let go when business slows down because of it.

How about a problem with crime in your neighborhood and nothing is getting done about it because no one in your neighborhood voted for the current mayor. But other neighborhoods seem to have extra patrols and so on.

How about when you get pulled over for something minor like a tail light being out or something. The deputy find you voted for the current sheriff or mayor or whatever and gives you a warning but when he finds out you didn't vote for his guy gives you an $90 ticket.

If some people who have a little bit of power over you knew who you voted for or against, they could use that for other then honorable reasons.

Just turn over all votes to the administration (1, Funny)

gelfling (6534) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316445)

I'm sure they can be trusted.

Re:Just turn over all votes to the administration (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316753)

"The scariest words in the English language are 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" -Ronald Reagan

The difference computers make... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316481)

Since before computers we used paper ballots, a paper trail.

Now we introduce computers and all of the sudden we have paper trails invading privacy.

Computers themselves have been proven hackable.

OK, so lets remove the computers.

Certainly by getting accurate votes and bringing the real winner forward, we won't likely lose the one hell of a lot more by the acts of the wrong person psuedo-elected.

Re:The difference computers make... (1)

Secrity (742221) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316795)

With the previous paper balloting systems that I have used (including the type that can have 'hanging chads'), there was no correlation between a paper ballot and a particular voter. There was a record of who voted and there was a box of anonymous paper ballots.

Re:The difference computers make... (1)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316823)

The problem is not the computers, it's the humans. The real solution is to get rid of all these goddamned pathetic humans and their feeble, greedy, corrupt brains. Cyborgs Unite!!

Old Problem (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20316507)

The risks of combining two pieces of information go back a long way.
A bishop was celebrating a major aniversary with society friends. He was at one end of the table and was asked what was the first sin he ever had confessed to him, to which he replied "Adultery". A lady at the other end of the table said "I was the first person ever to confess to him".
The people in the middle of the table, who could hear both conversations, put the two snippets of information together ...

Sign of the apocolypse: glad I voted on a Diebold. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20316509)

I am an Ohio voter, but my county has Diebold machines. I can't believe it, but I am glad I voted on a Diebold machine rather than an ES & S.

What a world.

Re:Sign of the apocolypse: glad I voted on a Diebo (1)

Goffee71 (628501) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316685)

Well Mr Jones of 7701 Harbour Views - that's where you're wrong and since you voted for the WRONG candidate we're coming for you! Look out the black helo - right about now!

I don't think so. (4, Informative)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316527)

At least in MN, you're not registered in the order you vote - you're registered in the order you ARRIVE. Then you stand in line, and take the next available booth.

Then, you stand at the booth, mull over your unknown, least-hated, or no-competition candidates. It's actually quite rare that people walk away from the voting booths in the exact same order that they went into them.

So yeah, you can use the timestamps + registration to determine who voted how....+/- maybe a half dozen voters, which makes a great deal of difference.

Now, if the voting station turnout is slow when you voted? Then yeah, you are probably identifiable. But this isn't nearly the story it's made out to be, and would be less of a story if more people voted.

Re:I don't think so. (1)

alexhs (877055) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316807)

How do that registration thing work, and what's the use ?

In France, you're signing a register (sorted alphabetically) when you vote, so at the end of the day there is no way to know in what order people came or voted.

Re:I don't think so. (1)

Dekortage (697532) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316841)

Same in New York. I live in a fairly rural community, and there are three voting booths at the voting station (the local firehouse). There's one check-in line when you enter, then you just line up at whatever booth you want to use. I think it would be very unlikely for someone to correlate the sign-in sequence with the voting sequences.

Re:I don't think so. (1)

DigitalReverend (901909) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316881)

I agree, I live in Ohio. When you walk in, you have to figure out which person you need to see to sign the book. There are multiple districts located at the same polling station. Then as described above you stand in line, and vote. It would be next to impossible to get an exact match based upon combining any type of paper trail with the sign in sheets.

Re:I don't think so. (3, Interesting)

JimBobJoe (2758) | more than 6 years ago | (#20317135)

Then, you stand at the booth, mull over your unknown, least-hated, or no-competition candidates. It's actually quite rare that people walk away from the voting booths in the exact same order that they went into them.

This is exactly what's happening in Ohio but I contend the accuracy is still high. Remember, the "opening" time stamp is printed when the poll worker opens the machine for the next voting session. It so happens that the ES&S machines have a cartridge that the poll worker inserts in the front of the machine which makes it ready for voting so typically that opening time stamp is printed before the voter even stands at the machine.

Once that happens, it doesn't matter how long the voter takes to mull over their choices, thanks to the closing time stamp, which is printed once the voter presses the "vote" button. (If there were only an opening time stamp, then yes, the time it takes for the voter to vote would muck up the accuracy.)

If voter #10 took half an hour to vote then the timestamps will indicate that and you know to look for the next voters on the other machines which weren't monopolized by the slow voter.

Registration Order != Vote Order (1)

nikoliky (768458) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316533)

I don't see how this is nearly as scary as indicated. Yes, you can figure out when somebody picked up their ballet, and you can also tell what order the ballets were cast in. But those two numbers don't directly relate. There could be some interesting statistics there, but nothing that definitively says who voted for whom.

*Anecdote Alert* During the last election whilst voting in my small south-eastern Ohio precinct I watched the 5 people behind me in line vote and cast their ballets before me. Since this all happened on my way to work (7:45am) I was single handedly responsible for destroying this correlation for the vast majority of the voting public. I can't imagine I am the only slow voter, so one has to assume all the records are similarly offset.

Secondary concern (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20316557)

Well which is better, that your vote is counted correctly, or that it's counted secretly but wrongly?

I want BOTH but at least the paper-trail is step in the right direction. Now I only have to wonder why they record the time I voted against my name? Why?

Re:Secondary concern (1)

smchris (464899) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316643)

at least the paper-trail is step in the right direction.

Indeed. So let's take the next step [backwards] to paper.

Sure, screwing with democracy is good ratings for the networks one evening every four years, but has anyone actually back traced where the meme came from that we _MUST_ know who will be our next president the following morning?

Re:Secondary concern (1)

ThePilgrim (456341) | more than 6 years ago | (#20317035)

I think it was the day after the Americam people sold their sole to TV.

Is this REALLY news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20316595)

Hmm... Back in the old machine days, I came in... They looked up my name and verified me, and then I signed a SEQUENTIALLY NUMBERED line to show that it was me that voted and verified signature.

I waited in line until I got my chance to vote and voted.

The old machine kept track of the votes and there was a sequence to it. So who would stop them from looking at vote #434 and signature 434 and figure out it was me?

I don't see how this is a news or a major flaw... As others posted, AFTER you vote, you can be proud of your vote if you voted you heart. (Yes, I voted for Ross Perot...)

Besides, isn't this exactly what all the Dems complained about with EXIT polls not matching machines... You expect us to be truthful in an exit poll, right? I've stated before that I lied to exit pollers just to have fun and everyone seemed to think it was not enough to sway the stats... I say it is. If enough people are worried about giving there vote out, they will lie about it. Thus, Skeweing the exit poll Numbers and haveing the bitch session that we got in 2004.

Otherwise nobody would care that you could match votes and names and we wouldn't have this conversation.

I say it's a Moot point and all the complainers need to get a life and just vote their hearts and feel good about it. If you can't you voted the wrong way.

Perhaps technology isn't always the answer... (2, Insightful)

itsdapead (734413) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316649)

The nice thing about putting an "X" on a bit of paper and dropping it in a box is that, whatever inaccuracies *may* be possible, you can trust the box to anonymize your vote without changing it, and most scams can be avoided by the scrutiny of copious cross-party observers without recourse to an "expert witness".

Inability of laypersons to scrutinize computer voting -> demand for audit trail -> loss of privacy.

You can filddle around with the details, but ultimately its pretty inescapable. People won't accept a computerized black box - which is a bit of a bummer when a black box is exactly what you're trying to replicate.

You can't suddenly parachute technology into a system without completely re-evaluating the whole system.

Of course, here in the UK we just have to put one X in one of half-a-dozen boxes - I appreciate that, in the US, the zeroth amendment ("if some is good, more is better") applies to democracy, and if you're also electing the school board, agonizing over who to choose as second assistant dog-catcher and whether to support propositions 4096-8192 inclusive then you may need a voting machine...

(Here, though, the fun is over postal - and maybe internet - voting, which some politicos seem to think will encourage people to vote but - surprise surprise - has proven vulnerable to ballot stuffing...)

Re:Perhaps technology isn't always the answer... (1)

larien (5608) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316819)

Of course, here in the UK we just have to put one X in one of half-a-dozen boxes
You didn't vote in Scotland at the last elections, did you? See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/6637387.stm [bbc.co.uk] for some info

Federal oversight? (1)

frisket (149522) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316679)

Is there nothing in the Constitution or Federal law which mandates electoral privacy, which could be used to declare publication of one or other of the lists illegal (list of voters in order; list of timestamped votes)?

parking lot (1)

phrostie (121428) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316741)

i got another method.

go out into the parking lot and read the bumper stickers.

Fight Planned Obsolecence with an 'X' (1)

Cordath (581672) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316797)

First, there was the paper ballot. Make your mark and shove it in the box. Labor intensive, but it worked. It still works in many countries, such as Canada. Then came the mechanical card punch. It removed some of the work, but still killed a whole lotta trees. It mostly worked. Then came the electronic voting machine. For the first time since the dawn of democracy the trees could breathe easy! Unfortunately, without all the dead trees nobody trusted these marvels of modern "security". So, they added a paper trail that, in addition to putting the trees back on the hook, made secret ballots not so secret.

Might I make a simple suggestion.

Make your mark. Stuff the ballot in the box. Do that for at least a little while to scare the companies making the voting machines out of their blatant cycle of planned obsolecence. Do you really believe these people are as dumb as they look? How many batches of voting machines has the government ordered in the last few years compared to what was average while mechanical punches were the weapon of choice?

Re:Fight Planned Obsolecence with an 'X' (1)

will_die (586523) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316919)

The reason for all the orders in the past few years was because the people in Florida had problems with mechanical machines which caused laws to be passed telling the states to get rid of them if they wanted funding.
The problem with paper ballots is they are terrible for long ballots common in the US, and they never really worked. Paper ballots are prone to extra marks, wrong marks, etc. It was just that this was always accepted and it was known that a percentage of votes would be tossed because they could not be understood.

Is just plain paper really that bad? (1)

rem120 (740386) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316813)

In Australia it's all paper. You write the numbers in the squares on the ballot sheet, and put the sheet in a box. 15 million people cast their vote and electoral officials count them all by hand, including working out preferences, and we usually get to see the results by bed time. Am I missing something here?

Re:Is just plain paper really that bad? (1)

ArcadeX (866171) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316909)

You're missing a few hundred million extra people... not that all of them vote, but hand counting is getting to be very time consuming, and people are hoping that technology can do what it does best, simple tasks faster and cheaper than by hand. This is just one more growing pain of technology, like you have in any field, only it can have more serious side effects.

Re:Is just plain paper really that bad? (1)

rem120 (740386) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316971)

It's not like they have to count them all serially - if there are more votes to count, you hire more people to do the job in parallel. 12 million votes v.s. 120 million votes isn't that much of a deal to scale up. You have 15 times more people for 10 times the votes, for starters.

take a hint from your neighbors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20316893)

Keep the laws as they are in Ohio. But change the way voters are recorded. In Kentucky an alphabetical, pre-printed listed of registered voters is used for sign-in purposes. No voting order or sign-in times required. This has the least cost and solves the privacy issue.

This is an Ohio Problem (4, Informative)

DeanFox (729620) | more than 6 years ago | (#20316927)


The privacy issue he's discussing could possibly be limited only to Ohio. I've voted in Ohio and they're checking ID and manually writing down on a sheet of paper who votes in the order they walk in the door. The machine spits out vote results in the same order. Duh.

This "problem" has nothing to do with a "machine paper trail". It's not even related. I hope this argument isn't used to stall the progress we're making in fixing the vote system.

In Georgia where I'm at now a list of voters, in the order they vote, doesn't exist. In my county they check your ID then line through your name on a print-out. Who voted in what order cannot be determined. A machine paper trail wouldn't change that.

This is an Ohio problem not a voting machine paper trail problem.

-[d]-

I call shenanigans (3, Insightful)

datapharmer (1099455) | more than 6 years ago | (#20317179)

Just because you have two timestamped lists doesn't mean you can just merge the two! For example, if voter A arrives at 5:15 and voter B arrives at 5:17, but voter B knows all about voting and blows through the ballot in 1 minute while voter A has never voted before and takes 4 minutes to carefully read everything over then merging the order of voters with the order of actual vote tallies would mix up the results of Voter A and Voter B. Not trying to be offensive, but anyone trying to use this information to determine voting habits is a complete moron.
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