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The Cost of Electronic Voting

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the also-known-as-moneyflushing dept.

Government 158

Wired's Threat Level blog is reporting on an analysis of the cost of electronic voting compared to traditional methods of vote tallying. A group named SaveOurVotes examined Maryland's budget allocations for elections during their switch from optical scanners to touch screens, and found that contrary to official claims, the cost was higher for e-voting (PDF) — much higher. "Prior to purchasing the touch-screen machines, about 19 of Maryland's 24 voting districts used optical-scan machines. SaveOurVotes examined those counties and compared the cost of the optical-scan equipment they previously used to the touch-screen machines they were forced to buy. The cost for most counties in this category increased 179 percent per voter on average. In at least one county, the cost increased 866 percent per voter — from a total cost of about $22,000 in 2001 to $266,000 in 2007."

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Last nail. (0)

Mactrope (1256892) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980414)

Black box voting has been insecure and cost more. Let's hope this stops it.

Re:Last nail. (2, Insightful)

mega72 (1108733) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980434)

Hey! Freedom Ain't Free!!!

Slavery is more expensive. (2, Interesting)

gnutoo (1154137) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980822)

There's no good reason for evoting machines to cost between $15,000 and $30,000 per precinctper precinct because the "booths" cost $3,000 each. The equipment costs are now one tenth that and the difference represents the tremendous overhead cost of doing things the non free way. For all of that, I've read that Dibold never made much money of these things and wants out of the business.

Who's going to pay your buck-o-five? You are, multiple times.The larger costs are security and reliability problems that's gotten these overpriced machines banned despite sunken costs. Voters were willing to pay the price when they were lied to and they are willing to lick their wounds and get rid of the things now. It would be nice if the same machines could be fixed with free software.

Re:Slavery is more expensive. (3, Insightful)

symbolic (11752) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981456)

For all of that, I've read that Dibold never made much money of these things and wants out of the business.

I think Diebold probably made a LOT of money on it - initially. My guess is that they probably lost because they were forced to re-examine, re-implement, and re-certify the crap that they tried to pass off as secure voting machines. Now that the cat's out of the bag, it's understandable that Diebold would want to distance itself as much as possible.

Re:Last nail. (1)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981124)

It costs a buck-o-five.

I'd be happy to pay, if they payee could tell me what they're doing with my money. Black-box "Vote and we will generate a random number that satiates our policital sugardaddies" does not satiate me.

It should be cheaper and more secure. (5, Insightful)

gnutoo (1154137) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980498)

The real shame of this is that electronic voting should be cheaper and more secure but Dibold's flawed equipment and business model has given a bad name to the whole concept. While it's true that electronic voting requires more equipment, this equipment should be cheaper. Ten $200 terminals should cost less to purchase and maintain than one specialty machine. Yes, $200 is a reasonable price if free software was used and a free software for voting can easily be written if it's not already available. Instead, Dibold passed on the "commodity" software model, complete with the upgrade treadmill, insecurity and lack of transparency.

Not just diebold (5, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980550)

it is all of them. The fact that ALL of the mainstreams are trying hard to hide their code and their hardware says a lot about them. Yet, none of it is proprietary. There just is nothing that they do that subject to a patent. What is needed is for states to INSIST on buying ONLY open systems (i.e. all code is open to be seen) AND closed hardware (i.e. no accessable usb ports, etc). All of this is easily doable and all should be cheap. But we both agree.

Bad hardware. (1)

gnutoo (1154137) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980602)

What I worry about is that the existing hardware was "Designed for Windows" so that it might not be possible to fix with free software. System hardware should be chosen based on the availability of free software driver support. The smallest binary blob should be rejected because it can conceal malice.

The highest cost of non free electronic voting is an easily thrown election.

Re:Bad hardware. (3, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980716)

What drivers? They aren't running an NVidia 8800 GTX or SB Audigy on these machines. It's simple keyboard, mouse, touchscreen (pretty standard from what I know), x86 processors. There's no real drivers needed.

Re:Bad hardware. (1)

gnutoo (1154137) | more than 6 years ago | (#22982106)

How about wireless network chipsets and ACPI? I agree that hardware support these days is almost a given but you never know what kind of surprise a Dibold may have left you with in their $3,000 computer. These are special machines.

The more common wifi chipsets require binary blobs. It might be better to have these things unplugged. others might want them hooked up all the time and not having to roll out an ethernet network every time you set up for voting would be a real time saver. Sooner or later, you have to plug the things in to get votes out.

ACPI is a notorious minefield. Just the other week there was yet another device, a Western Digital hard drive I think, that was made specifically to thwart free software by power management by not spinning back up the normal way.

You can't tell until you get there, which is what non free software has given us instead of the promissed commodity hardware. X86 has lots of nasty quirks and it's only the power of free software that can really hide those problems. Non free software users have all sorts of hardware burps they can't fix and can be sure their hardware will stop working one day just like Creative audio cards.

Re:Bad hardware. (1)

eldepeche (854916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22983696)

I like how you're talking about how important security is for electronic voting, then say how convenient it would be to use Wifi.

Re:Bad hardware. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22981462)

What heck you talking about? Should the government pick Linux machines? Government is not crazy! They need something that works and is secure!
Linux is the realm of demented and retarded kids from Russia, or demented and retarded sex-deprived kids in the US. The government doesn't need pathetic loser-kids that inhabit WoW! Thanks God America is safe, because MS-Proud Knights are in the government, and stupid Linux-kids are not!

Re:Not just diebold (2, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980698)

Even if it is open code, how do you ensure the machine is running the correct code when you walk up to it on election day? Sorry, I would prefer no machines.

Re:Not just diebold (4, Insightful)

profplump (309017) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980848)

The same way you ensure that the people counting your precious hand-written ballots aren't just lying -- you provide a user-verifiable physical output and count it more than once.

Then you get the benefits of electronic input -- like access for the visually impaired, to alternate-language ballots, the ability to correct mistakes, etc. -- without relying on the input device to do all the vote-counting correcting. I expect it would provide a count for quick access to the results, but you wouldn't have to rely on it.

And because the output is computer-generated you can do things to actually improve audibility over traditional hand-written ballots. For one thing, you could print the output onto an optical-scan form, or other machine-and-human-readable, high-accuracy format. You could then buy an optical-scan counting machine from another vendor, and if at the end of the night the numbers from both machines matched up, you could all go home without hand-counting anything. You could also have the machine sign its output so that ballots can be traced back to a particular device, and can be verified as authentic and non-duplicated -- the public could be provided with copies of the ballots to independently verify the results.

Re:Not just diebold (3, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980920)

But why complicate the system for no apparent benefit. You're creating a Rube Goldberg voting system just to say, "look, we have electronic voting". It's more expensive, more prone to failure, and doesn't actual provide, better, faster, or more verifiable results.

Re:Not just diebold (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981884)

What are you talking about. The system he described would have greater accuracy than either paper alone, or electronic voting. It would also allow for instant translations to foreign languages, which I personally oppose, but if we are going to do it, it would do it better. It would also give you instant results while still allowing hand counting.

profplump is absolutely correct. An electronic voting machine should receive and count votes, but should also spit out a scantron style output that looks just like the ones we fill out by hand.

Re:Not just diebold (2, Insightful)

EvanED (569694) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981922)

It's more expensive, more prone to failure, and doesn't actual provide, better, faster, or more verifiable results.
Really? I agree that it's more expensive and probably more prone to failure, but I would argue that a system should provide better, faster, AND more verifiable results.

Better: If you have a "voter marks a ballot, machine counts ballot" system, that will have recognition errors. These can be upwards of 99%, but there are important elections where the margin is smaller than that. A computer voting system should have NO error. The computer won't occasionally add 257 + 1 and get 258. (Bizarre quantum effects and energetic particles hitting the RAM notwithstanding; and you could always have it do every calculation twice if you really want to worry about those.) There are still other sources of inaccuracy and fraud in election, but why not remove one part?

Faster: It should be virtually instant. Even assuming that the machines aren't connected to an outside network (which is how it should be), precincts should be able to report almost instant vote totals. For instance, at election close, someone at each precinct calls the statewide election office and reports the total for each machine (perhaps in encrypted form). Mutual authentication ensures that the person calling is the designated representative. I can imagine several other schemes where perfectly accurate (assuming subsequent audits are clean) statewide results can be available within 5 or 10 minutes of the close of elections. None of this waiting several hours for Cleveland to count their ballots to even get the first number.

Verifiable: A paper trail provides essentially as much verification as any other system. Because it would be printed by the computer, quality control could ensure that the paper ballots are clear in their intention and all valid. It would be impossible to create a paper ballot that had two votes for the same office, and squabbles about voter intention should all but disappear.

I think a much better argument would be that the "better" result is a tiny part of voter inequity and isn't worth the extra money, and faster isn't really a worthwhile goal.

trained watchers? (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 6 years ago | (#22983820)

You do realize that watching people code is significantly harder than watching people count?

(I'm not talking just orders of magnitude.)

Code, compile, link, burn ROMs, assemble hardware, etc. Coding is probably the most intractable [] problem, though.

Well, no way to mathmatically guarentee (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980896)

But that is why I prefer to also see paper kicked out, which builds in redundancy. Me? I prefer an open machine combined with paper to prevent voter fraud.

Re:Not just diebold (1)

Dare nMc (468959) | more than 6 years ago | (#22983024)

And how do you insure the paper ballot was counted correctly? (I can't answer that) Simply change order of names on the paper ballot would do now.
As a start: If you had a end to end E-Vote solution, you could easily get end to end verifiability. Something as simple as allowing the voter to enter their own random string at the vote screen. With redundant open back-end server algorithms, if you generated a encrypted packet with that string, and your votes, and encrypted with sever generated PGP-key. A very short printout of the packet sent to the redundant servers, could be taken by the voter. Now without any way to sell a verifiable vote, you could go to the multiple servers and verify they all got your exact packet, and verify that packet getting your string back.
Then the only things that need careful watching is a simple encryption device, and final server (which can be independent solutions by independent company's.)
And unlike all voting to date, end to end integrity could be verified.

Re:It should be cheaper and more secure. (1)

Mactrope (1256892) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980562)

I'm not sure the costs will balance out but community developed and monitored software would be more secure. Sooner or later, the counts go to a computer already and paper ballots have the infamous "hanging chad" uncertainty that fraudsters can work within to steal elections. Paper, though energy intensive and wasteful to make, is still awefully cheap.

Re:It should be cheaper and more secure. (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980660)

Well, you have to maintain paper records anyway (or you should), so I don't see how using just paper is any more wasteful than using paper "and" computers. Assuming you aren't going to keep paper records, or you are going to discard them after X years, they can just be recycled anyway. Trees are a renewable resource anyway.

Re:It should be cheaper and more secure. (1)

gnutoo (1154137) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980718)

Good point. A voter verified paper trail is an important safety system for electronic voting. It should be possible for local election committees to count votes by hand if they suspect a problem. I suspect rolls of paper would be cheaper than carefully prepared forms but these two things could cancel each other.

Re:It should be cheaper and more secure. (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980762)

Rolls of paper would also be easier to counterfeit than carefully prepared forms. In Canada, they use security features similar to that used on currency for printing to ballots to ensure they can't easily be forged (although it would still be possible).

Re:It should be cheaper and more secure. (3, Informative)

kesuki (321456) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980746)

"Paper, though energy intensive and wasteful to make,"

the vast majority of papermills run entirely on burning the bark which is completely unusable in the production of paper. chainsaws, or robotic tree cutter/branch strippers use a lot of fuel, but remember 120 years ago, we used hand (usually 2 man, for big trees) saws, or axes, and mules etc, trees can be harvested on entirely biofuel, but this costs more than even the robotic tree cutter/branch strippers...

paper from trees use a lot oh highly toxic chlorine to bleach the paper. in the old days acid was used, as acid was less toxic, but acid yellows and ruins paper, so they switched to bleach which has to be carefully reused until they eventually have to carefully dispose of it.

As far as wasteful, really there is nothing wasteful about managed forestry, Japan has used managed forestry for almost 300 years with great success. Japan even has some very rare animals that have been preserved because they caught on to environmentalism when they realized they'd have no forests left if they kept cutting the old ones down and building cities and farms... although now cars are killing some of these rare creatures, posing a risk to their continued survival...

the main problem with paper is you need to use chemicals to make it white. There are other plant fibers that can be made white with easier techniques, for instance kenaf. Hydrogen peroxide, an environmentally-safe bleaching agent that does not create dioxin, has been used with much success in the bleaching of kenaf.

Trees are a slightly expensive biofuel, but it is a proven one, they wouldn't sell pellet burner or wood stoves to this date if they weren't able to at least in tree country compete with propane and heating oil in markets where they just don't have pipelines to homes..

Uh, no. (2, Interesting)

Mactrope (1256892) | more than 6 years ago | (#22982150)

I got to sit in on a lecture by a high ranking official from the US DOE. His opinion was that paper production was the fifth largest consumer of electricity in the United States. One of his pet projects could turn it around into a net producer of electricity but the mills were not interested and considered the equipment dangerous. Here's a reputable source of information that pegs paper production at 12% of US electricity consumption [] .

Re:It should be cheaper and more secure. (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980650)

I'm not sure that electronic voting should actually be cheaper. With pen and paper voting, you should only need the cost of printing the ballots, and you can even use cardboard voting booths set up on tables like we do here in Canada. It's all very cheap. If you go with computerized voting, you have to buy all the computers, and the cost of replacing them every few years. Printing out the paper trail is more expensive, because you have to use smaller individual printers hooked up to each of the machines. Which is more expensive than having them just printed out on a large printing press. Then there's the cost of hiring trained personel to set them up and maintain them, to ensure they are working correctly. I also just thought of another downside with electronic voting machines. If any of them machines can easily print out a vote, how do you stop somebody from messing with the paper trail, and just printing out more votes. In Canada, the ballots are printed in a very secure manner, in order to ensure that they are all accounted for. And they are printed using some security features similar to those used on printing currency. I don't think that electronic voting offers any features above simple pen and paper human counted votes. They may be counted a bit faster, but that's about it. And when you're voting in November, to get sworn in, in January, you can wait an extra hour or two for the counting to be completed.

Re:It should be cheaper and more secure. (2, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980986)

Quite so, but why is it needed in the first place?

Around here we've been using optical scan forms for years, and they work pretty reliably. The only thing that they can't do which the electronic ones can is spit out a receipt.

They provide a built in paper trail, as long as they don't get lost in the mail or in a back room. They can usually be scored in bulk via an auto feeder.

And the cost is significantly lower. As my state switches to an all mail voting process, the equipment is just as useful now as it was when we had to take a sharpy into a voting booth.

Re:It should be cheaper and more secure. (1)

macdaddy357 (582412) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981546)

The purpose of all these high-tech whizbangs is to allow our corporate overlords to rig elections just like rasslin'. They work exactly as designed.

Re:It should be cheaper and more secure. (1)

willyhill (965620) | more than 6 years ago | (#22983036)

Why don't you say what you want to say in a single post with a single account instead of replying to yourself with your sockpuppets and gaming the moderation system? How many [] times [] will Slashdot readers have to put up [] with Mactrope replying to gnutoo replying to inTheLoo pretending they are different people agreeing with each other? And then throw in twitter and Erris while you're at it?

Re:Last nail. (1)

ComputerSlicer23 (516509) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981132)

The irony here is folks who think BlackBox voting think this is a condemnation of all machines. If you look closely, you'll find that it's really saying that you should move from touch screens to optical scans. Which most black box folks object to despite the fact that it works just like a regular ballot that is hand counted. It generates all of the same artifacts, and can easily be validated by a hand count.

I've argued with Bev Harris previously on Slashdot as a matter of fact. She's relatively over the top. Which I suppose is good, but it also makes some of the things she does and say look just plain crazy.


Re:Last nail. (1)

pudge (3605) | more than 6 years ago | (#22982218)

Nonsense. It is in some cases MORE secure and MORE reliable than any paper systems, as long as certain precautions are taken, such as paper trails. Indeed, in my county, we went from DRE voting to all-mail optical scan, and THAT has increased our costs (not to mention wasted the money we spent on the DRE machines). The only reason they went to all-mail? They didn't like the idea of paper trails! Crazy.

It isn't e-voting, it's how (2, Interesting)

iamhigh (1252742) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980450)

The article claims that you need 10 touch screen machines to replace a single optical reader device. I have a few questions about that...

1. Why do we need touch screen - what is wrong with a mouse. Even the most retarded computerphobic morons can figure out how to use a mouse in 60 secs.
2. Use some sort of remote desktop/web service to accomplish this. Buy the cheapest thin clients possible to connect to a "server" that could be run by a P4 2ghz computer at each site.
3. Even better than #2, create a web service for each county - again reducing the amount of equipment.
4. Extrapolate #3 even further. Hire cheap techs for each county to ensure they have internet connectivity - State runs the servers.

It isn't the electronic voting... it is how they implemented it. It doesn't take a genius to realize that $3000 computers to perform basic calculations is overspending. I wonder how much the servers cost?

Re:It isn't e-voting, it's how (1)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980534)

Extrapolate #3 even further. Hire cheap techs for each county to ensure they have internet connectivity - State runs the servers

This doesn't work very well when RIAA and NSA feels that it's necessary to monitor and read all network traffic in order to stop the terrorists.

Re:It isn't e-voting, it's how (2, Funny)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980740)

Terrorist voters are the worst kind!

Re:It isn't e-voting, it's how (2, Insightful)

The Anarchist Avenge (1004563) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980542)

I don't know about you, but it'll be a cold day in hell before I want my individual vote traveling over an unsecured network.

Re:It isn't e-voting, it's how (1)

Ghubi (1102775) | more than 6 years ago | (#22982524)

I guess you would be equally against online banking or buying stuff online with credit cards then. How to securely transmit data over an unsecured network is pretty well understood these days.

Re:It isn't e-voting, it's how (1)

bjorniac (836863) | more than 6 years ago | (#22982816)

If your credit card gets ripped off you might lose some time and even some money sorting things out with Visa and your bank. If your democracy gets ripped off...

Elections should be much more secure than money transactions.

Re:It isn't e-voting, it's how (1)

JohnVanVliet (945577) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980544)

"I wonder how much the servers cost?" well according to the white house ( for recovering the corrupt e-mails)a server will caust about $500,000.00 US

Re:It isn't e-voting, it's how (1)

MttJocy (873799) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980818)

I personally would go only as far as #2 would prefer data between centers was sent over a secure network (the cheapest way to do this would be to take physical drives to the central machine for processing) saves on infrastructure and I am sure for any polling station even a whole hard disk drive would weigh far less than the paper ballots and be easier to move. The main reason for this is considering the resources of your potential attackers, we are not talking about your joe credit card fraudster, your attackers could include the security services that favor a particular candidates position, massive private sector companies which want to swing the result of the election, either of these could expend tens of thousands of man hours and insane amounts of hardware on finding a means to disrupt your system especially over an open network. If you keep the networked communication inside the polling station where physical security can be used this is better, physical security with the backup of technology (note I am thinking here of some kind of secured safe or similar which if you want to be really secure can only be opened by those authorized at the central processing site using a combination of encryption certificates to identify the unlocking hardware and codes controlled by more than one different individual required to open it) can also be used to protect the disks on route to the central server. The higher security on transit would of course be due to the fact that something in transit is at greater risk than something in a previously selected static environment you can plan security for, it is much harder to plan security for every environment between A and B over the public road network.

Why do the U.S. needs machines to count? (3, Insightful)

jesco (598308) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980482)

I don't understand why then U.S. is so keen on using electronic counting. I mean even optical scanners are quite a system. What speaks against a letting volunteers count the vote like in lots of other countries? It sure is at least as safe as electronic voting, much cheaper and not that much slower.

Re:Why do the U.S. needs machines to count? (3, Insightful)

Mix+Master+Nixon (1018716) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980556)

Electronic voting systems have proven easily corrupted, are profanely expensive, and undermine the very spirit of democracy itself. This is why many politicians find them so attractive; it's like looking into a mirror.

Re:Why do the U.S. needs machines to count? (2, Insightful)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980810)

Consistency, speed, and cost.

Humans are guaranteed to make mistakes, and make them regardless of whether a ballot is well-formed or not. Machines should, in theory, only ever make the same kind of mistakes (so the mistakes should be easily caught, eventually). Obviously, they're a lot faster than people are, and that time costs money. Unless all your vote-counters are volunteers, but then you'll find it very difficult to recruit people who are both A) proficient and B) don't have an agenda.

What the hell is wrong with machine counting?

Heck, with the advances in cryptography, and the ubiquitous network availability, what would be wrong with internet voting (in principle)? We ought to practice this stuff, because the internet also gives us the opportunity for much more direct democracy. The main barrier to having say, a weekly referendum is information availability and communication delay, which the Internet soundly pummels on both counts. I mean, you still need a congress, but why not restructure things to take back some of their power when the technology is available to do so?

Re:Why do the U.S. needs machines to count? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980874)

Humans are guaranteed to make mistakes. That's why you have 2 people count the votes, and have people watch the count, and ensure that the same results are obtained by both counters. In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is a difference. Identical machines running identical software should produce identical results. However, as far as any electronic voting system I've seen, the machines aren't identical across the country. Also, it's impossible (for most people) to prove that even two "identical" machines are actually running identical software and hardware when you walk up to them on election day.

Re:Why do the U.S. needs machines to count? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#22982272)

Humans at all levels make mistakes, and are sloppy. And lack of resources encourages sloppiness. For example, when I worked at an election, one year, I was told, You're a _party_, for the purposes of helping people in the booths. The problem was that while I was technically "independent" that didn't mean that I was in any way sympathetic with the party I was "assigned" to represent (which I did to the best of my ability anyway, by not trying to influence anyone's vote who needed help, as was expected)

Anyway, the point is that in heavily monochromatic counties, it's going to be difficult to find enough workers of even the the two main parties, and it's very seductive for administrators to play fast and loose with the rules and hope that the opposites they're assigning are more concerned with fairness than party loyalty. And that's assuming that the administrators themselves aren't interested in influencing things.

At this point, I usually point out that the counties in FL that asked for (and received) the Diebold machines were heavily of one particular party, and that the Elections Supervisor is itself an elected position. A position that is technically supposed to be "non-partisan," but given the demographics (and human nature) it would be difficult to find someone interested enough in politics to apply for the thankless position who wasn't partisan, AND someone in those counties who wasn't partisan toward a specific party AND that the electorate would even recognize partisanship that favors their own thinking AND that they'd vote against it.

cryptographic voting? (1)

reiisi (1211052) | more than 6 years ago | (#22983766)

Yeah, cryptography [] . That way no one can tell [] who was actually elected except the government.

Re:Why do the U.S. needs machines to count? (1)

yuna49 (905461) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981058)

In parliamentary democracies like most European systems, voters are casting only one, or at most a few, votes in an election. American ballots usually have a wide array of races from the presidency down to at least the state legislature and sometimes some local races as well. American ballots may also include referenda items as well as the races for the various offices.

So it's not as simple as, say, a British general election where each constituency's officials are counting votes for a single parliamentary seat. In states with a large number of referenda (California, for instance) you could be counting up votes for a couple dozen separate races.

The article summary does a poor job of representing the article itself. It suggests that a careful multi-year accounting wasn't done but simply a comparison of the costs of the new system to that of the old. In fact the article does a much better job of accounting for costs than the summary would indicate.

However, one thing I didn't see in my quick scan of the article was how much money Maryland received from the Federal Government under the "Help America Vote" act. HAVA made available something like $4 billion to the states to "improve" their voting systems. I didn't see the Federal contribution, if any, included in the accounting presented in the article.

Re:Why do the U.S. needs machines to count? (1)

tuxgeek (872962) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981180)

The US political system today has become completely corrupted. Both political parties have realized they can be bought by mega corporations. Republicans are the worst of the two but Democrats are quickly catching on how to play the game as well.

Electronic voting machines are a great way to manipulate and control the system. This is how it works, the RNC's buddies in the 'good 'ol boy club' throw together a bunch of garbage, put it into a box and charge ridiculously high prices for it. The machines are either preprogrammed or can be reprogrammed on the fly through back doors, to swing any election any way they choose, and they leave NO paper trail.

This is how we ended up with a president with an IQ equal to a bowl of wax fruit, an economy going down the toilet, and a war in the middle east, started on fabrications, just to line the pockets of mega corporations like the Carlyle Group and Haliburton.

Re:Why do the U.S. needs machines to count? (1)

oddaddresstrap (702574) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981366)

With manual counting, you need to arrange for voluteers and sometimes pay them a small stipend.
With electronic voting, you need to arrange for voluteers and sometimes pay them a small stipend AND a company sells millions of dollars of equipment and support.
Guess which one is doing more lobbying.

Cost shouldn't be the biggest issue (5, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980484)

The USA is rich. Rich enough to spend trillions in choosing the governments of other countries.

So it should be able to afford a good voting system. Nothing like the diebold crap.

Manual vote counting and counter-checking can be easily parallelizable. The more voters you have, the more vote counters and observers you should be able to recruit.

It is MUCH harder to tamper with paper ballots. You might be able to do a few areas, but to do it all while the other parties have people watching is hard.

With most electronic voting systems, 3rd parties can't watch the "counting" easily. If you have an e-voting system where 3rd parties can watch easily and it's verifiable, it'll probably cost more in the end.

So what if you have to wait a few hours before you get the results?

Lastly, Elections don't just have to be fair, they have to be _SEEN_ to be fair (enough ;) ). Otherwise you get too many people not accepting the results. In which case it becomes a big waste of time (and often lives).

Re:Cost shouldn't be the biggest issue (1)

Skeptical1 (823232) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980610)

It shouldn't, but paying more while getting less (of almost everything else) at the same time is just stupid. Also since these machines are made with current tech (XP, Access, etc.) the cost to replace every 4-6 years and keep patched is REALLY stupid.

Re:Cost shouldn't be the biggest issue (2, Informative)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980638)

It is MUCH harder to tamper with paper ballots. You might be able to do a few areas, but to do it all while the other parties have people watching is hard. With most electronic voting systems, 3rd parties can't watch the "counting" easily.

heck, I can't watch the "counting" easily for my own vote while I'm there in the voting booth. Most voting machines, including the manual pull-the-lever type, lack the most basic check: Verification by the voter doing the voting. The infamous "hanging chads" were a good example of this, the voter had no way to see if their vote was recorded correctly. This can only really be done with a piece of paper, written in English, that is inspected by the voter. With the pull-the-lever machines we have in NY, something as simple as a misplaced label would record every vote for a particular candidate incorrectly. With the touch-screen type, you push a button, see a "thank you for voting" screen and hope for the best. Niether the current system or any of teh proposed systems have any way for me to see the hard copy recording of my vote, so that I can see that it was correctly recorded. Touch screens could be handy for preliminary counts, but the real count should be of the receipts that the touch screens would print out, that the voter could check, and that could be easily verifiable by anyone of the voting public.

Re:Cost shouldn't be the biggest issue (1)

dmartin (235398) | more than 6 years ago | (#22983046)

The infamous "hanging chads" were a good example of this, the voter had no way to see if their vote was recorded correctly. This can only really be done with a piece of paper, written in English, that is inspected by the voter.
Because English is the only human-readable language? No wonder the Chinese don't have fair elections....

Re:Cost shouldn't be the biggest issue (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980684)

You don't have to wait any longer. In Canada we have paper voting, and the results are ready for the 11 o'clock news. They had to create a law against releasing results too early, because they felt the results from the east were influencing the west. I'm not sure why anybody would need to have the votes counted much faster than that. Maybe they should just have a big score board in the voting room. As soon as you enter your vote, it shows up on the score board. And have the whole thing is networked, so you can see the results in real time on the internet. That should satisfy your need for instant gratification.

Re:Cost shouldn't be the biggest issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22980820)

In canada, you have 1/10th the population, on 1/100 the (populated) area.

Re:Cost shouldn't be the biggest issue (2, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980898)

If you have 10 times the population, you should have 10 times the number of people to count, and 10 times the number of polling stations. The problem of counting votes is easily parallelizable.

Re:Cost shouldn't be the biggest issue (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22981258)

In the last presidential election I voted on:
a President
a US Senator
a US Representative
a Governor
a State Senator
a State Representative
a State Supreme Court Justice
a State Treasurer
a State Auditor General
a Mayor
2 City Council members
3 City Charter alterations
2 State Constitutional ammendments
2 School board members
and some other stuff I can't remember

And that's about par for the course. (At least since I've moved I no longer need to vote for the local Coroner and Health Inspector.)

How many things do you vote for each election?

Re:Cost shouldn't be the biggest issue (2, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981112)

Here would be my design idea:

1. When you register, you get one "vote card" and a thin envelope. Make the vote card special say with a watermark so it's hard to fake extras.
2. You go into the booth, insert card and make a selection.
3. After it's asked you if you're really really sure, prints it in cleartext and as a barcode (or those better-than-barcode things, I forget).
4. Take the card out and verify your printed vote against the cleartext.
5. The vote should be left on screen until you click "ok, it matches", pretty damning evidence if you stand there with a screen that says one thing and a printed card that says something else.
6. You place it in the envelope, go out and put it in a ballot box as usual.
7. At the end of the day, you pour these into a reader.
8. The reader either removes or scans through the envelope (not perfectly sure how, but quite sure that's doable).
9a. If it can verify watermark and barcode, count and store.
9b. If it can't, return for a manual count
10. Spot checks to verify the machiens aren't printing one thing in cleartext and another barcode. Would be pretty damning evidence.

Plan B, if the macine isn't working/printing/whatever:
1. Have manual ballots ready. Triple-warn on vote card, ballot and computer that they're only to be used if the computer's not working properly.
2. Fill out manual ballot (these can be plain paper, so no big cost to print up) and put it and your vote card in the envelope
3. Since it lacks any barcode, it'll get returned for a manual count in 9b) above.

1. Your vote *exists*, it has a paper trail.
2. You can be quite sure that your selection == printed in cleartext == printed as barcode.
3. No vote "reciept" which is a bad thing.
4. Optical counts.
5. Hand recounts or recounts by 3rd party optical machine are possible.

The only possible cheat I see here is that the counting machines can swap out votes, though it'd require a very custom design with extra votes inside and it'd be easily detectable by running the same pile twice, for example. All in all I think that's the closest thing to bulletproof I can think of. Then again, I don't see what's wrong with the old way.

Re:Cost shouldn't be the biggest issue (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981332)

Funny thing is I can come up with a system to do each without to much thought. Fancy display terminals etc with whatever you like for a GUI touch screen voice prompting morse code for all I care. Connect a modified daisy wheel printer with a mag stripe encoder. Print out in the vote in English (OK I'm biased here but I'm a one country one language sort of guy but thats a different topic) and brail that takes care of most people. Use an ink compatible with optical scanners and punch holes while encoding everything on a mag stripe. Add a couple reader booths before the ballot box so people with impairments can verify the ballot. Make the written version count in case of dispute and you have 3 other machine readable formats 5 formats total on the ballot. Attach a reader to the ballot box (mag stripe would seem the easiest) for instantaneously results if desired and let everybody view the official counting like they do now.

Re:Cost shouldn't be the biggest issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22982238)

of all the responders, TheLink comes closest to the truth:

--the COST of democracy in "dollars" is utterly irrelevant

--the best reason to enforce use of crypto-electronic voting machines is that, by their very nature they are beyond the intellectual and financial capacities of the masses, and therefore they are best qualified to undermine the CREDITABILITY of democracy (that is, democracy of, by and for the masses).

--the last thing you want in a democracy is for the masses to be electing their local Electors, whose addresses the masses would know, whose children would go to school with the children of the masses, and who would be given the time and money to perform a due diligence investigation in the candidates (sans media), and to put on their thinking hats and discuss in a collegial way, the selection of a leader.

--we want DIRECT and IMMEDIATE democracy, with voting by crypto-electronic voting machines, activated by information fed to us through main stream media, and we want our answers returned to us by the MSM in the 6:30 news. Otherwise, how will we know that we got what was best for us?

E-voting is unverifiable? (1)

5of0 (935391) | more than 6 years ago | (#22983780)

I live in Seattle, which is in King County, evidently the 12th largest county in the nation according to their FAQ site. I worked the AVU [] (Assisted Voting Unit) for the primaries this year. It was a Diebold Accuvote TSx [] (direct link to PDF [] ). It has a printer and a sealed spool, and the voting works like this:
1. Voter makes their selections on the screen and hits the "Next" button (or whatever it is)
2. The printer prints a printout of what they voted on all the candidates and any issues, scrolling it up into a window
3. The voter looks at the paper ribbon through the window, confirming that what they voted for actually showed up right
4. The voter hits the "cast ballot" button, and the paper that they were looking at through the window gets sucked up into a spool with two security seals on it.
5. After all is said and done, the spool gets put in a bag and gets taken to some central place, in a car with more than one person in it, from different parties, if possible.
If there is anything at all wrong with the vote, the ballot is scrapped and the voter re-votes. This scrapped vote is also recorded and taken up into the spool.

I don't see how that is any less secure and worse than traditional paper ballots - it seems, in fact, much better to me. The voter gets visual confirmation of their vote, there are no chads of any sort to worry about, the exact same paper that the voter looked at gets sucked up into a tamper-proof* spool, which is transported as securely as any voting records to a central storage place. If there is any question of the vote, the spools are taken out, un-sealed, and counted - every record having been visually verified by the voter who cast it.
I knew there were problems with the earlier systems not having printers and such, but they seem to have gotten them right. Yes, there could be viruses and crap, but I don't see how any virus could get around the visual confirmation by the voter. The only way I can see that it would cause problems is if it tweaked the results enough that there was no suspicion, so that no manual recount would take place - no worse than any other system.

I call FUD on the e-vote-phobia, at least in King County. The system is well-designed and works as well if not better than the traditional paper methods.

*Reasonably tamper-resistant, anyway - Secured by a VOID-type sticker (that leaves behind crap) and a plastic, one-way clip similar in concept (but more foolproof) than a zip tie, both with ID numbers that are recorded in multiple places, with multiple people watching and signing to verify. Yes, this can break down at the individual level, but so can any system - if you've got corrupt officials, no system can keep them from throwing things.

Pen and paper still the best (5, Insightful)

firefly4f4 (1233902) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980504)

As much as technology has made our lives easier in some ways, and as much as I am pro-technology for most things, for some things using a high-tech method just doesn't make sense. Voting is one of those things.

No need to worry about educating people on how to use the machine (either for voting or setup), and the paper trail is built in.

Of course, you can still mess with things if the layout of the ballot is inherently flawed (butterfly ballots in 2000, anyone, although with a pen chads aren't a problem), but at least the mechanism itself shouldn't be in question.

Solution looking for a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22980510)

you dont mind spending 9-12 months following a political campaign
but you (well the media) want the result instantly ?
who doesn't mind waiting 3 days to count paper votes by hand ? what difference does it make to your lives that it cant wait less than a week ?

evoting is only attractive to governments people because it can be hacked easily and more importantly without trace (ram is good like that) no pesky tonnes of paper to dispose of in a ditch

good idea of course in theory (like fusion) but it just wont work in practice

Re:Solution looking for a problem (1)

Mix+Master+Nixon (1018716) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980640)

evoting is only attractive to governments people because it can be hacked easily and more importantly without trace (ram is good like that) no pesky tonnes of paper to dispose of in a ditch.
While Mr. Coward's post is entitled "Solution looking for a problem" he also accurately points out that it is, in fact, a solution perfectly matched to the only problem it can ever really solve - the problem of what to do about all those damn voters. The technology will not be going anywhere without assistance from a pitchfork-wielding mob marching on Washington DC. America needs more angry, pitchfork-wielding mobs ready to fuck shit up... politicians would be considerably more receptive to the will of the people if they were one corporate handout away from a PWM scratching up their Benz.

Re:Solution looking for a problem (1)

Foobar of Borg (690622) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980658)

you dont mind spending 9-12 months following a political campaign
We don't. We make up our minds ahead of time based on something frivolous and use 30-second sound bites to self-justify our opinions.

but you (well the media) want the result instantly ?
You don't understand, man. We're Americans! We have the attention spans of five-year olds on crack! We want results now, damnit! We ... oohhh, donut!

Re:Solution looking for a problem (1)

firefly4f4 (1233902) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980816)

who doesn't mind waiting 3 days to count paper votes by hand ? what difference does it make to your lives that it cant wait less than a week ?
Funny, I live in Canada and this is how we do it, and we get the results the same day.

Everyone is assigned a poll station, which is then divided up into polling boxes (which is also assigned). As I understand it, each box is then assigned two people to manage it, and count the results when the polls close. I also think there's something where each official party also sends one representative to oversee the entire polling station to ensure there's no bias in the count.

The larger the population in an area, the more polling stations.

Re:Solution looking for a problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22980894)

There's like 5 people in Canada and they got flip top heads.

Scanners (0, Troll)

toddhisattva (127032) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980612)

Too bad Democrat voters are too stupid to use the optically scanned ballots.

You really gotta wonder sometimes.... (1)

3seas (184403) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980628)

...if there really is something to bible revelation mention of the stone image of the beast.
Of course the beast is man and the image is his invention of computers.

But its stuff like this you have to wonder how in the hell did it ever come about this spending huge amounts of money on a different way of voting?
And a way that just is not so secure, but rather easy to manipulate.

Hmmm, so I bet it was an electronic vote that "forced" purchase and use of such systems???

But one thing is for sure, its another strike against the machines and those promoting their use.

Is This (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22980694)

Thug [] .

I just love statistics (5, Insightful)

Zen (8377) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980712)

Insert your favorite quote about statistics here...

I glanced at the article and didn't see any useful data, so I paged through the pdf. There's some stuff in there that I don't understand and could cause some major problems with their statistics.

1) They appear to be comparing projected costs of optical scanners with actual costs of touchscreen machines. The PDF shows a 7 year lifespan of the original optical machine purchase, amortized over the first five years with zero additional purchases for that 7 year period, only warranty repairs. I sincerely doubt that there were zero additional purchases.

2) Can't they hire the same project managers for the touchscreen rollout as for the optical? People management is people management, no real difference.

3) Warehousing costs - aren't they storing the equipment at a state run facility? No reason why there should be a huge capital payment associated with that.

4) Transportaion costs fluctuate wildly on the touchscreen actual costs page, but are unwaveringly cheap on the optical page. The same equipment would always have to be moved to the same place, so I don't see that assumption as valid.

5) Voter outreach is 2x more for touchscreen as it is for the optical assumptions. I don't see how that cost would be different.

6) I don't see a line item for absentee ballot printing on the optical page at all.

7) I call BS on the statement that 10 touchscreens are needed for the job of a single optical scanner. Why would a county be willing to have a single optical scanner during an election? What if it failed? Those people wouldn't be able to vote that day? I think 2-3 is a more legitimate answer to account for quick processing and/or machine failures.

8) What exactly are the optional services that Diebold provides that account for almost $28M. That's a third of the overall total cost. There's no breakdown of what the services are, so there's no way to compare them with line items on the optical scanner costs.

They're comparing apples to oranges here with the projected costs of optical. It's simply not a fair comparison. And then not listing what those services are that almost singlehandedly account for the entire difference in cost between optical and touchscreen is ludicrous. If you take that line item out since there is no equivalent line item on the optical sheet, you have $67.5M for touchscreen and $52.4M for optical. Even using the listed number of $95M for touchscreen, that's still a little less than 2x the cost of optical. How exactly did they arrive at a 10 fold increase statistic?

I'm sure that the touchscreens are more expensive than opticals at first. Same thing when companies were first rolling out desktop computers to their workforce a couple decades ago. They understand that it cost a lot of money and a lot of lost productivity, but they also knew that they would reap huge rewards in additional productivity in the long run.

Now that said - let's find some other electronic voting firm to spend our next $100M with instead of Diebold.

Re:I just love statistics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22981120)

sorry for the AC, I never got a slash dot name.

Anyway, re:
"7) I call BS on the statement that 10 touchscreens are needed for the job of a single optical scanner. Why would a county be willing to have a single optical scanner during an election? What if it failed? Those people wouldn't be able to vote that day? I think 2-3 is a more legitimate answer to account for quick processing and/or machine failures."

At my polling place we have 1 optical scanner and at least 16 (more i think) booths where you fill in the ballot. This past primary the line was out the door (not too unusual, for the time i happened to go). Most of the booths were usually full (but not all, the main bottle neck is at the sign in/registration table). There was no line at the one optical scanner. Even if each polling place like mine had 1 back up scanner (which seems excessive) it's still closer to the 1:10 ration the article offers than your 1:3 suggestion. what i mean is, there would need to be a lot of touch screens to handle the load of voters (not nessisarily a full 20 though). way more than 3 or even 6 if we count your 3 for the 1 optical that might be in reserve somewhere.

Re:I just love statistics (1)

ocie (6659) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981668)

The difference I see between optical scanners and touchscreens is that the optical scanner is not needed at each polling place. One optical scanner could tally the votes from several polling places. Also, the optical scanner would only be used by election officials who are presumably trained in its use, where touchscreens are put in front of the general public and as such need to be built to withstand that level of use/abuse.

I once had to cast a provisional ballot due to moving before the election. Simple - 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper with "president: choice A [] choice B [] choice C []..." They gave you this and a permanent marker. What could be easier? Why can't we use this for all ballots? Maybe with a perforation to separate the marked portion from the instructions.

It's new; of course it's more expensive! (3, Insightful)

xZgf6xHx2uhoAj9D (1160707) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980722)

They had to buy new stuff. And even the article admits some of the money went to training. This isn't necessarily an indication that the higher costs are inherent, just that switching to something new has an initial cost. It would make more sense to see how the costs changed over, e.g., 10 year periods than just after the new technology was introduced.

Personally I think the higher cost would be justified if it led to an increase in democracy. As another poster mentioned, the US is a rich country. If there are demonstrable benefits to the new technology, I would bias in favour of it, even at increased cost.

The big problem, of course, is that the machines are not only expensive, but terrible. They seem to be a step backwards in democracy, not forwards. I live in Canada where we use pencil-and-paper ballots and they work beautifully for our purposes. I can't imagine switching to anything electronic at this point, as it would surely be a step backwards.

Re:It's new; of course it's more expensive! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22982426)

Personally I think the higher cost would be justified if it led to an increase in democracy.

What the fuck is an "increase" in democracy? Is that similar to the "increase" in freedom we (and Iraq) have experienced?

Re:It's new; of course it's more expensive! (1)

xZgf6xHx2uhoAj9D (1160707) | more than 6 years ago | (#22983076)

What the fuck is an "increase" in democracy?

an instance of growing or making greater, as quoted from my dictionary. For instance, if you started out with one apple and someone gave you another apple, we would say that there was an increase in the number of apples you had. Applied to democracy, if the people (the "demo" in "democracy") were not able to vote, and then they were given the ability to vote, we would say there was a democratic increase.

Is that similar to the "increase" in freedom we (and Iraq) have experienced?

No. I realize you're trying to be oh-so-cool cynical, but no. Just because some words are often used for political advantage, that does not mean they don't have meaning. It just means they've been used inappropriately.

Carroll County 22k to 260k! (2, Interesting)

jo7hs2 (884069) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980782)

I lived in Carroll County, Maryland when the change to electronic voting occurred, and after years of optical scan voting, many people I knew were confused by the move to e-voting. Our system had always worked fine, was simple and easy to understand, and had a paper trail. All you needed was a marker, a sheet of paper with spaces to fill in, and bam, you voted. I'm shocked to see that the state's push for e-voting inflated the cost of voting in Carroll County from $22k to over $200k! That is simply unacceptable.

Re:Carroll County 22k to 260k! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22981350)

E-voting became a fad because the technophiles said, "Ohhh! Isn't technology wonderful? Let's use it here." without a single thought about how or why it should be done. Then they left it to clueless commissioners and companies with pecuniary motives to invent it. Of course it costs more. Technology went from paper and pencil to touchscreens and hard drives without proper consideration and vetting. Now, the same technophiles as represented here decry the failure of the technology because it wasn't "open". Get a clue people. Paper ballots have been good for 200+ years, they will be good for a while more.

I still don't see anyone in the open source community offering a TESTED, FREE, OPEN, SAFE, ACCURATE and SECURE voting system on inexpensive hardware that is reliable and easy to implement. You don't do that kind of design and testing in your garage for a hundred bucks.

As for the cost increases, blame the elections commissioners and commitees for jumping at e-voting without cost-benefit analysis or swallowing the sales pitch from the vendors.

Re:Carroll County 22k to 260k! (2, Insightful)

Mix+Master+Nixon (1018716) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981412)

No REAL technophile would EVER insist on electronic voting. They would understand the inherent stupidity of damn near every aspect of the entire concept. Anyone so-called "technophile" hyping the greatness of e-voting is either a clueless poseur or bought and paid for by the Stand Alone Complex of politicians, corporations, and religious leaders that I will simply refer to as The Man.

Re:Carroll County 22k to 260k! (1)

h4rm0ny (722443) | more than 6 years ago | (#22983136)

Technophile just means someone who likes technology. It's independent of how well someone understands technology or the consequences thereof. But excepting the use of that word, I agree with the intent. It's usually the people who are most capable with a technology who best understand when not to use it.

Outsourcing (2, Funny)

Frankie70 (803801) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980944)

What about outsourcing the counting of votes to a cheaper country?

Re:Outsourcing (1)

jonaskoelker (922170) | more than 6 years ago | (#22982066)

What about outsourcing the counting of votes to a cheaper country?
In the interest of fairness and mutual respect of sovereignty, I propose Iraq ;-)

Captcha: "Patriot".

A real open source solution? (2, Interesting)

williegeorgie (710224) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980954)

Has anyone from the open source community tried to write secure software for this? I suspect that it may not be possible(thus no one is trying) but has there ever been a real, open, reviewable effort to try? Maybe the real answer is that the problem is insolvable thus the only "solutions" are ones that cannot be verified (closed source, proprietary etc). Personally the whole idea gives me the creeps. Everything I have read shows that this whole idea is bad. What I find amazing is that very smart people whose whole careers rely on putting computers to good use are the ones who most strongly recommend that computer systems in this arena are bad. In any case I just wonder if there ever has been an open effort to provide software/hardware combination that those security experts would agree upon. I have seen requirements for voter verified paper trail etc, but are there any open systems out there that meet these requirements?

Re:A real open source solution? (2, Insightful)

50_1337 (929093) | more than 6 years ago | (#22983528)

Open source solution already exists, it's call pen & paper ;)

Everything else is just insecure: Even if electronic voting machines use open source software, how do you know the code you check earlier is the same that the computer use during the election ?

Jeez... We use this SIMPLE and EASY paper voting system for years, why the hell do we have to search for a more COMPLEXE alternative ?

Citizens should be able to sue (1)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | more than 6 years ago | (#22980984)

... their government for overspending. If in court we can prove that the people in charge were lobbied into doing things an expensive way or were simply uninformed, then we deserve our tax dollars back. The government should be the last to innovate, and this is just another example where people doing things the old way get caught trying to do something they don't know how to do.

How about cuttings costs per vote by 500 dollars and then paying us to vote. I predict the turnout to be over 90%. That is democracy for you.

Speaking of broken voting.... (1)

Bootle (816136) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981032)

How many times am I gonna have to fill out the slashdot poll?

no accident of design (1)

borgalicious (750617) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981094)

The human interface on these voting machines is designed to obscure your actions not improve anything. My fair Commonwealth previously used mechanical tallying machines where you could see all of your choices after you made them. You could de-select and re-select choices up until you pulled the commit lever.

The linear nature of touch screens is exactly the way not to provide an overview of your actions. For precisely the reasons that fast food drive-through ordering has been aided on both sides of the interaction by visual confirmation screens (which don't require that you hold a bunch of non-sequential information in your head), the new machines were designed to affirmatively obscure your prior decisions.

Kim Zetter rules (1)

Presto Vivace (882157) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981096)

She has been doing the best reporting on this issue.

um... (1)

grm_wnr (781219) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981188)

Not commenting on whether this is a good idea to begin with (as a million others have already pointed out, even the optical system might not be one), but theis bit of news basically boils down to "new tech is more expensive than old tech".

I think I'll wait until 11. For the film.

Cost of Getting It Wrong (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981228)

And that accounting doesn't even include the costs of recounting contested ballots. Since the paperless voting can't really count them at all, the costs of the extensive circumstantial forensics are either extremely high, or have to be counted as the costs of leaving the ballot unprovable at all. Which costs can be extremely high, perhaps higher than the entire budget controlled by the people "elected".

Because Hey, It's Only Our Democracy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22981312)

If it becomes too expensive, let's just content ourselves with the rigged (s)elections we've become so accustomed to...


Can somebody explain why you use machines at all? (5, Interesting)

rbrander (73222) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981360)

Perhaps an American /. reader can explain to the rest of us why you use machines at all? I don't mean just electronic voting, I mean all its predecessors - pulling levers, "butterfly ballots", punch cards and their infamous hanging chads.

In the middle of that 35-day recount thing in 2000, the Canadian electorate finished their (six week, from declaration of the election to the vote) national election with a vote that was over in 24 hours, from first poll open to last vote counted. The mechanism: pencil and paper.

I once volunteered for a local political party in a provincial election to "scrutineer" the ballots. It looked awfully foolproof to me, as all the scrutineers from all the parties watched each vote being counted in each box, some of us keeping our own tallies as they were added up. We were done in an hour or less.

Needless to say, the ratio of ballots to humans in the room was in the hundreds, not hundreds of thousands. We just employ a lot of humans in our elections, paid and volunteer. Few of our neighbourhood polling stations record more than 1000 ballots, and they have 3-4 employees, plus "N" volunteer scrutineers, depending on the number of parties running.

So why doesn't America just do that, is it the money? Somebody gave me the opinion that it's because Americans vote for so many offices - judges, DA's, sheriffs, local officials at the same time as federal. That this all came from previous centuries, farmers having to walk 10 miles to vote, so they only wanted to do it once every four years, and then register 25 votes at that time, making it hard to do on paper.

That didn't fly with me. Farmers have to come to town every week or three for supplies and so forth anyway. And if you want to vote for 25 offices instead of trusting one elected party to appoint them all, what's wrong with realizing that has COSTS and paying for more people to count them by hand with scrutineers from the campaigns watching every piece of paper go by? To turn around the old phrase, you can't take your choice without paying your money.

The paid human time (the N scrutineers are volunteers) to count one vote on paper is a second or so. One penny at $36.00 per hour, even, and most elections temporary staff are retirees making half that, giving you two seconds to the penny. Isn't counting one vote worth one penny to you? (Needless to say, the piece of paper is way under a penny, and the cost of the metal boxes is amortized over 20 elections; the high school gyms are free to use.)

I'm not saying the total cost of our elections is a penny per vote, that's the incremental cost of the counting process. We probably spend a buck per vote or more on the whole thing, organizing the operation, paying the permanent staff at Elections Canada to hire the retirees, print the ballots, etc. But the difference between having everybody pull a lever on some complicated counting machine or just putting an X on paper and putting it in a box, after all the setup is done, can't be over a penny per vote as far as I can see.

Re:Can somebody explain why you use machines at al (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22982552)

"... why ..."

To allow the powerful to control the vote, of course.

What other answer is there?

"Electronic" voting..? (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981364)

Something that confuses me a little bit: Surely the optical-scanner machines are also "electronic"? Surely they also tabulate votes in some automated way? So what are we talking about here? Diebold et al are pushing for an upgrade ... why, exactly?

Re:"Electronic" voting..? (1)

ChrisMaple (607946) | more than 6 years ago | (#22983436)

Machine makers push for upgrades to make money.

The optical scanners are simply counters, and their purpose (compared to hand counting) is to be less labor intensive and more accurate. Touchscreen and other all-electronic systems get rid of any permanent physical medium for making the vote. Lacking a macroscopic physical medium, there is no meaningful way to inspect ballots or do a recount that has any significance.

The cost in this article is wrong! (1)

Fat Wang (1230914) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981430)

"In at least one county, the cost increased 866 percent per voter -- from a total cost of about $22,000 in 2001 to $266,000 in 2007." $266,000 is way more than 866 percent more per voter, up from $22,000.... Someone needs to learn their math.

Perception is everything (1)

mhollis (727905) | more than 6 years ago | (#22981568)

The whole issue here has to do with perception. In other words, the voting public needs to feel that the count actually does represent the will of the voters that voted on that day. And the money that was spent in researching, developing, buying and using the new machines was spent due to a perception that, in the year 2000, the end result of the vote did not accurately portray the will of the voters that voted in the Presidential election.

Now, quite frankly, many of the issues were blown out of proportion with respect to reality. The Media (and I was present in the reportage) breathlessly told us that we had a "Constitutional Crisis" on our hands. A Constitutional Crisis is where there is no language in our Constitution to handle something. And there is plenty of language in the Constitution with respect to the selection of a President.

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress...

The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President.

What this means is that the States choose the President. So when the Supreme Court stepped into the fray, the Supreme Court was in immediate violation of the Constitution. I suppose that was a Constitutional Crisis.

Had the State of Florida failed to choose electors in a timely way, the US Congress could have ignored the Florida vote. Any partial vote could have been disqualified and if there was a tie in the electoral vote, the House of Representatives would have chosen the President.

Instead, we had butterfly ballots, punch cards and methods of tallying votes (by machine) that were antiquated. And the vote was so close in that election that the public perceived that there may have been vote-rigging through the use of machinery that was outdated and, perhaps, rigged.

Immediately, companies went out and offered to make machines that would allow for really quick tallying of votes and there is nothing as fast at tallying votes as an electronic system. But many of these systems did not offer any kind of an audit trail, which is something that is opposed by the current Republican Administration. They argued that any time you recount a machine-counted result, the result of the hand count is suspect as human emotions get involved in the count. Of course, there is no recount unless there are observers from all participating political parties present according to law.

Many localities have new systems. And still, the vote can be rigged, as it always has been able to be rigged in the past. But since the public is inclined to think that the vote can be easily rigged or is easily rigged, we'll continue to spend money trying to fix the problem in the interest of trying to satisfy the majority of voters who no longer trust the voting systems we have.

serious advantages (1)

PMuse (320639) | more than 6 years ago | (#22982190)

Based primarily on trust and cost, many here at /. are against any kind of e-voting.

However, by now, everyone on /. can recite the outlines of a plan for trustworthy electronic voting (print results in plaintext and barcode to paper ballots, open code, no accessible machine ports, etc.). If there were vendors building such systems, the trust argument against e-voting would be eliminated.

If trust can be solved, aren't there advantages to e-voting that may be worth the cost?
  • Logic to enforce rules such as "vote for not more than three".
  • Logic to enforce rules such as "vote for only one."
  • Logic to prevent voters skipping races by accident.
  • Near elimination of improper marking, hanging chads, etc.
  • Option to use multiple languages.
  • Quicker counting.
  • Option to use candidate photos.
  • Option to use large type for the sight-impaired.
  • Ability to accommodate the blind.
  • Allow ballot changes closer to election day (no preprinting needed).

Percent per voter? (1)

MikeUW (999162) | more than 6 years ago | (#22982752)

Is anyone else thinking what I'm thinking? WTF is with this reference of costs that increased X percent per voter? If the overall cost increased by X percent, then the percentage increase in cost per voter will be exactly the same. In this context, the article seems to be stating that the costs in one county of $22,000/$266,000 in 2001/2007 are per-voter costs, when these obviously are total costs for the county. Is the references to increases 'per voter' supposed to make an obviously serious issue sound somehow more serious?

Re:Percent per voter? (1)

MikeUW (999162) | more than 6 years ago | (#22982808)

Er...I'm so dumb...forgot about population growth.
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