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All Fifty States May Face Voting Machine Lawsuit

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the counters-fans-of-fuzzy-math dept.

The Courts 436

according to an announcement made by activist Bernie Ellis at the premier of David Earnhardt's film "Uncounted [The Movie]" all fifty states could be receiving subpoenas in the National Clean Election lawsuit. The documentary film, like the lawsuit, takes a look at the issue of voting machine failure and the need for a solid paper trail. "The lawsuit is aimed at prohibiting the use of all types of vote counting machines, and requiring hand-counting of all primary and general election ballots in full view of the public. The lawsuit has raised significant constitutional questions challenging the generally accepted practices of state election officials of relying on "black box" voting machines to record and count the votes at each polling station, and allow tallying of votes by election officials outside the view of the general public."

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436 comments

hmmmmmm (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21340453)

I imagine this guy will be found in his Colorado cabin dead of a heart attack.

Re:hmmmmmm (1)

DJCacophony (832334) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340513)

More likely in a mansion swimming in caviar from the money he made in the lawsuit on behalf of the American public.
The court might send you and I a quarter, though.

Why not have voting machines that print ballots? (4, Insightful)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340471)

Simply vote, it prints your ballot, and you slip it in a box. You can verify your ballot was printed correctly, and they could have options to let you destroy your ballot if not, and reprint (or fill it out by hand)...

Or would that be too sensible?

Re:Why not have voting machines that print ballots (3, Insightful)

tritonman (998572) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340503)

It doesn't matter how the vote is made, it matters who counts the votes. We've already seen that dubious vote counters had ignored and thrown out ballots in a previous documentary.

Re:Why not have voting machines that print ballots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21340507)

No, that would disenfranchise idiots.

Re:Why not have voting machines that print ballots (1, Informative)

toleraen (831634) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340551)

The voting machine prints out Presidential runner X, but internally notes you voted for Presidential runner Y. That's been the general problem.

Re:Why not have voting machines that print ballots (4, Interesting)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340583)

Sorry, I didn't make it clear - that's why it prints out the readable hard copies; those are used for the tally, not some internal copy on the system.

Re:Why not have voting machines that print ballots (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340743)

If you're going to be counting the votes by hand, what's the point of the voting machine then? You can accomplish the exact same thing with pen and paper.

Re:Why not have voting machines that print ballots (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340797)

For some people it's easier to fill out (think 2000 + hanging chads)

Personally, after the 2006 election, I'd rather use pen&paper than that horribly crappy Diebold software..

Re:Why not have voting machines that print ballots (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340931)

For some people it's easier to fill out (think 2000 + hanging chads)

However, chads are a prime example of overcomplicating matters. To create chads you need a punch machine.

A pen and paper would have been easier for many, and resulted in ballots that were easier to determine.

Personally, after the 2006 election, I'd rather use pen&paper than that horribly crappy Diebold software..

Agreed.

Personally, I think that any 'touch screen' voting machines should be nothing more than gloriously overengineered printing stations for handicapped ballot casting. IE you insert your ballot into the printer, make your choices, it prints your choices, you verify your choices and cast your ballot into the same box everyone's depositing their pen marked ballots. If you screw something up that you find after printing, you get another ballot, and the printed one goes into the spoiled bin.

Re:Why not have voting machines that print ballots (2, Informative)

man_of_mr_e (217855) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341041)

Where I live, they use paper ballots with optical scanners. It's amazing how many of these get rejected and require them to be re-filled out because someone accidentally voted for the wrong candidate and thought they could just "cross it out" or somethign stupid like that.

The nice thing about printing the vote is that you get the electronic tally right away, so the world can know a "tentative" result by that evening, while a full count could take all night, or or maybe even a few days to certify.

Re:Why not have voting machines that print ballots (2, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340991)

1. Bad hand writing. 2. If it is done by your hand, then it is easier to forge. If it is done by computer, they can use special inks, paper, and maybe a confirmation bar code. 3. The electronic machine could do a 'pre count', so that while the official count is not till next day, you get something to report tonight. 4. The machine can also save a record of things like how many people voted in each district, providing another double check to prevent voter fraud. And it could even double check what district you are SUPPOSED to be in, and if you are in the wrong district tell you the proper place to go to. 5. Environmentally better as printed ballots can use less paper and ink. 6. A well done machine can remind you to vote for all things voted on, possibly explaining a 3 paragraph refererdum without wasting lots of paper and ink, or time for those that don't need the explanation.

Both Machine and Hand Counts (4, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341021)

The machine generated ballots can be used for initial counting estimates counted by machines. That will satisfy Americans' urgent need to instantly know who won after they each cast their vote. Those counts should not be legally binding. The ballots should be counted by hand for the officially binding count. In the event that there's any substantial differences, the state should automatically open a formal investigation into vote rigging. Which would deter that kind of rigging, so it would rarely be tried, and the investigations rarely begun.

There's no reason the official count can't take a few days to complete, even doublechecked by multiple counts. That kind of human responsibility for the counting is entirely consistent with the democracy we're populating with the votes.

Re:Why not have voting machines that print ballots (1)

frdmfghtr (603968) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341047)

If you're going to be counting the votes by hand, what's the point of the voting machine then? You can accomplish the exact same thing with pen and paper.
The idea is that the machine prints the mark on the ballot for you. There are no issues of two check marks, no check marks, circling names instead of marking boxes, etc. The ballots are marked in a uniform fashion so they are easier to count.

Heck, a printed ballot could even have only the name of the selection; in a race between candidates X and Y, a vote for Y only has Y's name on the ballot; likewise for candidate X. That way there's only one name to look at on a ballot--the candidate selected by the voter.

Re:Why not have voting machines that print ballots (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341053)

You combine the tallied results with the exit polls. Exit polls are not flawless, but are usually a relatively good indicator of how close the election was. If its a lopsided defeat then there is no reason to force the votes to be counted by hand. If its close, the votes can be recounted by hand.

' Now I suppose that system could be manipulated, for instance the exit poll data could be manipulated or a politician that lost could demand a recount even though they are pretty sure that they actually did lose, but I would be willing to bet that both of those would be somewhat self-limiting. If a politician/party is found to have manipulated the exit polls they probably won't be very popular(if they even won at all), and if a politician constantly calls for recounts that they know to be hopeless they wont' be very popular either.

Re:Why not have voting machines that print ballots (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341069)

Voting machines can be programmed in as many languages as necessary. Keep on hand ballots for English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Braille (which could go to audio cues), oh, and large type varieties for people hard of seeing.

I personally think this aspect should be the primary reason to go with voting machines, with accuracy a second.

Re:Why not have voting machines that print ballots (1)

justthinkit (954982) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341063)

If counters can see the vote on a ballot, they can work to spoil that ballot or ignore counting it. If what is printed is encrypted in some way they can't spoil it but then how do we trust that the encryption is accurate. So what I have come up with is (1) an encrypted paragraph of hex (EPoH) on a continuous tape coming out of the voting machine, (2) a simultaneous printout of EPoH on a receipt to the individual (that also prints out who/how they voted, and their generated-on-the-day voter ID). The vote then compares their EPoh with that of the tape (under glass so they can't touch/contaminate it) and walks away knowing that what they hold in their hand is the same as the printed record.

The next step is a generally available machine that can read the encryption. It would list the source code and key used, allowing independent verification of its integrity. It would be on a web site that allows you to type in your EPoH and then it displays how you voted. But it also notes that you, Voter ID xyz from District 54, voted for Ron Paul (for example). The site goes on to tally those who voluntarily type in their EPoH's. So, in contested ridings people can enter their EPoH and show that indeed 97,000 people voted for Ron Paul, not the 97 shown on CNN on election night.

Re:Why not have voting machines that print ballots (5, Insightful)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340591)

Or the paper and pen method... why introduce unnecessary mechanization? Occam's razor applies very well to voting. Simplicity is best.

Re:Why not have voting machines that print ballots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21340745)

He did say 'or fill it out by hand'

That strikes me as "pen and paper"

Re:Why not have voting machines that print ballots (1)

Ironsides (739422) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340769)

Last week in my county we had 160,000 people vote (not registered voters, people that voted) in which roughly 50 positions were open and I was eligible to vote for about 12 in my specific area. This was an off year election. Hand counting would take a while. Prior to computerized voting, we had mechanical machines made by (drum roll please) Diebold since at least the 70's.

Re:Why not have voting machines that print ballots (1)

Applekid (993327) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340993)

Prior to computerized voting, we had mechanical machines made by (drum roll please) Diebold since at least the 70's.
McDonalds has been around since the 40's so, clearly it's good food that's good for you.

Re:Why not have voting machines that print ballots (1)

Gregb05 (754217) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340859)

It would be so that the form would always be filled out correctly, and only once.

What if someone wanted to change their vote midway through voting? They would probably end up scratching out the candidate they had voted for rather than request a replacement ballot as they are supposed to.
In this instance, the machine would act as a quick total verification (to allow the hand count to be quickly validated) as well as a type of file buffer, so that people could vote more clearly for whom they desired.

Re:Why not have voting machines that print ballots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21341185)

Each locality may have a different ballot, requiring different number of pages and not simple formatting. So, without computers to print the ballet on-site you have to have people format the ballots ahead of time and print them. This wastes paper and ink on extra ballets, and not to mention the logistic issues of getting the right number of ballots to the right polls, last minute changes because of courts, deaths, etc.

If you have a computer vote-selecting machine then you just ship blank paper that can be reused for the next election and only use the ink necessary. It uses less paper since only the votes placed are printed rather than all choices, and uses less ink. It's can be easier for handicapped and for instance the blind don't necessarily need to place their vote through a person as proxy. It also can reduce errors due to forgetting to vote for an office, multi votes, etc.

The vote-selecting machine is NOT the problem -- it's the vote-counting machine that is the problem. Currently these are the same thing, and that's why the 'voting machines' we have now are worthless. A vote-placing machine that prints out the choices followed by freely observable counting (whether by humans or by machine) is actually a much better system than plain paper and pencil.

For example, a vote-placing machine that prints out the ballot in "measure: choice\n..." format using a standard font can be tallied by machine and OCR -- as long observers get to see each vote and follow the tally. This removes simple math errors and could speed the process a lot while still allowing humans to verify the whole tallying process. Another key part is the observers knowing the final tally for their polling place and being able to verify this in the final count, which lists all polling places and their tallies.

Right now, wheree I vote, none of this is possible. No paper trails, and you cannot even watch the machine print out the final tally of votes unless you are 'randomly' selected as one of the few, ~10 people, who are 'allowed' to witness it. It's sickening.

Re:Why not have voting machines that print ballots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21340667)

Montana already has this, thanks to HB 297 [billingsgazette.net] which was passed in 2005. This bill requires a hand countable paper ballot, regardless of the voting method.

Between this and Montana recently telling the federal government that they can take their Real ID and shove it [slashdot.org] , Montana seems to be one of the top states for people who enjoy their rights.

Re:Why not have voting machines that print ballots (1, Informative)

bhima (46039) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340803)

Because buying and selling votes is illegal.

Seriously, this has been discussed to death in the security / crypto circles and there are *a lot* of really good ideas floating around. All that's really needed is a competitive process to select the best one... like the crypto community did with AES.

This problem is so solvable the current state is infuriating.

Go the other way (2, Insightful)

jhines (82154) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340861)

We have fill in the dots, and turn the ballot into the box, which presumably checks for errors, before beeping and accepting the ballot for storage. Count them as many times as needed, either by machine or hand.

Seems to me to work rather well.

Re:Go the other way (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340967)

That (in my oppinion/for me) does seem like a better option.

Why not have both? Some people do find the computers easier due to disability? I found the machines used in Ohio during the 2000s prior to the switch to the Diebold computers in 2006 to be preferrable to the computers or pen&paper, but everyone has their preferences. Having two options would be nice.

Re:Why not have voting machines that print ballots (1)

fbartho (840012) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341111)

This is actually the most sane and easy to implement solution I've heard of. The voting machines can be as nifty or (nearly) as insecure as you like, all they do is help speed up the filling out of an optically analyzable ballot. This ballot can be extremely clear, the machine then prints out the ballot which the person can double check before they submit it to the standard lockbox. From there you have a verifiable paper trail, with theoretically optimally filled out (most-easily machine readable) ballots, these can be fed in large batches into the scanners, which can be statistically sampled for verification purposes. Should the scan counters be buggy, or corrupted, you can always go back to the paper record, which incidentally, won't have the problem of hanging chads, no ambiguity would exist.

Re:Why not have voting machines that print ballots (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341129)

There are approximately 170 million registered voters in the US. If only 50 million vote, and each ballot is counted by hand, and it takes 1 mintue to count and record one ballot that makes That is that is about 833,333 man hours to count the vote. Assuming two people to count one ballot, that is 1,666,667 man hours. Assuming you want to be able to do a recount, the count will have to be done in one month, that is 160 hours.

That is 10,416 people doing nothing but counting votes for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week for one month. That figure does not include manager, organizers, support personnel, guards, transportation of the ballots, etc. And, remember, most of the jobs are only temp jobs lasting between one and three months.

Where will you get the workforce?

Right idea, wrong request (4, Insightful)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340479)

You can have electronic voting that doesn't suck. [openvotingconsortium.org]

It just has to have a paper trail, not reveal to outsiders who you voted for, and, y'know, not be backed with Microsoft Access.

Re:Right idea, wrong request (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21340747)

oh yes, because it's microsoft it's evil. get over yourself. it's really old.

Re:Right idea, wrong request (1)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341167)

Well, thank you for that, Mr. Straw Man. Microsoft Access is a fine product... for single access by one to five people.

It's not meant to be a backend for any sort of software.

If you want a Microsoft product for that, try SQL Server, though I personally prefer MySQL or something like that.

Re:Right idea, wrong request (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340781)

Any electronic voting that doesn't suck is no better than pen and paper. So electronic voting machines either 1) suck and facilitate corruption or 2) don't suck but waste a lot of money. I don't see anything to be excited about here.

Re:Right idea, wrong request (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341123)

Your job next election then: ensure each voting booth in Orange County, CA has enough paper ballots in the proper languages, including (but not exclusive to) English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese and Korean. Also keep braille ballots on hand.

Points will be deducted for excessive stock that will have to be destroyed as well.

With electronic voting, it's a simple matter of selecting a different language on the first screen.

Re:Right idea, wrong request (5, Interesting)

bigg_nate (769185) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341153)

Any electronic voting that doesn't suck is no better than pen and paper.

I used to think this as well, but then I saw a talk by a Ben Adida, a cryptographic voting researcher. It turns out there are electronic and hybrid voting systems that allow every step of the process to be independently audited. Individual voters can log into a website and ensure that their vote was recorded correctly (and yes, this is done in such a way that nobody can prove to another party which way they voted). Anyone can get a list of the people who actually voted, so they can check that nobody voted twice and that every voter was valid. Each of the candidates can independently and programatically verify that the tallying was done correctly (again, without exposing any one specific ballot). This is far superior to traditional paper ballots, and there's no technical reason we can't have it today.

Here [adida.net] 's a paper that gives some more information. I believe Dr. Adida mentioned that this particular system has a few problems that would prevent it from being used in practice, but it still gives a pretty good example of how a cryptographic voting system could work.

Re:Right idea, wrong request (1)

javelinco (652113) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341179)

Can you elaborate? Why would it be "no better than pen and paper"?

Can They Be Sued? (1)

CWRUisTakingMyMoney (939585) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340501)

Are the states actually facing the prospect of being sued here, or just being subpoenaed for information? My understanding is that states cannot be sued without their own consent; surely they wouldn't consent to this.[1] Can anyone else clarify this? [1]Cue the "...and don't call me Shirley" comments!

Re:Can They Be Sued? (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340669)

New York is. they are trying to force an upgrade from our reliable but old voting machines to dieblood winblows machines.

New york is taking their sweet time trying to do it right, unlike California which has had several machines with all sorts of screwy updates in them.

Re:Can They Be Sued? (1)

jo42 (227475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340909)

with all sorts of screwy updates in them
You mean like software updates that haven't been audited by any third-party..?

Great way to rig an election:

1a) Write software, call it Ver. x.yz.0
1b) Have Ver. x.yz.0 software audited by a third-party
1c) Have the state sign off on Ver. x.yz

2) Silently slip in an update, called Ver. x.yz.1

3) Profit !$!$!$ (from the low-lifes that paid you to do this for them)

Suddenoutbreakofcommonsense applies... (3, Insightful)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340533)

That tag would fit very appropriately on this story. It's really hard to see anything other than complete incompetency in anyone who thinks that a black box e-voting machine is a good idea. There was an article related to this topic the other day, and someone posited the question "...what happens to my vote when I press that button?" The short answer is you can't. That's why I hope this lawsuit is successful. I think it has a real shot, as people are upset election practices. With the phone-jammings, hanging chads, etc. that Americans have endured the last two times around, transparency is on everybody's wishlist... at least for those who don't stand to benefit from electioneering and lucrative contracts that is.

Re:Suddenoutbreakofcommonsense applies... (1)

budword (680846) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341161)

It's not hard to see something other than complete incompetency. Malice. If you can control the company that makes the machine, you can control the vote. No need to try to bride the voters with their own money.

Open Source & Paper Trail (4, Insightful)

JeepFanatic (993244) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340549)

I have no problem with the idea of electronic voting machines but they should povide a paper trail and the source code for the machines should be made open for public inspection so that the public can be sure that when they vote for John Q. Public that the vote is recorded correctly.

Re:Open Source & Paper Trail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21340649)

So how do you verify that the source code you reviewed is exactly the same source code compiled, installed and running on all of the machines?

And it's not just the source code for the actual voting application. It's everything: OS, drivers, etc.

No EVoting can be "trusted" (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340557)

Let's face it. WHO can verify the voting of open voting machines? We can. We, computers savvy people who understand computers and who can test, probe and verify the mechanisms behind the machines. Joe Average cannot.

Joe Average can look at a vote, see the cross and verify that yes, whoever casted this vote voted for the person or party where the X is. That's the difference.

Yes, of course we trust us. But can we be trusted? Hey, of course we can, I know that, you know that but essentially, it's the same situation we have with closed source voting machines: An outsider does not know whether we, computer people, are to be trusted. Like we, as outsiders, stand in front of the makers of voting machines and question their trustworthyness, so will non-tech people stand in front of us and question ours.

The only way to have elections that cannot be questioned by anyone is to create a system that everyone can verify if they want to. And the only system is simply one that everyone can "read". So it's paper or nothing.

Re:No EVoting can be "trusted" (1)

Black-Man (198831) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340627)

Oh yeah... like an election using paper ballots has never been stolen before! ROFL!! Look up West Virginia 1960 presidential election.

Re:No EVoting can be "trusted" (4, Interesting)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341011)

We can. We, computers savvy people who understand computers and who can test, probe and verify the mechanisms behind the machines. Joe Average cannot.

Can we? I'm about six months short of my bachelors degree in CS, and I couldn't examine a computer voting machine and determine that it was trustworthy in any reasonable amount of time. With a properly marked paper ballot, anyone can tell you what it says and any attempt to change it requires at least couple of seconds alone with it. With a flash memory card, who knows? A person can't say *anything* about what's stored on it without putting it in a reader, and any reader device can trivially and tracelessly change the data in milliseconds.

So not only is your point absolutely correct - it's understated. We absolutely do need a system where "everyone can read" the ballots, and any sort of electronic ballot system is a system where *no-one* can read them. Obviously Joe Average can't, but even the engineers who built the thing can't read the ballots directly.

Re:No EVoting can be "trusted" (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341067)

Ok, a small portion of us actually can. Only makes the point stronger.

Also, you mention another very important point: We need a system that you need to be able to read without subjecting the information to a process that may alter the information. A cross on a paper can be viewed from a foot away without the reader having any chance to change the information stored. This is not a given with other storage media that require devices other than our senses to make the information accessable to the human mind.

Verifying a unit != verifying a system (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341139)

Any system is only as good as the way it is used. A paper system can be screwed up by "losing" sacks of papers, deliberate miscounting and the interpretation of hanging chads.

You can verify the code in an open source system, but it can still have its disk wiped or be disconnected from the backend server so that the votes don't count etc etc.

Hand counting is a fraud too (3, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340559)

You have handlers doing things like slightly damage ballots, so that they get invalidated... yeah, 1/1000, enough to swing a close election.

Computers count better than people do, otherwise, you would see calls for people to manually tally your bank balance...

Re:Hand counting is a fraud too (2, Insightful)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340819)

its a bit harder to do something shady with 50 people staring you down to hold you accountable.

Blaming the computer for an error, in whatever fashion/manipulatable method, is a bit different, and all accountability is now gone: "It isn't me its an inanimate object(computer)" goes to "it wasn't the object its the owner of said object's fault" goes to "it's not the owner, of said object, he just bought it from XYZ company" seeing as that would be a corporation, means that there is 0 accountability whatsoever. Any corporation that pays a penalty in terms of a monetary fine doesn't have any accountability, thats just a business expense. That's the problem with the power of corporations nowadays. Even if you fined IBM 10% of the total company's assets they'd take a huge hit sure, but where would be the accountability for example? Same with microsoft. So they lay off some people, business would go on as usual.

Re:Hand counting is a fraud too (4, Informative)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340887)

The possibility of hiding a skewed algorithm in an electronic voting machine is much easier than to get a really skewed result from hand-counting. This implies that there are several persons doing the hand counting, and that they are evenly distributed through the parties. A skewed algorithm in an electronic counting can easily drift to one side, while the hand-counting will have an error that is around the center. It's only if the outcome falls down to very few votes that it may matter.

Great Idea! (0, Flamebait)

javelinco (652113) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340561)

Awesome! Let's pretend the only solution to accountability issues in voting is to make the voting process so expensive that we can't afford to do it anymore! Way to go, America - it's nice to know that the extremists (and yes, extremists often = stupidest) are making policy once again. This is what happens when: (a) You aren't honest about the facts of the issue, in order to add weight to "your side"; and (b) You don't bother analyzing the costs/benefits and parameters of the problem before trying to solve it.

Re:Great Idea! (1)

beringreenbear (949867) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340749)

Bullshit.

Election staffers are a minimum 2/3 volunteers. One clerk from each party supervises the vote, with the final arbitrator being the single paid person who signs off on the vote. At least, that's how things work here. The counting isn't expensive in any sense but time.

This is how votes were counted before machines. Simple, and with the exception of a corrupt set of counter (hence the large number of volunteers), foolproof.

Re:Great Idea! (1)

javelinco (652113) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340895)

Do you honestly believe cost is only measured in dollars? Or time? Do you have any idea how much it costs, in time, in resources, and in people to hand count, publicly and in a recordable fashion, every single time we vote on anything? Talk about bullshit. As for the "foolproof"-ness of the old way - well, shit man, I've got a bridge to sell you. Honestly, that's the ONLY way you can think of to mess with the "old way" of hand counting everything? That's completely insane, and ignorant. Do a two second google search and educate yourself.

Re:Great Idea! (2, Insightful)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340801)

I suggest you calm down a bit. Anybody can file a lawsuit like this, we'll have to wait and see if it's thrown out of court or not. Who knows, it might spur some legislation

Taking in my experiences in voting in the midwest, which have universally been 'scanotron' sheets, there are at least some states with a verifiable paper record that can be recounted by hand if determined necessary.

One problem with all this 'hand count' stuff is that even hand counting has an error rate - often a higher one than the scanotrons. At least as long as you make the voting rules for a valid ballot be one scannable by the machine*. Sure, a few will probably be kicked out - but it's much easier to deal with a couple hundred ballots to count by hand than a million or more.

On another tack, I'd much prefer the wacko extremists be filing lawsuits rather than the alternatives many wacko extremists select - such as building bombs.

*IE you place in the rules 'An X through the bubble doesn't count. A partially filled bubble doesn't count(showing a sample with maybe 1/3 the bubble filled in), a circled bubble doesn't count. A completely filled bubble counts.' Same rules as for ACT, SATS, and other such college tests.

Re:Great Idea! (1)

javelinco (652113) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340953)

Good points, and sorry if I'm not coming across as calm. I'm not freaking out, but this stuff definitely gets my goat. Who isn't tired of only hearing about extremist agendas in this country?

I wonder... (1, Interesting)

FataL187 (1100851) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340565)

Will this stop another president that the american public didn't vote for from taking office? I highly doubt it, but it's a nice thought. What we need to do is eliminate the electoral college and just go with the popular vote. Imagine a country where the voice of the people actually counted for something.

-FataL

Re:I wonder... (0, Flamebait)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340759)

Take the tin foil hat off man and quit watching Michael Moore. The election was close, Bush contested it. They recounted the vote and it turns out that Bush had won. Fox new did not have anything to do with it. They did not drug people to get them to vote for Bush or whatever. If something so messed up as the US voting system and the results were close would you not want a recount?

Think of it like this if 500 people were in a room and some had red shirts on and others had blue on. Now to get the totals someone just eyeballs it and says yeah this side won. Well Bush took a look at it and said "no thats kinda close, lets count it out". So he got the courts involved and turns out Bush was right.

Bush payed off diebold to fix the vote. (-1, Flamebait)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340899)

Bush payed off diebold to fix the vote.

Re:I wonder... (1)

FataL187 (1100851) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340919)

I am not going to argue with you, I however strongly believe that the electoral college is deeply flawed and should be done away with.

Any system of voting that allows 99% of the country to vote for one candidate and then the remaining 1% say you know what I like this other guy better is flawed.

BTW I hate Michael Moore, and I don't have a tinfoil hat. I do however have a US Army uniform on and don't like sitting in the sand fighting a personal war for a president that the people did not elect.

You may not share my oppinion and that is your right, a right that I am defending for you.
So I hope that you exercise it and the rest of them as well.

-FataL

Re:I wonder... (0, Flamebait)

BlowHole666 (1152399) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341003)

I agree with you the voting system is flawed. I also thank you for your service and thank you for defending our freedom no matter if the war is wrong/right, personal/necessary (that is a matter of opinion).

Re:I wonder... (1)

Sciros (986030) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341135)

The Electoral College was (and is) a compromise between federal and states rights. If we were to do away with it, states like Montana would have significantly less of a say in our president than they do now. These are of course states that aren't densely populated. These also happen to be rural states, and they usually vote for the Republican party candidate. If we were to do away with the Electoral College, these states would see their votes count far less compared to the urban citizenship than they do now.

I'm not saying either way is wrong or right, just saying how it is.

As for how much of a "screwup" the Electoral College can cause, it's not a very major one. When the EC's results and the popular vote have been different, the margin of victory in terms of votes has been quite slim. This is because the Electoral College for the most part represents *population* numbers. The guaranteed 2 senators per state simply gives the states with very small populations a bit more weight than they would have otherwise.

Either way I don't see it as an issue worth arguing over. Even when Al Gore lost to Bush despite there being a (supposed? I never cared to follow up after the election itself) discrepancy in the popular vote and EC results, there was no clear choice where you could say "this is the man America wants to lead." Neither could claim any sort of public mandate, really. 50% of the voter turnout of the US is not anywhere near the majority, so we shouldn't concern ourselves with "this is a president the people didn't elect" or whatever.

Re:I wonder... (1)

cowscows (103644) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340937)

Oh, was it that simple? Then why was the Supreme Court involved? Were they the ones doing the recount?

It was a much more complex, messier, and horribly mangled process. I'm not going to write it all out for you, because there is plenty of information out there, but your version of how it went is not even close to correct.

Re:I wonder... (1)

FredFredrickson (1177871) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341009)

Oh, was it that simple? Then why was the Supreme Court involved? Were they the ones doing the recount? It was a much more complex, messier, and horribly mangled process. I'm not going to write it all out for you, because there is plenty of information out there, but your version of how it went is not even close to correct.
Amen to that! Seriously folks- anybody who likes how the election turned out likes to over-simplify what the process was, and then call the people who are looking for real justice "sore losers" and the like. "If Gore would stop trying to recount the votes and admit defeat..." I don't know if you guys remember, but Gore never got the full recount he was looking for, because Bush had the counting stopped because it would suffer him "Irreparable Harm" (If I recall correctly). Don't even get me started on 2004...

Re:I wonder... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21340989)

You probably never heard of vote caging either. Don't worry about it. There must be another Fox news alert any minute now. You can just watch that instead.

Re:I wonder... (1)

Zoe9906 (1163177) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341173)

No, you don't actually want that. You/Everyone should really read why the electoral college was designed, Hamilton wrote about it in Federalist #68, though there are more concerns than those he presented there. It's basicly meant to prevent a situation where there are 10 cantidates and 1 guy wins with only 23% of the vote. It also has consequences beyond presidential elections, it will impact congressional as well. It will move to a coaliton sytle leglislature. If you think the govt doesn't get anything accomplished now with 2 parties, wait until there are 17. The Republican in me wants to see a dig on Bush, so I have to hope you remember that Clinton didn't get the popular vote in either election. Also since we're on party affiliation, there's a good chance that if the electoral college were done away with, The republican party, (or what becomes of it)/religious right, would probably win every election, because as far as overall idealogy goes, Republicans tend to be a bit more monolithic in their overall views throughout the party than do Democrats.

Another idea (3, Insightful)

nizo (81281) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340605)

Maybe we could call in the UN to monitor the next round of elections?

Re:Another idea (2, Interesting)

PhilipPeake (711883) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341181)

There is something to be said for this idea.

Jimmy Carter, who has participated in the monitoring of many elections in all sorts of countries is on record as saying that if he had to monitor US elections, he would have to declare them as unfair and open to abuse.

There are jokes made about dead people voting. Unfortunately, its true. As are the votes of the same person multiple times and the votes of people ineligible to vote.

Until those problems are fixed, how the votes are counted it really irrelevant, and a distraction from the real issue.

There's no rush (5, Insightful)

phoenix.bam! (642635) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340611)

The sick fascination with immediate results is what is causing this issue to begin with. Election results do not need to be available immediately. Taking a day or a week for counting is perfectly fine. For some reason though we need to have live coverage as the polls close to find out who wins. It really doesn't matter all that much.

Re:There's no rush (1)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340831)

Elections are essentially a spectator sport. The family gathers around the tv to watch UP TO THE SECOND results and whatnot. You have your analysts and exit polls. Reporters careers are made and broken. It's really an intense business. It's leading to some very dumb moves to make the election night more zazzy.

Transparency and accuracy before convenience, always!

Re:There's no rush (2, Interesting)

bhima (46039) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340885)

There is a lot to be said about this.

I wonder what not allowing exit polling to be published for 72 hours (or so) would do for fair elections.

E-Voting that matters (3, Insightful)

spaglia2 (1187227) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340617)

Hey, if we're going to do e-voting, and you can't deny it forever, why not just have everyone vote one a week from their PCs on the actual issues and skip the (politicians) middle man?

Re:E-Voting that matters (1)

goldspider (445116) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341103)

And exclude everyone who can't afford a PC/internet access. What could possibly go wrong?

Re:E-Voting that matters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21341105)

...because the general public is not well enough informed to make specific decisions... They can elect someone whom they think can represent their interests though.

Thank you, FINALLY someone gets it (1)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340645)

The lawsuit is aimed at prohibiting the use of all types of vote counting machines, and requiring hand-counting of all primary and general election ballots in full view of the public.
Finally! I've been saying all along that you can't have a transparent, therefor democratic election unless the ordinary people can verify the results of an election!

Re:Thank you, FINALLY someone gets it (1)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340717)

There are 150 million registered voters in the U.S.

Exactly how are you going to count them all by hand between the election and swearing in? Also, if there is some dispute, how many ordinary people will be needed to count the election?

Re:Thank you, FINALLY someone gets it (1)

A beautiful mind (821714) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340927)

An ordinary vote-counting system scales well. It has worked for countries the size of the USA or larger.

Re:Thank you, FINALLY someone gets it (1)

Blahgerton (1083623) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340959)

Same way they did it 100 years ago. In fact, it'll probably be easier. I believe the voter turnout is reduced now -- owing to many factors including lethargy -- than it was at the turn of the previous century.

Re:Thank you, FINALLY someone gets it (1)

atraintocry (1183485) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341075)

part of the problem is that we expect the votes to be tallied immediately. better that it takes longer than the supreme court has to step in again.

Pardon my French, but (1)

TheDarkener (198348) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340697)

It's about goddamned time.

Very Nice for a change (4, Interesting)

Wellington Grey (942717) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340731)

In the question and answer period following the screening, an Iraq veteran said he had pledged to protect his country "from all enemies foreign and domestic" and viewed the issues of voting machines as a domestic threat to voters across the country.

It's very nice to hear of a soldier truly understanding the role of patriotism and protection in America these days. Well done, Sir.

-Grey [silverclipboard.com]

YOU-LOST (0, Offtopic)

scrollios (604767) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340779)

ok, i dont know how many times i need to remind people, but it's getting old really quick.. like about 2 years ago now.

Largest voter turnout since'68, even if votes were "not counted" its still the largest, count'm and the win was even more substantial..
you lost-get over it.

Not all 50 (1)

BoomerSooner (308737) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340795)

My state doesn't use electronic. We use a paper ballot that scans and is saved. Dur..!

50? 52! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21340865)

fuckka mathematicotico!

Right, Because people are so trustworthy too...... (2, Insightful)

initdeep (1073290) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340815)

If we learned anything from the recent cycles of elections, it's that people are inherently LESS trustworthy than machines are.

After all, it shouldn't take a rocket scientist (or even a dim witted 3rd grader) to remember all of the "vote wrangling" that went on when various "human" counting systems were employed in Florida, Ohio, Iowa, etc over the last few general elections.

Because of course, a HUMAN would NEVER have any agenda at all when it comes to vote counting......

Oh wait........

Hanging Chad's anyone?

And note, this applies to BOTH sides equally, so if you desire to blame the "mean ole conservatives" or the "damn looney liberals",.....Don't.

Re:Right, Because people are so trustworthy too... (1)

cjanota (936004) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341059)

Yes, but the problem here is that the machines are being designed and programed by said humans, and the rest of us are not allowed to see the design/program.

Re:Right, Because people are so trustworthy too... (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341079)

If we learned anything from the recent cycles of elections, it's that people are inherently LESS trustworthy than machines are.

Right. Because, of course it's not the machines themselves that we worry about; it's the humans that program them, and we'd like to be able to see what they did, after they did program them.

And note, this applies to BOTH sides equally, so if you desire to blame the "mean ole conservatives" or the "damn looney liberals",.....Don't.

Exactly! This isn't a liberal or conservative or Democratic Party or Republican Party issue. It's important for everybody that the vote counting should be open and above board, and that there should be not be grounds for doubt about whether the election was rigged. In fact, it's most important to the party that wins the election that the process should be transparent.

NY lever machines (1)

slothman32 (629113) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340871)

They may be tamperable, and probably are, but I still like them.
I am biased as I lived here my whole life and am used to it.
Touch screens still don't seem good enough though.
If they look like bank ATM's ...
Paper does have a paper trail, it would be weird if it didn't, but it almost seems too low tech.
If hyperbole is used then I could compare it too etching on stone tablets; that would require a bit of insanity though.
Levers look simple just look across for the name/party and down for the position.
They also have remedies to prevent more than one vote at a time as well as partial votes.
Approval voting would be easy to implement.
In my opinion thesecond best after a more general range voting.
No FL recount would happen here.
I don't know why a printout at the end of the use cound be made.
Plus they have been tested for decades and have little problems.
Luckely NY will be using them for at least a few more years.
I could vote for a presedent, if any good ones, next year on them.

All 50? (3, Informative)

Phroggy (441) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340905)

I'm perfectly happy with the way voting works in Oregon.

You get your ballot in the mail, and fill in the little bubbles with a pencil or pen, just like the standardized tests we're all familiar with. You fold it up and seal it in a "secrecy envelope" which does not have any personally identifying marks. Then you seal that in another envelope which has your name, mailing address, and a barcode on it; this envelope must be signed. You can either mail it, or drop it off in a secure ballot box somewhere (such as at a public library). You can do this at your convenience, it doesn't have to be on election day.

As ballots are received, they're scanned, unopened, and the signature is compared to what the state has on file from your voter registration. If the signature doesn't match, they'll contact you. If they receive two ballots from the same person, they'll contact you. If you don't receive your ballot, they'll send you another one with a different color outer envelope, so if they receive two, they know to discard the original one.

Finally, on election night, the outer envelopes are opened and the inner envelopes are mixed together, then the inner envelopes are opened and counted. It's done by machine, but could be done by hand just as well (it'd just take longer). They get the results very quickly.

Everything is done in the presence of observers from different political parties and members of the public (I haven't volunteered for this yet, but I think I'll look into it next year). All the machines involved are tested with a known quantity of sample ballots to make sure they're working properly. If somebody tried to rig the election, people would see it. Recounts are not a problem.

The only problem with our system is that it doesn't prevent vote buying, because someone could watch you fill out your ballot, seal it, sign the envelope, and drop it in the mail, then pay you for voting the way they wanted. But so far this hasn't been an issue, and in general, most Oregonians won't stand for that sort of thing. We'd much rather accept that risk in exchange for the convenience of being able to vote how we want when we want, without trying to get to a polling place on election day.

Re:All 50? (1)

huckamania (533052) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341037)

The legal system shouldn't be allowed to be used as a blunt instrument. These people launching this lawsuit are egotistical. It almost sounds like a publicity stunt for thier movie.

It would be nice if some of the states have loser pays laws so that when these schmucks lose they'll have to pay for the priveledge.

Re:All 50? (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341175)

I'd support that. This is what surprises me. I think it's kind of strange we don't do this for more things... is this kind of "absentee balloting" common in other countries?

This seems to make the most sense to me. Our current system seems like it would clearly work better in the early 1800s when there were not nearly as many people. We wouldn't have to worry about poling places, getting people to them, turning away minorities, not having enough time to vote, etc.

How can you verify your vote counted? (1)

TheDarkener (198348) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340911)

Us tech nerds have had the answer forever, we just have to adapt it - Open Source.

But I don't mean "use OSS for the machines", I mean open-source the ACTUAL VOTES. How about this:

1) Voter votes on an electronic voting machine
2) Machine prints out a slip with their votes, and maybe a checksum/MD5 hash of the votes.
3) Voter verifies this on as many "neutral", 3rd party and/or official vote verification sites as possible, making the possibility of sabotage very slim since they can go to any one of these sites to see if any one of their vote counts are different. You can't hack 50 different servers in enough time to cover your tracks before someone sees that the vote counts are being screwed with.

Sure, it's an extra 30-60 seconds to go plug in the numbers, but....think about our current president and how much evidence is out there in the open that suggests that he is in office, making "decisions", with the possibility that he didn't even WIN the popular vote.

Give the power to the masses. Hierarchy just doesn't work here, because power corrupts.

Re:How can you verify your vote counted? (1)

fbartho (840012) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341149)

The secrecy of a person's vote is important to prevent vote-buying and other similar schemes (bullying people into voting and providing the slips as proof of company loyalty... etc).

Paper and pencil (3, Insightful)

Cracked Pottery (947450) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340929)

Two advantages. It scales easily, and it is auditable. Braille ballots for the blind, and help for the handicapped. Everything original paper, with the right to be reviewed and recounted.

I just don't get why there's such foot-dragging... (4, Insightful)

Dr_Marvin_Monroe (550052) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340935)

This is really sooo simple folks. Everyone, especially the election folks, should be on-board with these types of demands. It's really not that difficult to do what the "Fair Elections" people want, unless you really ARE trying to manipulate the elections.

1) Demand that Diebold and all of the other voting machine folks print a receipt for every voter. This wouldn't be any more difficult than printing a receipt at the supermarket. You get to look at it, you put it into the basket on the way out. The paper becomes the "official" ballot always, the machine is just there to give quick results.

2) All the vote counting is redone at a central location, and EVERYONE can watch on the cable access channel or over streamed video. Want to watch 96 hours of vote counting from front to back? Sure, knock yourself out. The video feeds are provided the the cable franchise holders in every city to present on their networks on the usually blank city council channel. For those without a cable franchise for the city, you can simply lookup the video feeds on the internet.

The foot dragging on this issue is really starting to make me believe that the elections ARE being manipulated. All the horse-pucky form Diebold and the like about "too hard to make a printed tally".... Yeah, sure... And it's also too hard for cash machines and cash registers to print a receipt and verify that I've got funds before you give me cash...

As far as ballot counting, the infrastructure to let everyone watch is already there.

We just need to keep pushing until this gets done. I'm getting really tired of the 50.01% vs. 49.99% vote manipulation that's passing for "legal and fair" elections in this country. Making things look "close" is really the smoothest form of manipulation, I don't think anyone would believe the old Soviet style manipulation where the votes are always 98% for the party, but shaving just enough to make it 51-49 would be almost believable.

This really does need to get done NOW. No more fooling around, OSS voting machine code, printed receipt, video feeds of the counting and no more voter supression!

Bits vs. Atoms (2, Insightful)

dazedNconfuzed (154242) | more than 6 years ago | (#21340939)

The problem is that bits can vanish without a trace - heck, nobody is sure they were there in the first place.
Atoms, however, are hard to dispose of - yes a paper trail gets counted too, but it's much harder to deny the physical reality.

A voter can verify his correct paper ballot went into a locked box, and observers can make sure the locked boxes are transported and the contents counted. If there is a question, it can be repeated with closer inspection.

When I touch the "vote!" box on a screen, I have no idea what happened next, and verification is difficult.

This has 0 chance of success (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21340943)

I can also file a lawsuit( in the USA) that would try to make Lolcats the official language of denmark, but that doesn't mean you have to make it a slashdot story.

Illinois should counter sue then (2, Interesting)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341001)

Unless Sangamon is the only sane county (well, we know every politician in Cook county is crooked; see our present Governor linving in Chicago despite the Illinois Constitutional mandate that he live in Springfield, and the previous governor living in PRISON [google.com] ) in Illinois, this lawsuit has no merit here.

The last two elections I voted on a touch screen, and was presented with a paper audit trail that I presented to the election judge, who put it in a ballot box.

Not every state has Diebold crap.

And it wouldn't matter if the machine used Access as a database (or even Excel [slashdot.org] . Since there's a paper trail you can always retabulate the results, by hand if need be.

-mcgrew

Paper trails are inaccurate (1, Insightful)

presidenteloco (659168) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341007)

A paper trail just gets you a manual recount process that has a demonstrated error/uncertainty rate
greater than the percentage of votes by which George W Bush "won" his first presidency.

If you're going to have close elections like that, then with a human paper counting system you may
as well just call it, heads or tails, because that will be just as valid as the alleged "result."

Some kind of open-source hardware and software stack, top to bottom, using public key encryption and
digital signature techniques to allow verification that a ballot was counted in the result without revealing
how the ballot was actually voted, should be fine. Why is this so difficult to comprehend?

The idea that all competent mathematicians and computer geeks, who could vouch for the system and the
process and the result, are somehow all in favor of one side in an election and so would engage in a vast,
unanimous conspiracy to defraud the populace is so far fetched that anyone who believes it should
have their right to vote revoked anyway, because if the quality of decisions made by those they support
is anything like their own decision making prowess, we are all completely f**ked.

Oh yeah, we already are, I forgot.

Massachuetts got it right (1)

milgr (726027) | more than 6 years ago | (#21341109)

Where I vote in Massachusetts, we use a pen to fill in ovals next to each candidate for whom we wish to vote. If we wish to vote for a write-in candidate, we fill in a box next to an empty line, and fill in the name (and maybe address) on the blank line. We bring the ballot over to a box, state our name and address. If the list indicates that we have a valid name and have not previously voted in the current election, we slide the ballot into a box - which counts the ballot.

It is straight forward to use a machine to tally the votes. Similar machines tally scores on standardized tests. The ballots may be counted by hand. Typically it is only necessary to hand count write-in votes if the election is sufficiently close.
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