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Sequoia Vote Machine Can't Do Simple Arithmetic?

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the lessee-nothin-into-nothin-carry-the-nothin dept.

Government 254

whoever57 writes "Ed Felten is showing a scan of the summary from a Sequoia voting machine used in New Jersey. According to the paper record, the vote tallies don't add up — the total number of Republican ballots does not match the number of votes cast in the Republican primary and the total number of Democratic ballots does not match the number of votes cast in the Democratic primary. Felten has a number of discussions about the problems facing evoting, up to and including a semi-threatening email from Sequoia itself." Update: 03/20 23:30 GMT by J : Later today, Felten added an update in which he analyzes Sequoia's explanation. He has questions, comments, and a demand.

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Minor correction: (1)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 6 years ago | (#22805904)

<pedant>

It's "Felten".

</pedant>

Count from Zero (5, Funny)

jibster (223164) | more than 6 years ago | (#22805988)

Both tallies are out by 1 count. Could it be the one is counting from zero and the other from one?

On the bright side at least the error will vanish as the number of votes approaches infinity :)

Re:Count from Zero (4, Insightful)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806044)

Both tallies are out by 1 count. Could it be the one is counting from zero and the other from one?


Actually, the Republican tally was heavy one vote, while the Democratic tally was light one vote. Thus, your proposed explanation doesn't wash.

On the bright side at least the error will vanish as the number of votes approaches infinity :)

That's assuming that the error is due to the cause you postulated, which cannot be the case.

Re:Count from Zero (1)

DudeTheMath (522264) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806116)

Is NJ an open primary state (like MI)? Why couldn't a Dem have voted for one of the Republicans? That "option" (counting the number of Ds and Rs) might be a tally of the party of the voter rather than a total of the votes for candidates in that party.

Re:Count from Zero (1)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806138)

No. New jersey has a closed primary.

Re:Count from Zero (1)

HistoricPrizm (1044808) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806314)

How does that work? Does the election official set the machine to Dem/Rep before the person enters, or does the voter choose?
If the voter chooses, can they change their mind? Could that have caused the problem?
Because I can totally see some random voter choosing Democrat, then realizing that they meant to choose Republican. If the Democrat vs. Republican counter used the first choice, but the vote counter correctly registered the actual vote, there's your error.
Still a stupid error, but not quite as serious as it could be.

Re:Count from Zero (1)

mr_mischief (456295) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806456)

There are two different ballots. You get the ballot with your party's candidates on it. If it's an open primary, you request the proper ballot and they give it to you. If it's a closed primary, you have to be a member of the party to get their primary ballot.

Re:Count from Zero (1)

tmalone (534172) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806518)

I live in New York in a place that doesn't have computer voting, but we do have a closed primary. At my polling place, there are two machines, one Democrat and one Republican. The administrators have a list of each voter and their party affiliation. I would guess that a similar system is in place in NJ.

Re:Count from Zero (1)

powerlord (28156) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806416)

Alternatively, it could be a closed primary, but with voters using the same machine.

I live in NY (still using the old level machines, which I love :) ), and consistently the people running the poles forget to switch the switch on the side of the machine to "enable" republican or democrat (depending on whose in the both last, and whose in it next). Heck, the people running the polls are usually retired, elderly, and volunteer.

The upshot is that, unless you're dedicated to voting for your party, you can often have the opportunity to vote for the Majority party in your area (or the "other" party if a minority party member went before you), unless you complain and wait a minute or two for them to fix things.

Re:Count from Zero (3, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806514)

I live in NY (still using the old level machines, which I love :) ), and consistently the people running the poles forget to switch the switch on the side of the machine to "enable" republican or democrat (depending on whose in the both last, and whose in it next). Heck, the people running the polls are usually retired, elderly, and volunteer.

What county do you live in? Here in Broome County they give us colored cards (green for the Democrats, pink for the Republicans) that we had out to the voters after signing them in. The voter then gives that card to the person operating the machine who sets the primary lever accordingly before hitting the entrance button that allows them to vote.

I've been running a polling place since 2004 and I've never had that mistake happen in a Primary Election. If you've seen it happen more then once or twice you should probably inform your local Board of Elections so they can address the problem. It just isn't supposed to happen that way......

Re:Count from Zero (1)

cthulu_mt (1124113) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806712)

I can't speak for the GP but it works the same here in Saratoga county. After I signed the registration book the nice elderly lady shouted my party affiliation across the room and the fellow manning the both toggled the lever on the back of the machine.

No cards or anything. Maybe its just on account of us Upstaters being smarter.

Re:Count from Zero (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22806752)

colored cards (green for the Democrats, pink for the Republicans)

So... Democrats are hippies and Republicans are gay?

Re:Count from Zero (1)

Ioldanach (88584) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806782)

I bet the board is too cheap to buy new cards, and hasn't bought new ones for 80 years. When they bought them they were blue and red. :)

Re:Count from Zero (1)

powerlord (28156) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806790)

Down in NY City.

Unfortunately, what they do down here is have us sign in, then take the cards and flip them over themselves and send us to the booth right next to the table.

I'm not sure if its just laziness on the part of the poll runners, the fact that I usually vote soon after the polls are open so they aren't awake yet, or due to the fact that there are multiple districts all scrunched into one polling place (school/church gym), but its been the same everywhere I've voted (three of the five counties in the city).

Re:Count from Zero (1)

cobaltnova (1188515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806758)

From TFA:

New Jersey has a closed primary, so voters can cast ballots only in their own registered party.

Re:Count from Zero (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22806124)

Probably because the code is doing something involving a single off-by-one error, then subtracting that from the total votes cast.

It'd be illuminating to test the machine with the order reversed, or with three candidates, and see what it does.

Re:Count from Zero (1)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806160)

Probably because the code is doing something involving a single off-by-one error, then subtracting that from the total votes cast.

If that's the case, that's amazingly poor coding. I can code better than that.

It'd be illuminating to test the machine with the order reversed, or with three candidates, and see what it does.

That it would. It would be even more illuminating to see the damned code. It's ridiculous that we're being told we have to trust our votes to a black box.

Re:Count from Zero (2, Insightful)

cbart387 (1192883) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806264)

Probably because the code is doing something involving a single off-by-one error, then subtracting that from the total votes cast.
If that's the case, that's amazingly poor coding. I can code better than that.
Do you mean sloppy testing? No one writes perfect code and a 'off-by-one' error is easy to write. However, that kind of mistake should have been caught in tests... of course we're assuming this is not a human error.

Re:Count from Zero (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22806832)

Well, you know, arithmetic is hard.

It just goes to prove that Democrats are smarter than Republicans - it's more difficult to subtract than to add.


Hope that explains everything. :-)

Re:Count from Zero (3, Funny)

91degrees (207121) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806192)

I suspect it's actually a data error. Dems have one too many, GOP have one too few. This is exactly the number of votes cast for Guiliani. They could have simply set him to the wrong party.

Re:Count from Zero (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22806220)

I suspect it's actually a data error. Dems have one too many, GOP have one too few. This is exactly the number of votes cast for Guiliani. They could have simply set him to the wrong party.

I don't think that's the problem. Looking at the scan of the printout shows Giuliani displayed in the Republican section.

Re:Count from Zero (1)

Ioldanach (88584) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806368)

The republican tally is not off by 1, there's an exclamation point in the Giuliani column, as you can see by looking closely at the tiff. Don't know why this would occur though, and that should definitely be addressed. The democratic tally, added up by hand, is short 1 vote from the overall tally. Does this thing handle people who abstain? If so, how? Would their abstention show up in Personal Choice or not show up at all? If it handles abstentions without showing a line for them, then I think this tape is ok. Though they should, in the future, add a line for abstentions. Also, I really want to see a tape where the individual lines add up to MORE than the people who were supposed to have voted. (And there isn't an exclamation point being mistaken for a one.)

Re:Count from Zero (1)

Ioldanach (88584) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806442)

Incidentally, while the article is slashdotted, the tiff [freedom-to-tinker.com] is still up.

Re:Count from Zero (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22806838)

I'm looking directly at the TIF file as well. Overall it looks like a not so good scan of a bad printout.

Even so, I do not believe that is an exclamation point in the numeric column for Giuliani, I think it is a one that the printer has mangled. If you look at the "( 1 )" directly above it, or scan up and look at the "1"'s on the totals for Obama and Hillary you'll see that they are fairly mangled as well. Whether from the printer, the scanner, or a combination of both.

Sure, it could be an exclamation point, but if so why would it be in the numeric column? And why would it be an exclamation point in the first place? If it was because Giuliani dropped out then I'd expect to see several more exclamation points. I don't see any other exclamation points in the numeric column, instead I see zeros for candidates who had dropped out by the time of the vote.

Biden dropped out Jan 3. Richardson dropped out Jan 9. Thompson dropped out Jan 22. Kucinich dropped out Jan 24. Giuliani dropped Jan 30. Edwards dropped out Jan 30.

Since I don't see any reason to have an exclamation point in the numeric column I'm going to maintain that it is in fact a "1" not a "!" and that there is some discrepancy in the tally done by the voting machine.

Re:Count from Zero (1)

Ioldanach (88584) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806916)

The other ones have serifs that are mangled but present. It looks like the printer mangles large chunks of horizontal stripes at a time. On all other ones I see some hint of either a top or bottom serif, and in most cases both. In this case there's too much missing for me to think its a one. I think its an error code of some sort. At the very least, I think that by its appearance we shouldn't presume its a one and therefore deduce that the sum of 60 is wrong, but should rather ask Sequoia to explain what that character is supposed to be and if not a one, what does it mean and why is it there? There should certainly not be error codes showing up in the final election results. And if there are, they should be big, bold, and at the top of the tape!

Minor discrepancy...MAJOR problem. (5, Insightful)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806006)

As Felten made clear in the article, it's not the size of the discrepancy that's the issue, but the fact that it's there at all. You'd expect this sort of minor error from humans, but the machine turning out this discrepancy is a dead giveaway that something is fundamentally wrong with its inner workings. If we could examine said inner workings, we could determine the cause of this bizzare behavior, but actually knowing what is going on inside their machines is something Sequoia is bound and determined to prevent. One can't help but wonder why, given what we've just seen...

it's like the Kempelen's chess machine (2, Funny)

someone1234 (830754) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806066)

The little gnome in the machine made a slight error. So what?

Re:Minor discrepancy...MAJOR problem. (0, Redundant)

Screaming Cactus (1230848) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806094)

Perhaps the error was on Mr. Felton's side... what method did he use to count the votes? And no, I am not defending Sequoia. Just considering the possibility.

Re:Minor discrepancy...MAJOR problem. (5, Insightful)

EvanED (569694) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806136)

Perhaps the error was on Mr. Felton's side... what method did he use to count the votes?

He used the "look at the vote totals the machine printed" method.

Seriously, it has a picture of them. Did you RTFA and somehow didn't notice it, or do you like making uninformed comments? (Okay, that is a bit inflammatory. The first time I went to TFA, the pictures didn't load. But it still says in the text.)

Re:Minor discrepancy...MAJOR problem. (0, Redundant)

Screaming Cactus (1230848) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806216)

When I click the link, I keep getting:
"Service Temporarily Unavailable
The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to maintenance downtime or capacity problems. Please try again later."

So no, I didn't RTFA.

Re:Minor discrepancy...MAJOR problem. (0, Troll)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806898)

Perhaps the error was on Mr. Felton's side... what method did he use to count the votes?

He used the "look at the vote totals the machine printed" method.


No, he didn't. He's saying the the vote totals the machine printed are *wrong*. Therefore he must have used some other method to count the votes to come up with a total that says the machine is wrong.

Re:Minor discrepancy...MAJOR problem. (5, Insightful)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806200)

RTFA. The discrepancy isn't between Felten and the voting machine...it's between the voting machine and itself. The machine generated results that were self-contradictory.

I know, I know!!! (1)

AltGrendel (175092) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806308)

They're trying to use fuzzy logic [wikipedia.org] !!!

Yea, that's the ticket, fuzzy logic!

Re:Minor discrepancy...MAJOR problem. (5, Insightful)

bunratty (545641) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806118)

Even if the tally was exactly right, in general you cannot prove a program correct by using only black box testing. There are simply too many possible inputs to have time to test for all but the most trivial inputs. For all we know, there's a backdoor or unintentional security vulnerability that can be used to alter election outcomes. We need to be able to examine the machine's inner workings to have any hope of verifying those are not problems with the voting machine.

You cannot prove correctness at all (2, Interesting)

l2718 (514756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806654)

Mathematically speaking, proving a program correct from the source code is in generaly impossible (if you could do that you could, in particular, solve the halting problem). From the software engineering perspective it's true that examining the source code gives you greater confidence in the software than just black-box testing.

Re:You cannot prove correctness at all (2, Informative)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806846)

Mathematically speaking, proving a program correct from the source code is in generaly impossible


Arbitrary program code cannot be proven correct, true. However, program code can be designed to be provable.

Re:You cannot prove correctness at all (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806896)

Generally impossible, yes. But in practice it's perfectly possible because software that is written to be proven will avoid constructs that are computationally hard to prove and will include definitions of loop variants and invariants to guide the proof process. You don't need Turing completeness for most practical programming tasks. Sure, the voting software probably hasn't been written that way, but if it's considered in any way "mission critical" then it should have been. It's what's usually required for safety-of-life applications, and I reckon that deciding who should have their finger on the nuclear button is a safety-of-life application.

Re:Minor discrepancy...MAJOR problem. (4, Insightful)

StrawberryFrog (67065) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806174)

I agree. Humans can be sound, but still off by one. calaculators are either correct or broken.

However, the size of the discrepancy is 1/60 or so. That's 1.6%, which is enough to change the outcome of some recent US elections [wikipedia.org] . So is it of a significant size? Yes, it is.

Re:Minor discrepancy...MAJOR problem. (1)

rossjudson (97786) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806828)

The simplest explanation is that someone mistakenly selected the Republican ballot, then BEFORE voting canceled and selected the Democratic ballot. Does the machine allow "backing out" and switching to the other ballot, before voting has taken place? What does the screen say at that point?

I suppose that if this were the case, the representative of the voting machine company might have done better damage control by pointing this out.

Lawyers (3, Insightful)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806012)

Well, bring on the lawsuit from Sequoia I guess. Hopefully the ACLU & EFF will help Dr. Felten with his legal fees.

Re:Lawyers (1)

Miseph (979059) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806676)

Or, you know, his colleagues from Princeton's school of law. Although I'm sure that there exists a significant overlap between those three groups.

Re:Lawyers (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806848)

Someone brought up a pretty good point in rebuttal to a similar thought of mine the day before yesterday. Princeton basically won't be able to get involved with this.

Hypocrisy (5, Insightful)

lamarguy91 (1101967) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806016)

FTA:

As you have likely read in the news media, certain New Jersey election officials have stated that they plan to send to you one or more Sequoia Advantage voting machines for analysis. I want to make you aware that if the County does so, it violates their established Sequoia licensing Agreement for use of the voting system. Sequoia has also retained counsel to stop any infringement of our intellectual properties, including any non-compliant analysis. We will also take appropriate steps to protect against any publication of Sequoia software, its behavior, reports regarding same or any other infringement of our intellectual property.


I love the double-standard here. The government wants to invade the privacy of it's citizens (discussed several times over on these very forums) and one of the typical responses is "Well, if you don't have anything to hide...".
But when an independant third party wants to verify that an important piece of hardware used in our political process can actually do the very simple math that it's required to do, the corporation who produces is has laws that it can throw in one's face to prevent verification of data. Shouldn't someone be pressing Sequoia with the "if you don't have anything to hide..." mantra?

Does anyone else here see the obvious double-standard that we've created for ourselves?

Re:Hypocrisy (2, Insightful)

tony1343 (910042) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806076)

If a company is really trying to not allow a state to verify that their voting machines work correctly, why would any state use such voting machines? This is ridiculous. Such a company should quickly go bankrupt. Must have some fantastic lobbying to get state legislatures to use machines which aren't going to count their votes correctly.

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

catxk (1086945) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806812)

As long as the machine counts votes incorrectly in the right* way, the lobbying efforts would only have to be minimal.

* or left/republican/democrat/etc., depending on who's ruling the state in question

Re:Hypocrisy (1, Funny)

B3ryllium (571199) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806166)

I love that the machine is named the "Advantage".

But, then again, I'm from Canada - land of paper-based voting. :)

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

fpgaprogrammer (1086859) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806286)

A patented voting machine? I find it hard to believe Sequoia is responsible for any of the major advances in electronic counters of the past 60 years. What's the title of the patent:

"Method and Apparatus for Hijacking Democracy"

and they would have gotten away with it, if it wasn't for you meddling slashdotters...

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

monxrtr (1105563) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806302)

No double standard, just outright criminal fraud, including abuse of Copyright statutes. Sue the corporation for damages, including having them pay for recounts and re-votes.

This is a perfectly clear example of how Copyright is nothing but a transgression against the First Amendment rights of ordinary citizens. Bring a class action suit bankrupting Sequoia for fair use violations against every citizen in the State of New Jersey. $150,000 per citizen should be fair. Also establish a precedent against all proprietary software systems being used in elections processes; make laws requiring open source transparency for all voting machines. Sue on the basis that poll observers cannot verify the vote counts under non open source systems. Take some of the settlement/judgment money to begin a nation-wide marketing campaign hiring Patrick Stewart: "If it's not Open Source, It Suks!" on behalf of bringing every voting district in the United States into compliance with codes and statutes mandating poll worker observers (that means access to the code to any and all citizens). As it is, ballots are being *illegally* counted by secret closed source code. Slap injunctions on every silly little state and country stupid enough to purchase closed source vote counting code.

Re:Hypocrisy (2, Insightful)

robertjw (728654) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806594)

But when an independant third party wants to verify that an important piece of hardware used in our political process can actually do the very simple math that it's required to do, the corporation who produces is has laws that it can throw in one's face to prevent verification of data. Shouldn't someone be pressing Sequoia with the "if you don't have anything to hide..." mantra?


Yes and no. It appears that this is a contractual issue. The State of New Jersey signed licensing terms that does not allow an independent party to review the code. The state should not violate that contract.

Thing is, there is a limited market for voting machines in the US. There are only 50 states, it seems to me the states are in a pretty good position to negotiate the licensing terms. Why is it that New Jersey didn't specify in the terms that the code and hardware had to be reviewed by independent sources? This isn't an issue so much of "if you don't have anything to hide" as it is simple economics. Abide by my terms or I won't purchase your product. Instead NJ bought a pig in a poke and now they are stuck with these machines.

The idea that the machines workings have to be secret for security reasons is a complete fallacy. Sooner or later one of these voting machine companies is going to break ranks and allow independent security reviews - just so these problems go away.

Re:Hypocrisy (4, Interesting)

monxrtr (1105563) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806744)

The State of New Jersey signed licensing terms that does not allow an independent party to review the code. The state should not violate that contract.
And thus, the State of New Jersey violated its own laws (and so did Sequoia), and possibly Federal Statutes as well, regarding independent poll observers and independent verification of vote tallies. By definition of it being closed source proprietary code, it's illegal. Goodbye Sequoia contract, at a minimum. Rinse and repeat for every State and County. This is going to be a huge victory for open source, and a huge blow against "imaginary property". Just an appetizer before the RIAA goes down.

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806748)

Yes and no. It appears that this is a contractual issue. The State of New Jersey signed licensing terms that does not allow an independent party to review the code. The state should not violate that contract.

No, I disagree. When it comes to elections and verifying voting machines, the state has every right to verify, the clause on the contract is irrelevent. Proper voting is more important than a contract between business and government.

Re:Hypocrisy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22806746)

Personally, I don't think the argument "If you don't have anything to hide you shouldn't mind the search." should ever be used under any circumstances.

We should have visibility to the voting software because of the nature and importance of its role in our government. The "openness" of our government was a goal of its original design, and remains a goal of its continuous operation. It, and its processes, are *supposed* to be available for inspection as a matter of maintaining accountability to the people it serves.

I would say the same of any employment relationship...the employer (in this case "the people") should be able to monitor the methods of the employee (in this case, the voting machine and software).

Having nothing to hide is completely irrelevant.

Individual private lives are in no way government employment contracts, and as such openness is neither a beneficial goal nor a practical requirement. Inasmuch as some people do directly work for the government, their working lives should be monitored like any other employee, but their private lives should be kept private, like any other citizen. Privacy itself, on a personal level, is inherently desirable (both as a means of protection from potential exploitation and also as a peace-of-mind benefit), and therefore all citizens are entitled to it (except in extreme cases where discovery is warranted, such as a judicial court order).

Again, having nothing (or something) to hide is completely irrelevant.

If we want to avoid double standards, then we should refuse to use that "nothing to hide" argument for any reason. Let's stick to what's relevant.

oh dear. (1)

apodyopsis (1048476) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806018)

oh dear, another "non compliant" analysis.

duck and cover, they are reaching for their lawyer.

sounds like this story is a might fine basis for some good ole' fashioned DMCA action. Pffffft, that was the sound of sequoia credibility dying a death...

Re:oh dear. (3, Interesting)

CaptainZapp (182233) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806204)

Pffffft, that was the sound of sequoia credibility dying a death

What credibility are you talking about?

After all those neato stints that just about every voting machine company tried to pull their credibility is somewhere between a San Francisco Tenderloin crack hooker and a timeshare salesman for quite some time now.

Thinking about it the hookers credibility is probably a lot better then the ones of those voting machine vendors.

Re:oh dear. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22806494)

Hookers always deliver what you pay for. You might some STD, but that's just an added bonus. Voting machines really haven't ever delivered what I was told they would. Maybe decent elections will the silver lining of REAL-ID.
 
  Seriously though, why do we need instant official election results. People aren't sworn in until the beginning of the next year.

Re:oh dear. (1)

phorm (591458) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806856)

Thinking about it the hookers credibility is probably a lot better then the ones of those voting machine vendors.

Yes, because whether she does the job right or not, either way you got screwed :-)

Not only that... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22806020)

Yahoo is reporting a whole host [yahoo.com] of other flaws.

Re:Not only that... (3, Informative)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806072)

Mod down, way NSFW.

Re:Not only that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22806750)

NSFW - a fairly average, and unskilled shock site. This idiot appears from a nerin.net (European) address every few months...

Software bug (3, Insightful)

INeededALogin (771371) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806032)

The readout on a screen seems like a simple data display problem. Perhaps the programmer did something stupid like:

print array.lastIndex.indexNum

instead of

print array.count

The real concern here is not that it has a bug. All software has bugs. The concern is over what kind of QA was performed to guarantee our votes. If such a simple and obvious test case was not performed, how on earth are we to feel good about this machine?

Re:Software bug (1)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806218)

But as mentioned above, this wouldn't explain why the republican tally is +1 and the democratic tally is -1. If it was a dumb programmer bug like you mention then both tallies would be off by the same amount, either they'd both be +1 or they'd both be -1.

Re:Software bug (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22806234)

It isn't a simple data display problem. Some ballot/vote apparently got counted differently in two different summaries.

One summary showed N Democratic ballots and M Republican ballots. Another showed N-1 Democratic votes and M+1 Republican votes. If it were a simple data display problem like you described, the sum of the summaries would not be the same.

Re:Software bug (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806242)

That seems like a very odd mistake to make -- off the top of my head, I could probably guess array.count, or array.size, array.length, etc. I probably wouldn't know about array.lastIndex, let alone array.lastIndex.indexNum.

Maybe the votes were not placed? (5, Informative)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806050)

At first, I was thinking,"Oh, maybe some people chose not to vote after calling up either Rep or Dem." But then I realized the math involved. The computer says 60 votes were cast for the Reps, but 61 votes are actually placed.

Sheesh, why does this have to be so difficult. We can conduct trillions of dollars of business electronically, but we still don't have an effective digital voting system? I think the conspiracy here is by someone who hates technology likes to kill trees for paper balloting, not that digital voting is being rigged.

Re:Maybe the votes were not placed? (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806080)

If we did it right, less people would get rich off a lucrative government contract.. Or the same number of people would be less-rich.. Either way.

1. Land government contract
2. Do little or nothing.
3. Profit.

Re:Maybe the votes were not placed? (3, Insightful)

encoderer (1060616) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806158)

One counter started at Zero, the other at One? ...These kind of bugs are written all the time. ...Of course, this is why the software should be OSS. The more eyeballs, the more people running in debug mode just to play around and have fun, the more people slicing and dicing the source code, the better.

It's hard to believe this is even an issue. The problem is that the people making voting machines (like Diebold) come from Banking sectors, where privacy and private, proprietary systems are the modus operandi.

Seems to me a good way to fix this would be to get some high-profile Non-Profs and top-brand CS schools (I'm thinking MIT, Apache Foundation, Cal Tech, Carnegie Mellon, Case Western, etc) all working together to gather some grant money, build the hardware and software solutions, open everything up for scrutiny, and produce a working product.

We can wave our arms over what somebody SHOULD build, but if we had a compelling alternative ready to go, it'd be a lot easier to pressure governments to do the right thing.

Re:Maybe the votes were not placed? (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806276)

One counter started at Zero, the other at One?
If thats true that shows the machine was tested ZERO times.

Re:Maybe the votes were not placed? (2, Informative)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806424)

In the comments, Felton mentions that he has looked at two tapes so far. One is shown in the article. The other one has a column that is off by 2 votes. That pretty much eliminates the "Array Counter" theory.

Re:Maybe the votes were not placed? (1)

Sen.NullProcPntr (855073) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806586)

One counter started at Zero, the other at One? ...These kind of bugs are written all the time.
No, it's more like one counter started at +1 the other started at -1. Not such a common bug.

Re:Maybe the votes were not placed? (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806170)

Sheesh, why does this have to be so difficult. We can conduct trillions of dollars of business electronically, but we still don't have an effective digital voting system? I think the conspiracy here is by someone who hates technology likes to kill trees for paper balloting, not that digital voting is being rigged.

Because money is one thing and those that control how that money is spent is another.

Re:Maybe the votes were not placed? (2, Interesting)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806734)

I agree. It shouldn't be this hard to design a system that would count votes quickly *and* accurately. I could make a website that would tally the results accurately. Why can't they do the same (with a better interface) via more robust languages?

I'm not a big fan of the argument that Open Source = Always Better and Closed Source = Always Worse, but in this case I think it applies. The voting machines' inner workings are hidden from view from everyone, including the government running the election. If you're running something like a public election system, your machines should be open for scrutiny. Your *ENTIRE* machines. This means hardware *AND* software. If a company cried foul when the government that bought their machines tries to get them independently evaluated, I start to smell something fishy. This is probably the only time I'd give credence to "Why do you complain if you have nothing to hide."

In my mind, the perfect eVoting system would be completely open (meaning the government officials could get any third-party individual to evaluate the code/hardware). The components would be off-the-shelf PC parts and would likely run on Linux or even on a hardened installation of Windows. (Yes, you can secure Windows, but that's another argument.) The machine would sit in plain view, but the monitor would be in the closed-off area. This would eliminate the possibility of a voter tampering with the machine while in the voting booth. They would only have access to a few components and not the main system.

The voter would select their choices via a simple (but large type) keypad. (Press 1 for Obama, Press 2 for Clinton, etc.) After voting in one race, the machine would switch to the next race. The voter could easily go back and review/change their vote. At the end of the voting session, the voter would be presented with their choices and be asked to confirm them. A receipt would be printed showing the choices also. The voter would be asked to review the receipt and confirm that it was accurate. A No answer might alert Poll workers to a problem. A Yes answer would prompt the voter to inset the receipt into a special slot. A random bar code printed on the receipt and read by a bar code reader would ensure that the correct receipt was inserted. Then the electronic vote would be recorded and the voting session would be over.

After the polls closed, the machines would burn their results to CD and would be hooked up (via wired connection most likely) to a VPN connection to a central server. The central server would take in all of the votes and tabulate them. If any voting irregularities were suspected, you could go back to the burnt CD results or the paper receipts.

I'm sure this system would have holes (any electronic system would... even non-electronic voting systems are subject to fraud), but it'd likely be a lot more secure/accurate than Sequoia. Now I just need to convince some government worker to pay me a couple million dollars to build it.

Enough Already! (4, Insightful)

flajann (658201) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806084)

Nix all the evoting crap and go back to paper ballots. We know that paper ballots work, and are a LOT harder to fudge to the level of throwing an election.

On the whole of it, I have a big problem with the "Winner takes all" system anyway, with the majority giving the power to a handful to beat up on us all. Not even getting into how the Republicans and the Democrats systemically shuts out all other parties.

But if we are going to have voting, at least make it fair. Give equal time to ALL parties, not just the D-R club, and use paper ballots under tight security. At least make "Democracy" less of a joke than it already is.

Re:Enough Already! (3, Interesting)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806108)

We know that paper ballots work, and are a LOT harder to fudge to the level of throwing an election.

While I agree with you, I just have to point out that it's not all that hard...after all, the recent presidential election in Mexico was stolen the old-fashioned way.

Re:Enough Already! (1)

eulernet (1132389) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806726)

In France, in the last elections 2 weeks ago, there was a fraud where a guy counting the paper ballots hid voting ballots in his sockets.
Here is a link with a nice comic picture:
http://www.ouest-france.fr/La-chaussette-fait-recette-a-Perpignan-/re/actuDet/actu_3635-598349------_actu.html [ouest-france.fr]

This means that cheating is always possible, even in major democratic countries (I don't include Russia and Mexico in these).

Re:Enough Already! (1)

rcamans (252182) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806932)

Hey - Our elections were stolen the old-fashioned way, too. Bought, scammed, lied, fake voters, dead voters, every way imaginable. And the electoral college straightened it out. Yeh, right.
If our elections were fair, why is it we can only vote for rich people?

Re:Enough Already! (1)

Humorless Coward. (862619) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806540)

Paper ballots, punched cards, touch screens, or whatever; the results are manipulated, regardless.

Any sufficiently simple paradigm is virtually assured of creating simpler ways of bypass.

We pretend to vote. They pretend to rule. You pretend to complain.

If any of you are serious about effecting change, run for local voting clerk office, get elected using the current system, and appoint slashdotters as election monitoring officials.

Re:Enough Already! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22806580)

Paper ballots are easier to engage in fraud with as compared to high-tech computerized voting machines.

Have you never heard of "stuffing the ballot box"? Have you never considered what that refers to?

Fraud with paper ballots put Lyndon Johnson in the U.S. Senate, which put him in the Vice Presidency, which made him President of the United States.

Re:Enough Already! (2, Interesting)

solipsist0x01 (887281) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806612)

Evoting can work if the source and hardware design of the machines are completely open to the public. We have a right to know how our votes are counted. I don't understand why this is such a problem, and I really don't understand why anyone would put up with anything less.

Re:Enough Already! (1)

mikelu (120879) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806776)

Because open source projects don't have the funds to lobby the government. The people deciding what voting machines/software to use aren't savvy enough to realize that the people saying "Our stuff is safer because our code is secret!" are full of it.

Re:Enough Already! (1)

Aliks (530618) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806630)

There are quite a few reasons to think that paper ballots are being sabotaged. The favoured techniques include siting of the least efficient equipment in the poorest districts, thus creating more spoiled "Democrat" ballots which can be thrown away.

The more control one party has over the voting process, the more likely it is that voting fraud takes place.

By all accounts the anomalies in 2004 for Black and Hispanic votes were quite substantial.

WTF? (1)

nodrogluap (165820) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806090)

From the letter the guy got from Sequoia:

We will also take appropriate steps to protect against any publication of Sequoia software, its behavior, reports regarding same...
The (mis)behaviour of their machines is intellectual property?? The rest of the letter says that their contract with the county forbids reporting about compliance/non-compliance (such as, lets say, not being able to add).

Re:WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22806280)

Yes, Sequoia just patented the "off by one" voting method.

Daily WTF. (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806796)

This story reminds me of yesterday's WTF [thedailywtf.com] ...

A Common Problem. (5, Funny)

oahazmatt (868057) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806100)

Considering that this article was listed as showing "11 of 3 Comments" I think this is quite a common problem.

Slashdot Polls (3, Funny)

ke5aux (1180175) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806176)

Ok, thats it! We need the source code for /. polls.

Re:Slashdot Polls (2, Informative)

Constantine XVI (880691) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806464)

I'll do you one better: http://slashcode.cvs.sourceforge.net/slashcode/ [sourceforge.net]

Re:Slashdot Polls (5, Funny)

ke5aux (1180175) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806690)

Well, looks like they have nothing to hide so it's not worth it.

While they give this poor bastard a hard time... (1)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806210)

the rest of the country is seeing the problems that they caused and their uncooperative behavior to address the problem. It'll also affect the other companies because this will lower the public's confidence in voting machines and e-voting in general.

Great marketing strategy there guys!

The interesting question is... (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806252)

can he show that it favors one side or another? If not, it just indicates a bug in the system and general incompetence. But if it shows a favor on one side or the other, well, that would indicate that we have an issue of voter fraud.

How is this possible? (1, Troll)

The Lyrics Guy (539223) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806348)

I honestly do not understand how companies screw up something as simple as a voting machine. A first year CS student could write it in Java in a weekend.
The only possible explanation is that the votes are intentionally being miscounted.

Corporate Death Penalty (5, Insightful)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806404)

How is intentionally preventing auditing of the basic method of democracy anything less than treason? The Board of Directors should be jailed forever for condoning this activity by the Company's lawers.

Re:Corporate Death Penalty (2, Insightful)

monxrtr (1105563) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806532)

This is a perfect wedge to drive between open and closed source code. All closed source code in government election counting is *illegal*. It's no different then if say Howard Dean, Chairman of the Democratic Party, was allowed to take paper ballot boxes to his home and count them in private, in secret, and then release the totals with no supervision, or independent observers or verification.

Mark my words, this is the beginning of the end for closed source code in government elections. Here is the perfect opportunity for open source. It's the *only* legal possibility.

Bigger fish to fry (0, Troll)

Bobb Sledd (307434) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806534)

I am really sorry, I don't mean to be off-topic. This voting machine problem is really big, but in my opinion it pales in comparison to another larger problem that no one seems to be addressing: people who vote that have no legal right to in this country.

I know in my area, this happens to be a huge problem that has no detection ability. I have personally seen illegal aliens standing in our lines to vote, because I could hear them speaking and laughing about it.

Case-in-point: My uncle (a very white southern-looking farmer-type) went to the local library to take his wife to vote. While he was there he was handed ballot with instructions for voting. He protested, "but I'm not a US citizen! I'm Canadian!"

"Oh!!! Well, give me that ballot back!!!"

THEY DIDN'T EVEN ASK IF HE WAS LEGAL TO VOTE FIRST.

How many illegal immigrants, convicted felons, and otherwise ineligible-to-vote people are participating in elections? Until you can filter out who is *supposed* to be voting in the first place, I don't see how a machine-count error makes any difference at all.

Re:Bigger fish to fry (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22806730)

Had your uncle tried to vote he would have needed to sign the voting register. Physical possession of a ballot does not mean they get to cast it.

Re:Bigger fish to fry (1)

Cheesey (70139) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806774)

Christ. They don't check? Then what prevents an individual voting twice?

Here in England, each polling station has a list of registered voters. They tick you off the list when they give you a poll card. I guess it must be the same in Australia where you get fined for not turning up at your polling station.

Re:Bigger fish to fry (2, Insightful)

LMacG (118321) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806852)

And that's exactly the way it's worked in every locality I've ever voted in, provide full name and address, workers cross name off list, get ballot. I'm not buying the GP's story.

This is Jersey, we don't need fair elections! (2, Interesting)

why!42 (1259526) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806568)

This is New Jersey why should bother with making sure the election machines can't be rigged. Hell, even our own NJ Supreme Court doesn't follow the NJ Constitution even when they rule something unconstitutional! Witness the 2002 Senate election when one candidate was replaced with another even though the Court ruled it was unconstitutional to do so [houstonlawreview.org] . "Yeah, it's unconstitutional. Just don't do it again next time." As a Jersey resident, I'll be unsurprised if the election board allows the machines to be used anyway. Can't let some company's profit (and political payoffs) be sidelined by something as trivial as honest elections!

The machines are alright (1)

tooslickvan (1061814) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806608)

The machine do calculate correctly; only it gives the answer they want.

Barbie the voting machine designer says... (1)

Clover_Kicker (20761) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806668)

"math is hard!"

Open source code (0, Flamebait)

themagic8ball (1153221) | more than 6 years ago | (#22806714)

I have always thought that those machines should be open source so that everyone can see the source code. This would reduce any cries of fraud. just a thought
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