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Maryland Scraps Diebold Voting System

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the long-overdue dept.

United States 209

beadfulthings writes "After eight years and some $65 million, the state of Maryland is taking its first steps to return to an accountable, paper-ballot based voting system. Governor Martin O'Malley has announced an initial outlay of $6.5 million towards the $20 million cost of an optical system which will scan and tally the votes while the paper ballots are retained as a backup. The new (or old) system is expected to be in place by 2010 — or four years before the state finishes paying off the bill for the touch-screen system."

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209 comments

But what I want to know - (5, Funny)

Recovering Hater (833107) | more than 5 years ago | (#22130986)

-is where the "Suddenoutbreakofcommonsense" tag is?

Re:But what I want to know - (5, Funny)

jrothwell97 (968062) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131062)

Just 'cause I'm feeling nice, I have tagged it as 'suddenoutbreakofcommonsensejustforyourecoveringhater'. Happy now...?

Re:But what I want to know - (2, Funny)

Deag (250823) | more than 6 years ago | (#22132556)

In a completely unrelated matter, how do I turn off those damn tags?

Re:But what I want to know - (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22132724)

I realize that few /.ers have the relevant libraries for this, but it's called "ignoring".

Diebold = Premier Election Solutions. (5, Informative)

Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) | more than 5 years ago | (#22130992)

I'm sure many of us are aware... but let us not forget who Premier Election Solutions, really are. They are Diebold.

Changing the name was a sneaky move.

Re:Diebold = Premier Election Solutions. (0)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131068)

Too bad Diebold can't just "Die BOLD"... so the rest of us can die bowled (over)...

Re:Diebold = Premier Election Solutions. (3, Funny)

jrothwell97 (968062) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131092)

I'm sure many of us are aware... but let us not forget who Premier Election Solutions, really are. They are Diebold.

Changing the name was a sneaky move.
Strange that while they offer flawed election 'solutions', they also make ATMs and cash deposit machines. HSBC banks here in the Free World use Diebold-badged machines, into which shopkeepers deposit their money every Friday. I dread to think what that may implicate if the ATMs are running similar software.

Re:Diebold = Premier Election Solutions. (4, Insightful)

sconeu (64226) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131194)

The difference is that both Diebold and their clients (the banks) have a vested interest in making sure ATMs *DO* record every transaction accurately.

Especially in Chicago, NYC and the East Coast. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22131324)

The difference is that both Diebold and their clients (the banks) have a vested interest in making sure ATMs *DO* record every transaction accurately.

Unlike state government agencies, the banks, especially many of the ones in Chicago, NYC and up and down the east coast of the US, are run by the kind of folks who might be inclined to provide a set of concrete sneakers to anyone who sells them untrustworthy ATM machines. And the ATM makers know this.

Re:Especially in Chicago, NYC and the East Coast. (4, Insightful)

Trogre (513942) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131756)

And why oh why is your country not populated by people who might be inclined to provide a set of concrete sneakers to anyone who sells them untrustworthy elections?

Re:Diebold = Premier Election Solutions. (1)

glitch23 (557124) | more than 5 years ago | (#22132328)

People who need govt to enforce their religion must not have much faith in the power of its message.

People who think the US gov't enforces a particular religion should move to a Middle Eastern country to be reminded of what a government religion really is. The key point is that in a country that has a real state-sponsored religion, you are punished for not obeying. The US, on the other hand, is an example of a country that has religious roots, a religious foundation, religion in government, religion (although dwindling) in public, but you are not punished if you do not conform to any of those. That is what freedom of (not 'from') religion means. Religion in government is not the same as government in religion. Go ask a member of your local al Qaeda users group what it feels like to be in a real state-sponsored religion country.

Re:Diebold = Premier Election Solutions. (2, Informative)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131402)

Their ATM's got a virus [theregister.co.uk] some years ago since they are running Windows Mobile.

Re:Diebold = Premier Election Solutions. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22132164)

Windows XP Embedded != Windows Mobile

Re:Diebold = Premier Election Solutions. (1)

Ucklak (755284) | more than 5 years ago | (#22132224)

flawed election 'solutions' according to whom???
Apparently Diebold and the value in the register that represents something they want to have a higher percentage doesn't see it as flawed.
It's just following a routine.

Can you massage my feet, please? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22131172)

Your warm hands and soft fingers would feel delightful...

Re:Diebold = Premier Election Solutions. (1)

gotzero (1177159) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131180)

At least this is going to result in a big audit and will hopefully shed some light into how this really works (or does not work). I will be excited to hear about the results, and even if they go back, I am glad it is being explored... I bet there will be some nasty digital skeletons in the closet.

Re:Diebold = Premier Election Solutions. (4, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131888)

I bet there will be some nasty digital skeletons in the closet.
Absolutely.

The more I learn about this Diebold outfit, the more I think they should be kept far away from any part of our electoral system. Just yesterday, I read an interesting story about a county clerk in some rural Nevada county who looked the machines over carefully and, not being a techie, called in a few trusted computer people to check out one of the systems. Naturally, Diebold's machines are closed source, so they say this County Clerk violated their EULA. The worst part of this is that Diebold put pressure on the County Board until this clerk was forced to resign. They've got that much power.

Just the idea that our elections would run on a closed-source, impossible-to-audit system is unbelievable to me. Especially after the rate of undervoting (ballots that were completely filled out, except the Diebold machines say there was no vote cast for President that only seemed to occur in heavily Democratic precincts in Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Ohio. In some minority districts, the rate of undervoting was EIGHTY PERCENT in 2004. That means, in a heavily contest year, in an area that has a high turnout rate, voters went in and filled out their computer ballot for all the local races, all the judgeships, county board, etc., but for some reason did not cast a vote for President. It's absolutely ridiculous. Problem is, since there are no paper ballots, it's impossible to audit. Diebold sends in the count and that's it, jack. Four more years of a jug-eared dry drunk in the White House.

It's going to take a while, and maybe a few election cycles, but if we can't get honest paper ballots in every single precinct in the USA, there needs to be some serious shit a-flyin'.

Re:Diebold = Premier Election Solutions. (1)

lazy_playboy (236084) | more than 5 years ago | (#22132120)

"Just the idea that our elections would run on a closed-source,..."

You make good points and agree with all you say. But remember, even if the source was available that doesn't actually mean that the app running on the machine was compiled from precisely that code. Or even if it is, what about a boot sector type virus that subverts the software that subsequently runs?

In essence, there is no reason to use a machine to simply count. One corrupt person in a powerful place screws up the election. And corrupt people are as certain as the fact that my shit stinks. At least with hand counting the power that any one person has is lessened, especially if batches of votes are counted several times by random people (I assume this is what happens... surely this kind of redundancy is built in to the system?!)

Re:Diebold = Premier Election Solutions. (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 6 years ago | (#22132702)

Make sure that the code is compiled by a trusted agency.. preferably several public agencies in parallel. The resultant binarys must all match otherwise they're scrapped. The verified binary is then signed using a key only available to a third trusted agency. All of this process must be in public, and every part has the right to send qualified observers to watch every step.

It goes without saying the original code must also be open to scrutiny.

Then I might trust it.

Oblig. Upton Sinclair's The Jungle (1)

Wilson_6500 (896824) | more than 6 years ago | (#22132462)

And shortly afterward one of these [government inspectors], a physician, made the discovery that the carcasses of steers which had been condemned as tubercular by the government inspectors, and which therefore contained ptomaines, which are deadly poisons, were left upon an open platform and carted away to be sold in the city; and so he insisted that these carcasses be treated with an injection of kerosene--and was ordered to resign the same week! So indignant were the packers that they went farther, and compelled the mayor to abolish the whole bureau of inspection; so that since then there has not been even a pretense of any interference with the graft.

Re:Diebold = Premier Election Solutions. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22131508)

It's called "capitalism", if you don't like it move to cuba. If fucktard liberals like you were in power, changing the name of your corporation would be against the law.

Stupid assed statist.

Re:Diebold = Premier Election Solutions. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22131656)

In that case they should have changed the name to "Diehard" instead.

Where can Diebold hide now? (3, Insightful)

jrothwell97 (968062) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131008)

Diebold are going to have real trouble building their reputation back up after this; even though other machines may be vulnerable, the fact that this case has been so well publicised is seriously going to damage Diebold's public image.

Re:Where can Diebold hide now? (2, Funny)

mOdQuArK! (87332) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131254)

That's why they changed their name. Now that they have a new name, nobody is going to associate them with the "old" Diebold.

Re:Where can Diebold hide now? (3, Interesting)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131426)

Actually, they could have scored a huge boost in credibility *IF* they had said, wait! We'll pay for the NH recounts because we are certain our machines are good, and if anything is found to be wrong, we'll fix it before the next primary or caucus.

But that is not what they did... instead, there was a conversation in a darkened back room somewhere that went something like this:

Politician: I thought you said it would be undetectable?
Company Rep: I thought you said we'd not be prosecuted?
Politician: You didn't say you'd fsck it up this badly.
Company Rep: I did what you told me you wanted, give or take a couple of votes.

Politician: This is not going to be good, you had better hide the evidence now, bury it deeply.
Company Rep: No problem, we just paid Britney another $2 Million to pee on the courthouse steps.

profit!

Re:Where can Diebold hide now? (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131670)

Is it a good or a bad sign that I got the same feeling from reading that exchange, that I do when I read the solution to a difficult puzzle?

Re:Where can Diebold hide now? (2, Interesting)

NickCatal (865805) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131470)

I read somewhere that Deibold wants out of the business because it is like 10% of their revenue and 90% of their PR headaches.

I love optical scanners. They are so easy to do, quick to report, and easy to check if there is a problem.

What a lot of people don't realize is that on election day those boxes are carted around escorted by agents from both parties. There is no funny business to be done because it is being watched the entire election with lawyers for both parties parked around the area ready to respond to a phone call and judges literally sitting at their desks all day waiting for phone calls. Even if the 'seal is broken' the box was watched from point a to point z by reps from all parties involved.

But it is more fun to claim rigged elections.

Re:Where can Diebold hide now? (1)

DeadChobi (740395) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131660)

What about the other 10 political parties in this country? Where are their representatives? It's not a two-party system despite what the media has led you to believe.

Re:Where can Diebold hide now? (2, Insightful)

plover (150551) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131940)

What about the other 10 political parties in this country? Where are their representatives? It's not a two-party system despite what the media has led you to believe.

Because the other parties around here can't muster enough people to vote at every polling place, much less provide a volunteer to staff each one and assist in carrying the ballots around.

Neither the Republicrats nor the Demopublicans currently feels threatened enough by a third party to risk charges of rigging an election. Think about the risk required for both of them to agree to jointly commit a felony. If one asks the other, you know damn well the other would much rather see the first behind bars for election tampering, rather than fool around with half a dozen votes.

If the Greys, Libertines, or whoever ever reaches a threatening level of participation, (such as about 20%,) then it'll be different. It would also be different if we didn't have a winner-take-all voting system -- a proportional representation system would need to be much more careful. But until then, having two people who mistrust each other is a pretty good solution.

Re:Where can Diebold hide now? (2, Interesting)

Mitreya (579078) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131532)

Diebold are going to have real trouble building their reputation back up after this; even though other machines may be vulnerable, the fact that this case has been so well publicised is seriously going to damage Diebold's public image.

And pigs are certain to fly anytime now.
Some states appear to question their machines. Others don't. But I don't see anything about states demanding their money back for the scrapped equipment. And therefore I don't think Diebold is too concerned! They already sold the frigging machines. In fact, they probably prefer to have a chance of selling another round of machines in a few years once the legislative body is changed (or better-bought) rather than simply do maintenance support on the machines already sold.

Re: Where can Diebold hide now? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131840)

Diebold are going to have real trouble building their reputation back up after this; even though other machines may be vulnerable, the fact that this case has been so well publicised is seriously going to damage Diebold's public image.
How well is it actually known and understood outside geek circles?

Sudden outbreak of common sense indeed (2, Insightful)

hekk (471747) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131052)

Good riddance to bad rubbish. Whatever happened to "If it ain't broke don't fix it"?

Can this momentum spread to the federal level? Perhaps by having the money given to the states with the express implication that it be used for as secure and verifiable voting device as possible?

Re:Sudden outbreak of common sense indeed (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131150)

Can this momentum spread to the federal level? Perhaps by having the money given to the states with the express implication that it be used for as secure and verifiable voting device as possible?


Whaddya wanna do here, give Ron Paul a coronary?

Re:Sudden outbreak of common sense indeed (1)

hekk (471747) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131178)

Well, I meant the money already reaching states that is earmarked for new voting machines.

Re:Sudden outbreak of common sense indeed (1)

glitch23 (557124) | more than 6 years ago | (#22132374)

Good riddance to bad rubbish. Whatever happened to "If it ain't broke don't fix it"?

Don't forget that people have to be convinced that it ('it' can be anything in this case) isn't really broken for that motto to be useful.

Bashful kidney (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22131072)

I can't piss with other people watching. Any advice?

Re:Bashful kidney (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22131978)

Listen to this hypnosis script:

What you need to do is find yourself a nice and comfortable place, and begin to relax. Starting with your feet. Just let yourself relax. Feeling your feet relaxing more and more as you become more and more relaxed. Just listening and obeying as you relax further and further, deeper and deeper; more and more relaxed.

And allow the relaxation to move upwards. Moving upwards into your calves. Your feet, and ankles, and calves. So deeply relaxed. Just deep, and obedient, and so completely relaxed. Feel the relaxation. Feel it getting deeper and deeper as you listen and obey and relax.

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And feel the relaxation moving upwards. Upwards into your stomach, as you relax further and further. Sinking down deeper and more obedient. Deeper and more relaxed. Just listening to my voice and obeying as you go deeper and deeper. More and more completely relaxed.

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Allow your hands to relax now. Your hands, your arms, your shoulders, your body, your legs, your feet, everything feels so good and so completely relaxed. Just drifting off deeper and deeper with every word. Your whole body completely relaxed as you listen to my voice and relax further and further, deeper and deeper.

Now let the relaxation move upwards, upwards into your neck. Your neck and face, so comfortable and heavy. So completely relaxed, as you listen to my voice and relax further and further, deeper and deeper. Just concentrating on the sound of my voice as you relax more and more. Every word taking you deeper and deeper. More and more obedient and relaxed. Just listen and obey and relax. Further and further. Letting your mind drift away, listening only to the sound of my voice as you sink down deeper and deeper, more and more completely relaxed. Just listening and obeying as you relax deeper and deeper.

I'm going to count down form ten to one. And when I reach one, you will be so deep and obedient, so totally relaxed.

Ten. Sinking down. Spiraling downwards. Deeper and more obedient with every word.

Nine. Deeper and deeper, further and further, more and more obedient and relaxed.

Eight. Sinking down now, further and further. Shutting out the world as you listen to my voice and relax more and more completely. More and more deeply relaxed.

Seven. So deep and comfortable. So totally obedient and relaxed. just listening to my voice and obeying as you relax further and further, deeper than you've ever been before. Every word carrying you downward, downward into a deep, deep trance.

Six. So deep and obedient. So totally relaxed. Just listening and obeying as you go deeper and deeper, further and further than you've ever been before.

Five. Feel my voice carrying you down, down into the deepest trance you can imagine. So heavy and comfortable as you listen only to my voice and obey. Obeying more and more with every word, concentrating totally on my voice as you deeper, and more completely relaxed. Just listening and obeying as you relax further than you've ever been.

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One. Totally relaxed. Totally obedient. Just listening and obeying, obeying my every word. So completely relaxed.

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The moment you feel the urge to go to the bathroom, you simply will have to do it then and there, no matter where you are or what you are doing. You will simply have to immediately empty your bladder. Emptying it no matter where you are or who's around, how private it is or public. You won't even have time to open your fly or take down your pants. You will simply have to do it instantly. Instantly, the moment you feel the desire inside of you, growing stronger and stronger: the need to release your bladder whenever and wherever you are. No matter what is going on, you will have no control. It doesn't matter if you're walking, talking, standing, sitting, who's with you in the room. You will simply have no control over your bladder whatsoever. None at all. Your bladder will simply empty itself as soon as the desire happens. A soon as you need it in any way, shape, or form. You will empty your bladder.

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instant the need strikes you.

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You cannot control your bladder any longer. And you will continue listening to this file until it is true each and every time. If you find that you still have some control after listening, you will find the control slips further and further away with every listen until you have none at all, until the moment you need to go to the bathroom you simply do. No matter what you're doing. No matter where you are. No matter who is around you. You simply have to empty your bladder the moment the desire strikes you in any way, shape, or form. You cannot control yourself and you cannot stop it at all. It feels so good to obey and just simply let it happen. So good to simply surrender yourself to my commands. To allow it to happen every time you need to go.

You simply cannot control your bladder any longer. It empties itself as soon as it needs to and you cannot stop it at all. You cannot hold it at all. You may even get to the point where your urine simply dribbles out. Constantly dribbling out as you go about your day because you cannot hold it in in any way, shape, or form. The muscles to your bladder are getting weaker and weaker, and the urine will just simply leak out whenever it needs to, beyond your ability to control or stop in any way, shape, or form. It will not matter who is there. It will not matter what you're doing, where you are. Nothing matters at all. It simply is the way you are, is the way you are going to be from now on. You cannot control it, cannot stop it, cannot resist in any way, shape, or form.

You do not control your bladder any longer. Your bladder empties itself whenever it pleases. That is simply the way it is and you have no choice in this at all. None whatsoever. You cannot stop it, cannot change it, cannot resist at all. It is simply who and what you are and you accept that. And you will continue listening to this file until you accept it utterly. Making it a part of you now and forever. There is no way to stop it. No way to change it or resist it. That is simply the way it is and you cannot change it or go back. Not now, not ever. You have no control over your bladder. None whatsoever. Not ever again. That is simply who and what you are and what you are going to be. And you cannot change it at all.

Now it is time, time to wake back up. Awaken on the count of five. Refreshed and awake.

One. Waking up more and more.

Two. A little closer.

Three. closer and closer.

Four. Almost awake.

Five. Refreshed and awake. Completely changed from what you were before. I hope you enjoyed.

Re:Bashful kidney (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22132370)

That was so boring I nodded off for a while. Hey, why am I all wet?

Verified Voting (3, Informative)

earlymon (1116185) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131102)

All this made me start to wonder about voting machine requirements and this turned up - http://www.verifiedvoting.org/ [verifiedvoting.org]

Thought others might find it interesting.

Re:Verified Voting (2, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131370)

Thanks for the info. Nice to see that my home state scores as highly as I would have thought, and that FL was apparently sufficiently embarassed by screwing up the 2000 election to get its act together.

I do have to say that I find it troubling that so many states don't require either a paper trail or proper auditing of elections. Seems to me that democracies work far better when there's somebody keeping an eye on things to make sure that partisans don't cheat the masses.

Stuck with the bill. (4, Interesting)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131130)

Perhaps the state could sell some of the Diebold devices to help pay the bill that they're stuck with. They may garner a cult following(like the iPhone) of hackers and tinkerers. The devices are worthless as voting machines but they may be coaxed into second lives as kiosk-style internet machines, etc.

Re:Stuck with the bill. (4, Insightful)

KiloByte (825081) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131154)

Or, you see, return them as faulty and demand the (taxpayers') money back?

Re:Stuck with the bill. (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131186)

I'll wager that the contract would probably make that impossible, and if the governor and legislature tried it, it would end up in court, and the state would lose big money. It's probably easier and cheaper, though not very satisfying, to swallow the costs of paying for the machines, and hopefully the good people of Maryland have learned a valuable lesson.

Or better yet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22131234)

...make the state officials who went out and bought those machines in the first place, pay the bill out of their own pockets. Doesn't matter if they can't afford that much money, slap a lien on all their homes and property and garnish their bank accounts to recover as much of it as possible.

Re:Stuck with the bill. (2, Insightful)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131294)

At some point someone probably signed off that the deliverable had been met. Once you agree that the product meets your needs it's kind of hard to go back on it.

I like to say "It's OK! This is how we LEARN!" but unless the responsible parties are actually held accountable for their decisions they won't learn either. While in a perfect world this would lead to some people losing jobs or offices, I find that it's quite rare that people pay attention to huge wastes of taxpayer dollars. Putting it in terms they can understand ("They just threw away $25 of your tax bill last year!") might drive the point home a little better. Or maybe not...

Re:Stuck with the bill. (4, Insightful)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131336)

This is just stupid. Wasting $65M to $90M is pointless, but they deserve it. Moving backwards isn't the answer, and neither is moving only slightly backwards. There's no way that for that kind of money, they couldn't have gotten a series of machines that actually works. I don't want to spit the same old Diebold sucks, yay linux/open source/etc. vitriol but there are a lot of options available to a small business, not to mention a bloody STATE. The instant these things weren't working properly eight years ago, they should've given Diebold an ultimatum and then gone elsewhere.

Maryland expects to be back on the paper trail, following states such as Florida and California, which have also decided that all-electronic systems make it too easy to compromise elections.
Hmm... an all-electronic system doesn't work, and neither does all-paper. Gee, I wonder if there's someway to combine the two and maybe get some sort of hybrid, combining the best of both worlds...

voting (2, Insightful)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131632)

Hmm... an all-electronic system doesn't work, and neither does all-paper. Gee, I wonder if there's someway to combine the two and maybe get some sort of hybrid, combining the best of both worlds...

TFA does describe a method of combining electronic and paper, the optical scanners. A person votes on a paper ballot which is then fed into a scanner. The scanner allows for quick tabulation of votes but if there's any questions about the votes the paper ballots are still available. And there's no reason touch screens or other electronic voting machines can't have a paper record either. Diebold, one of the companies making these machines, makes ATMs as well and ATMs print out receipts. Just require the machines to print out a record of the vote on a roll of paper, the voter can check to make sure the name of the person he or she voted for is on the paper. Then the paper is stored in case there are questions on the results.

Falcon

Re:Stuck with the bill. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22132270)

I think there is no way to be absolutely certain election votes are counted correctly.

-Machines are more reliable than people, so theoretically, if designed correctly, they should give an accurate (and fast, don't forget -fast- in this media-controlled world) result. However, no matter -how- well designed, someone wanting to mess with an election could probably still find a way. It just takes patience and skill. No system is flawless.

-A system where electronic voting leaves a paper trail makes me wonder what happens to the paper trail. Is it counted every time, just to be certain? In that case it could be reasonably reliable, but I'm sure even under the best of circumstances, people make mistakes. This could lead to potentially endless recounts, as it will take ages to come up with the same number twice. So if the discrepancies are not to big and it doesn't matter for the actual result (number of electoral votes), then it shouldn't matter much, case closed. - However, if the paper votes are NOT counted every time, then people could still easily mess with the electronic voting system. A paper trail would also only be good as long as the voter sees a slip of paper with his vote (suchandsuch for president in text, not just some barcode or whatever, even though that might potentially be more private) come out and then afterwards they read the ballot and count it manually. If scanned by a computer, it would -still- be possible to mess with the software, connection, database, or whatever.

-The problem with electronic voting is that whatever system you use, it's basically a black box. You can't watch the electrons move around and even if you know the system, it's probably possible to mess with it if you know what you're doing. No one would be the wiser just looking at the system. The problem with a paper-based system is that human counts are not 100 % reliable either, either by mistake or by malice discrepancies can occur. Multiplied by the numer of people involved, a very small margin of error could still have significant effects. Also, a paper system counted by machines is also open to subversion.

When so much is at stake, people will be willing to do almost anything to get their candidate to win. Personally I think electronic voting is much more vulnerable. In theory only one person could hack into the central database or hide something in the firmware and spread malignant code throughout the system. A paper-based system, checked by humans is flawed by definition, mistakes will be made with so many people involved, but for fraud on a large scale to work without anyone noticing, too many people would have to be involved in too many places. Someone would notice something. Of course, that's little protection either, there have been many reports of irregularities, but most people easily dismiss them.

Too bad something so important is also potentially so fragile.

Re: Stuck with the bill. (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131910)

Perhaps the state could sell some of the Diebold devices to help pay the bill that they're stuck with. They may garner a cult following(like the iPhone) of hackers and tinkerers. The devices are worthless as voting machines but they may be coaxed into second lives as kiosk-style internet machines, etc.
Or sell them to a(nother) country where the ruling class considers it important *not* to get accurate vote counts.

Good (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22131136)

After the news of two AI researchers committing 'suicide,' we know that they have drawn first blood, and I want machines as far away from politics as possible.

What about the old machines? (3, Informative)

jo7hs2 (884069) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131182)

Here is question... Before touchscreen voting, our area in Maryland had an optical paper system, which resembled some sort of Star Wars fan video version of R2D2. Why didn't they hold onto these machines, just in case the touchscreen voting devices didn't work out?

Re:What about the old machines? (3, Funny)

nomadic (141991) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131664)

Before touchscreen voting, our area in Maryland had an optical paper system, which resembled some sort of Star Wars fan video version of R2D2. Why didn't they hold onto these machines, just in case the touchscreen voting devices didn't work out?

I think they tried, but the Jawas stole them.

Re:What about the old machines? (1)

greed (112493) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131672)

'Cause if you don't trade in your old voting system, they charge you full sticker price, dealer prep, and delivery?

Why on Earth are they still paying? (1)

RodgerDodger (575834) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131232)

I'd claim "unsuitable for purpose" and not pay. Except (and I'm sure this is the case...): Maryland probably borrowed money to pay for the system, Diebold has already been given their money and won't give it back, and the creditors don't care how the money was spent.

Re:Why on Earth are they still paying? (1)

symbolic (11752) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131674)

Maryland could still take Diebold to court and get a ruling in its favor. Then the fun can really start.

Election fraud (4, Informative)

Capt'n Hector (650760) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131238)

I don't know if this is common knowledge to informed Americans (I only know of it because it is part of my family lore), but in the 1970s there was another voting machine company, named after its founder, Shoup. They made the voting booths with the pulldown lever, and though I doubt they're still around today, some of you older /.ers may remember them. Anyhow, this company was plagued by scandal. One of the Shoup family, Ransom Shoup was actually convicted of conspiracy to throw an election. The company was also involved in bribing florida politicians. And this was in the era of paper ballots, too. Fast-forward to today: nobody knows if Diebold is up to no good, but that's kind of the point. Without a paper trail, it will be hard to convict anyone of anything, and I think Diebold knows this.

Re:Election fraud (1)

ThinkingInBinary (899485) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131732)

They made the voting booths with the pulldown lever, and though I doubt they're still around today, some of you older /.ers may remember them.

Heck, I only missed by a president or two. My parents used to vote on those machines, but by the time I got around to voting (in 2006) we were using Diebold optical scanners. Frankly they're comforting, because there's a sheet of paper they can read if it gets fucked up.

Heck, Shoup is still in the game today! (5, Informative)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131964)

Except Shoup is now calling itself, "Advanced Voting Solutions [advancedvoting.com]" (AVS). You've probably heard of them. --The most astonishing part is that Diebold's, Howard Van Pelt and Larry Ensminger left Diebold and were hired by AVS in late 2004. --And not just a small hire either. Van Pelt and Ensminger are now AVS's President and Vice President!

Here's a little of Shoup's history. [sptimes.com]

It's a big, hairball of a mess and none of the right people are in jail.


-FL

ENORMOUS BALLS WARNING (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22131268)

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AMANDA? (1)

whiskey6 (1172575) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131276)

Perhaps Maryland has come to the sad, sad realization that The Advanced Maryland 'Automated' Network Disk Archiver is the biggest POS ever to come out of that state? And that calling Pavel at Zmanda http://www.zmanda.com/contact.html [zmanda.com] for help is a doomed task? Just sayin', that's all...

Re:AMANDA? (1)

strredwolf (532) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131668)

No, AMANDA's done by the Univ of MD College Park. The voting stuff is by Diebold, but I believe Governor Glendenning helped bring it in.

" ... impossible to imagine ..." (3, Insightful)

Bearpaw (13080) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131292)

FTA:

"Indeed, it is impossible to imagine a voting system that could be impervious to attack," the report concluded.

That's true, as far as it goes.

But voting systems can -- and have been -- imagined that make it much more difficult to get away with such an attack.

Re:" ... impossible to imagine ..." (1)

Bombula (670389) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131374)

Impervious, no, but any number of simple solutions would be - pardon the expression - nearly foolproof.

The Greeks and Romans voted with black and white stones. It wouldn't be that hard to implement something similar. Picture vending machines that recognize different coins - they are pretty close to foolproof in as far as not mistaking a quarter for a dime goes. Get to the polling station, get a 'coin' (or stone or ball or disc or bill or whatever). From there, how hard is it to only allow one vote per person? Easy - with a time limit (no more than one vote per 60 seconds) and two (or more) synced counters (think of turnstyles synced with the coinslots). So no cheating by dumping more 'quarters' in the machine.

With a simple system like this you can not only count the votes electronically, but you can count the 'coins' too. And just as with real money, you can screen for and discard counterfeit coins.

Of course the real way to have accurate elections is to throw out the secret ballot, but that's another argument entirely.

Re:" ... impossible to imagine ..." (2, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131404)

Of course the real way to have accurate elections is to throw out the secret ballot, but that's another argument entirely.


Oh good, so now my neighbor can know who I voted for. So can my boss and my wife.

Nothing like good ol' fashioned voter intimidation.

they should not pay Diebold (1)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131312)

On a system that is clearly flawed and does not do what it is intended. I would advocate for a full refund to the state of Maryland for breach of contract.

Paper ballots are pretty horrible, too (2, Interesting)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131320)

What they should do is use this [punchscan.org]. It seems to address all of the problems with machine votes, AND all of the problems of the traditional system.

Re:Paper ballots are pretty horrible, too (2, Insightful)

fangorious (1024903) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131678)

Separating the human readable and machine readable ballot, and then shredding the human readable one, keeps the door open for tampering with the counting software (you might have marked choice A for your candidate on the human readable ballot but what if the counting software counts choice A as a different candidate). How do you then prove how it was supposed to be counted? If you're going to in some way securely preserve the human readable portion, why bother separating them in the first place? Also if you keep a copy of your cast ballot then a voters can be intimidated by threat of retaliation, and bribed with certainty of the result. What is so freaking bad about a ballot which is simultaneously human and machine readable which is turned in via secret ballot? It seems to work ok for the many other countries with international oversight.

Re:Paper ballots are pretty horrible, too (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22131914)

It seems to address all of the problems with machine votes

From the web page:

.

The EAC provides a list of registered equipment manufacturers. It includes the more well known vendors such as Premier Election Solutions, Inc. (formerly Diebold), a name according to them "synonymous with security."

.

Strike four, dude.

Optical scan ballots (4, Insightful)

rtechie (244489) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131334)

Optical scan ballots really aren't a dramatic improvement in reliability. In fact, the touchscreen systems replaced optical scan ballots in many locations.

Designing a reliable balloting system is really quite easy. The UN nailed it down decades ago:

1. Printed paper ballots wherein each ballot is marked by grease pencil or felt marker.

2. Ballots are folded and placed into a slot on top of a locked clear plastic box.

3. The boxes are guarded, transported to a central location, and then opened and the ballots are all hand-counted by volunteers in front of observers from all parties.

Re:Optical scan ballots (2, Insightful)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131418)

What is wrong with using an optical scanning device to assist the hand-count? So long as a statistically relevant percentage of random ballots are hand-counted to confirm it, I have no problem with those optical systems. Heck -- I don't think most Slashdotters would mind a computerized system so long as it was done properly. The real issue is that none of the closed-source systems proposed today are even close.

Re:Optical scan ballots (2, Insightful)

rsborg (111459) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131908)

What is wrong with using an optical scanning device to assist the hand-count? So long as a statistically relevant percentage of random ballots are hand-counted to confirm it
That's the problem. Almost no voting processes in ANY STATE implement random hand-counted audits. I think many people would be happier if your "so long as" was actually the way it worked.

Re:Optical scan ballots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22131444)

...and the people who want to throw these elections? They pull out another grease pencil or felt marker and add a few more selections to the ballot, thereby making it invalid.

Re:Optical scan ballots (4, Interesting)

karmatic (776420) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131474)

Optical scan ballots really aren't a dramatic improvement in reliability.

They can be. Have the touchscreen device print the vote onto the paper ballot, and a barcode with a checksum. Scan it optically and verify it against the checksum.

Anyone can verify their ballot - they simply look at what is marked. Misreads simply don't happen - if the two don't match, there is a problem. Give they guy a new ballot (replacing the old one), and have him do it again.

If the hand recount doesn't _exactly_ match the automated totals, it can be scanned in batches (any size). Count X ballots, scan X ballots. If they don't match, there is a problem.

As a nice side effect, machines don't have to be trusted, and don't have to have a network connection either. The machine can't screw up your vote without marking the wrong thing (or the CRC would be wrong), and you can check that yourself before it's counted. Recounts can be done by hand, and in the event of total system failure, you can still mark the silly thing by hand.

As a nice bonus to this, you get the benefits of touchscreen voting - secret ballots for the blind (audio), multiple language support, pictures, the ability to offer more in-depth descriptions of line items, etc.

It's not exactly rocket science.

Re:Optical scan ballots (4, Funny)

Kingrames (858416) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131874)

"It's not exactly rocket science."

No, but if you could do it with rockets, that would be awesome.

Re:Optical scan ballots (1)

AeroIllini (726211) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131920)

One step better:

Have the company that designs and manufactures the machine to print the ballot be a different company from the one that designs and manufactures the counting and checksum machine. (This would require an open checksum algorithm-- another plus.)

In fact, get two companies to build the counting and checksum machines, and verify them against each other.

Re:Optical scan ballots (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131698)

The point behind optical scan is that it is quick, low cost and still auditable. Hand counting is not quick, and human error can enter into that. Hand counting with lots of observers can be pretty time consuming in terms of man-hours.

Re:Optical scan ballots (5, Insightful)

rhizome (115711) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131854)

Hand counting is not quick, and human error can enter into that. Hand counting with lots of observers can be pretty time consuming in terms of man-hours.

This brings up one of the consistently-unasked questions in debates over electronic balloting: what's the hurry? I don't mean "It would be nice if we knew sooner," but what is it about an election requires that this stuff be done quickly?

A second unasked-question would be, "what makes hand-counting errors less desirable than electronic-counting errors?"

Re:Optical scan ballots (2, Insightful)

rtechie (244489) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131988)

The point behind optical scan is that it is quick, low cost and still auditable.
It's quick, but the system I propose is considerably cheaper. I disagree with the third point. Optical scan ballots, in practice, are only "audited" by the same scanning equipment used to count them initially. This does not really translate to "auditable" in my mind since equipment tampering is undetectable. The likelihood of observers being able to certify the reliability of the scanning equipment "on the spot" is very low. Voter suppression is the most serious issue in the USA, and as my system is extremely cheap and easy to use it will better serve poor, rural, and elderly areas that are underserved.

Hand counting is not quick, and human error can enter into that.
Absolutely. But the errors are well understood and relatively easy to correct. Also, lots of eyes from observers (as you pointed out), makes errors less likely. And some percentage of errors is inevitable. Tampering is considered a more important problem than an honest miscount anyway.

Hand counting with lots of observers can be pretty time consuming in terms of man-hours.
Yup. Counting ballots is labor intensive. It's going to take a lot of people and it's going to take time. Once that idea is firmly fixed in the mind it's possible to create tamper resistant balloting systems. It is the foolish attempt to make counting ballots EASIER that leads to corruption in the process. Counting ballots doesn't have to be easy, auditing and reliability are FAR more important.

Re:Optical scan ballots (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 5 years ago | (#22132210)

Optical scan ballots, in practice, are only "audited" by the same scanning equipment used to count them initially.

Humans are capable of reading those ballots. So if there's questions as to the accurracy of the count the ballots can be hand counted.

Falcon

Re:Optical scan ballots (1)

RodgerDodger (575834) | more than 6 years ago | (#22132368)

Both the UK and Australia do hand-counting. All votes are piled up in stacks of 100, verified by other people, and then the stacks of 100 are counted. In Australia, we even pull this off with our preferential voting system.

We know who the winning political party (and thus the Prime Minister) on the night. Sure, some seats take a while, as postal votes have to come in, and the last 1/6th of the Senate takes a while to become known, but the raw figures are known on the night, and the delay for the final numbers is purely to allow for postal votes.

The UK, with 3 times our population, gets it done in one night as well. The nice thing about having more people is you can bring more people in to count. Mind you, their "first-past-the-post" system is easier to count.

The US could easily do hand-counted votes. You will still know the main numbers (President, Congress, Senate) on the night, before the Hawaiians have finished voting. You may have to wait a day or two to find out who was elected dog-catcher, but I think you can live with that.

Re:Optical scan ballots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#22132240)

I love all the scandel from "lost" ballots. Is it really that hard to keep track of a bunch of locked boxes?

A couple years ago there was a big scandel for the governorship in washington state. I dont remember names, but the republicans won the fist count by a few hundred. Then they "find" some lost boxes and he wins the recount again by a few less. then another recount with more lost ballots. Finally after like 3 recounts the democrats won by under 200 and it was decared final. Then some people came and found death certificates for about 200 people that "voted" democrat. The courts still decided that the last recount was the most accurate.

Lawsuit time? (3, Interesting)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131364)

I wonder if we'll be seeing a slew of lawsuits against Diebold coming in the next few months/years as the states try to recoup the cost of their investments in the Diebold voting machines. I'd bet that they'd have contracts with Diebold that would hold them responsible for failures in the equipment. Given the reports from NH that seem to indicate discrepancies between what Diebold equipment reported and hand recounts I'd think that's a pretty good indicator that the Diebold equipment is faulty.

Who wrote these contracts? (5, Insightful)

devjj (956776) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131462)

If the state buys a touch-screen voting system that is later proven (without a doubt) to be flawed in any of a number of ways, all of which contribute directly to an incorrect tally of the vote (the very reason the machines were procured), why does said state still have to pay for that contract? Are states not naturally covered by the same laws we are? Did they not get a warranty? Did no one even stop to fucking ask?

Just in time (1)

MrCopilot (871878) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131562)

2010? Just in time for the all important Senate and House races.

I'm sure there will be no problems in the next presidential election.

Why not skip the electronics step then alltogether (1)

KZigurs (638781) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131602)

With the farce that any elections are now in USA why not skip the touch screens, OCRs or whatevers in first place? Anyway there is a 100% chance that recount will be requested by ether side.
Going with paper only in first place will save quite a few million dollars and will be set up in what - 6 months including training?

Chads are responsible for the war in Iraq (1)

gravy.jones (969410) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131692)

Chads are responsible for the invasion and war in Iraq! A more mechanically reliable voting system would have given us Gore as President and a more Clinton-esque response to Iraq. As a result the country wouldn't be bankrupt and dependent on China. With Gore as President 9/11 may never have happened.

I don't know why people are so quick to poop on every new and improved mechanism for voting.

How many people, who criticize the facilities which capture our votes, actually vote?

www.bushslastday.com [bushslastday.com]

Get some balls and sue Diebold (2, Insightful)

kcornia (152859) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131776)

Unless this thing was negotiated on handshakes and golf games, there should be a good amount of evidence for the state to press for elimination of that debt due to breach.

Let's start holding them accountable for their shenanigans instead of just taking our ball and going home.

NY Might Keep Physical (Paper) Ballot Records (0, Redundant)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131796)

According to NY Verified Voting [nyvv.org], partisan deadlock and a lack of product alternatives might just combine to ensure that NY state requires that every voting machine that replaces our time-honored "Iron Maidens" (metal mechanical lever-pull boards) voting booths be a paper ballot. Marked with a standard marking machine, and counted electronically - but available for recounts as physical evidence.

Maybe after a few hundred more years running this huge "democracy experiment" we'll finally get right the basics, like counting the votes.

Re: NY Might Keep Physical (Paper) Ballot Records (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 5 years ago | (#22131878)

Maybe after a few hundred more years running this huge "democracy experiment" we'll finally get right the basics, like counting the votes.
That will only happen if democracy survives the experiment. Otherwise the politicians in power will ensure that it is *not* fixed.

I called it! (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 5 years ago | (#22132022)

an optical system which will scan and tally the votes while the paper ballots are retained as a backup.
Wooo! I called it! I said in a post 4 weeks ago they should just have a scantron-like technology and there we go, someone pulled their head out of their ass and discovered that's the best idea too. Although I must add here the same tweak in that they should have a glorified printer with no long term memory or counting ability print a scannable ballot after you press some BUTTONS (not the screen). That way you wouldn't error out on people that can't fill out a ballot well enough for the machine to scan it in. As long as the printer doesn't run out of ink, all the ballots would look the same and scan perfectly. Fast voting, fast counting, and a paper trail. Hurray!

Re:I called it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22132348)

Wooo! I called it! I said in a post 4 weeks ago they should just have a scantron-like technology and there we go, someone pulled their head out of their ass and discovered that's the best idea too.


Hate to burst your bubble, but four years ago (predating your 4-week-old post) this is precisely the system that MD was using...

(CAPTCHA: "crotch". A comment on our political system, perhaps?)

Re:I called it! (1)

tux_attack (1173501) | more than 6 years ago | (#22132638)

Agreed, MD did use optical a while back. Also, though I'm not sure I believe that the makers of the optical machines may have been Diebold. Personally I would like to see the system from http://openvotingconsortium.org/ [openvotingconsortium.org] implemented widely since it is open source and uses a optical & paper system.

My previous county's voting system (4, Informative)

oahazmatt (868057) | more than 5 years ago | (#22132080)

I always enjoyed my previous county's voting system.

Here's your paper, here's your marker. Fill in the dot next to who you're voting for. If you make a mistake, please see one of the attendants for a new ballot and we will destroy the old one, and record the action and confirm it with your signature. If you would like to vote and are unable to properly use the marker, please see one of our attendants for assistance. Once you are done, please slip your ballot into the secured box at either end of the room. The "I voted" sticker is optional and will not be forced on you.

I voted in that county for 7 years, and not once did anyone ever question the authenticity of the outcomes, even when outcomes were close.

Diebold is already rigging this election. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22132650)

Vote rigging, yet another infringement on our rights by the gov't. Add it to the ever-growing list of violations:
They violate the 1st Amendment by opening mail, caging demonstrators and banning books like America Deceived (book) [iuniverse.com] from Amazon.
They violate the 2nd Amendment by confiscating guns during Katrina.
They violate the 4th Amendment by conducting warrant-less wiretaps.
They violate the 5th and 6th Amendment by suspending habeas corpus.
They violate the 8th Amendment by torturing.
They violate the entire Constitution by starting 2 illegal wars based on lies and on behalf of a foriegn gov't.
Support Dr. Ron Paul and save us all.
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