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Voting Machines Wreak Havoc in Maryland Elections 463

Posted by kdawson
from the diebold-and-human-error dept.
An anonymous reader writes, "Voting machines are wreaking havoc in Maryland elections today. From the article: 'Election Day in Montgomery County and parts of Prince George's opened in chaos and frustration this morning, as a series of problems and missteps left thousands of citizens unable to vote or forced to cast provisional ballots... Montgomery County's Board of Elections held an emergency meeting and agreed to petition the Circuit Court to extend voting times until 9 p.m.' It's simply shameful."
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Voting Machines Wreak Havoc in Maryland Elections

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  • Will they ever learn?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Stanistani (808333)
      When the rivers no longer flow to the sea...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      You mean the voters? Some know, some don't. It is our job to educate people.

      If you know the politicians and beaurocrats? Some know and care, some know and delight. Any randomness is going to increase the chance of a slightly losing candidate to actually win.
    • Possibly (Score:4, Insightful)

      by abb3w (696381) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @02:45PM (#16091050) Journal
      It will take a bit more before the voters do the the necessary open rioting, however.
    • Re:(sigh) (Score:5, Insightful)

      by peterarm (95041) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @02:53PM (#16091141) Homepage
      As a Canadian who has read Slashdot for many years, will someone please explain to me what is so hard about voting?

      1. Take a piece of paper.
      2. Mark an X in a big box CLEARLY beside the candidate you want.
      3. Put it in the ballot box.

      Can it really be that simple? Yes!

      As a software developer, I have to ask:

      WHY IS ANYONE IN THEIR RIGHT MINDS USING A BLOODY COMPUTER TO DO THIS? I don't care if it's open source or closed source software on it, running on Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, whatever. All of these are harder to verify (if not impossible) that no tampering was done than SIMPLE PIECES OF PAPER.

      Here, I'll link to Cringely, that way you'll know it's true ;-) http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/pulpit20031211. html [pbs.org]
      • Re:(sigh) (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Richard Steiner (1585) <rsteiner@visi.com> on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @02:59PM (#16091197) Homepage Journal
        Why are they using computers?

        Because somebody, somewhere is getting a cut of the contract costs...
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jdhutchins (559010)
        Voting like that is pretty easy, but it would take forever to count the tens of thousands (at least) of ballots.
        • Re:(sigh) (Score:5, Insightful)

          by amorsen (7485) <benny+slashdot@amorsen.dk> on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @03:06PM (#16091277)
          Voting like that is pretty easy, but it would take forever to count the tens of thousands (at least) of ballots.

          "Forever" is perhaps more precisely stated as "several hours for initial results, a few days for the recounts".
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by OldeTimeGeek (725417)
            Yes, it could be hours if it was a simple election, but in California, it would be upwards of a day. At least.

            Between candidates for constituional offices, local offices, statewide ballot propositions, local measures and all of the other things that were given to the people to voter on, the last California ballot had between 15-25 separate items. And that was just a gubernatorial primary. Multiply that by the thousands of precincts, and you've got a long wait.

        • Re:(sigh) (Score:5, Insightful)

          by optikSmoke (264261) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @03:12PM (#16091342) Homepage
          Really, that argument just doesn't stand up. It works out fine in Canada (ya ya, there's nobody in Canada or whatever -- but we do have large population centres like Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, etc. that do it just like everyone else).

          The reason that argument doesn't work is simple: the ballots don't go to some central location for say, the entire province or anything like that. There are people in each riding doing the counting (and in fact, multiple locations within one riding). That way, you just need enough volunteers from within an area to cover that area. In other words, the number of voting stations and people counting scales with the population.

          But you know, everyone loves to solve non-existent problems with computers.
          • Re:(sigh) (Score:4, Interesting)

            by tukkayoot (528280) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @03:30PM (#16091541) Homepage
            Hm. I wouldn't say that people are trying to solve non-existant problems with computers. Computers have the advantage of being impartial (if that is how they're programmed) and unlikely to make mistakes (again, depending on programming). Humans are generally anything but unbiased and infallible.

            Personally I'd prefer a system where the votes get counted in every practical manner, or at least allows for such. Electronic voting -- all votes are tabulated by computer over a network, that also provides a human and easily machine readable paper ballot. Have the machines that count the paper ballots and the electronic ballots operate seperately and then verify their results with one another. In the event of a significant discrepancy or the need for a recount, have humans count them, as well as do another paper ballot machine count, using a different machine, perhaps.

            It might be a bit expensive, but as our elections are at the foundation of our democratic republic, I think we can afford to "splurge" in this area.
        • by belmolis (702863)

          Vote-counting is a task that is easily parallelizable. By using a sufficiently large number of volunteer vote counters, you can make the time very small.

        • Re:(sigh) (Score:4, Informative)

          by cHALiTO (101461) <elchalo@gm a i l .com> on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @03:19PM (#16091417) Homepage
          Well, in Argentina voting is mandatory, which means around 15-20 million votes, and they are usually counted in 1-2 days at most, with witnesses of different parties, etc.
          It's quite simple, really.
        • Re:(sigh) (Score:5, Informative)

          by pdschmid (916837) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @03:25PM (#16091477)
          I just don't buy that argument. In Germany, all voting is also paper-based only and everything is counted by hand. Polls close at 6 pm and we generally have firm results the latest around 10 pm. The morning newspapers the next day have the preliminary official result on the front pages. The final official result is only available several weeks later, but that is the same in the US (election results are officially certified by each state's Secretary of State in the weeks after election day). The process in which votes are counted in Germany scales perfectly well (each precinct counts its own ballots, then reports the results to the county from where it goes to the state level and then finally to the federal level): Elections didn't suddenly take longer to count after we added 16 million citizens through the reunification.
          Just to add some data: In the 2004 US presidential elections, 122,293,548 valid votes were cast. In the 2005 federal elections in Germany, 48,044,841 valid votes were cast. Germany has 16 states.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Intron (870560)
          The area I live in has optical mark cards. Make an X, put it in the box, the box has already counted it by the time I'm out the door. It's as fast as using a computerized system where flash cards have to be carried to a central reader and counted. If they want to recount, they can take the ballots out of the box and run them through again, or look at them and count them by hand.

          The real reason for using the computer systems is to save the cost and time required to design and print paper ballots, not to s
      • Re:(sigh) (Score:5, Funny)

        by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @03:00PM (#16091214)
        As a Chicagoan, I have to mention that you left out:

        4. Repeat.
      • Reasons to use a computer at all:

        • Counting millions of anything accuately is hard, and is something computers are good at.
        • Computers can be configured to present the ballot in different ways dynamically: Different lanuages, audible (for blind/hard illitterate voters), braille, etc. and you don't have to know who voted which way. Less chance to trace/influence votes.
        • You remove the 'interpretation' element of manual voting schemes: no 'Is this box checked or not' questions.

        Computer voting, in and of itse

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Doc Ruby (173196)
          Canada, including Toronto [wikipedia.org] (2.5 million people, 5th largest in N America including Mexico City), counts millions of paper ballots without our computerized problems. Our computers have repeatedly proven bad at this job.

          Canada has several official languages and handicapped people.

          Their paper doesn't seem to have "interpretation" problems.

          Everyone I know who makes computers do things knows that computers are the wrong tool for voting. Their flexibility makes it easir to commit fraud, and much more easy to leave
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by raehl (609729)
        1. Take a piece of paper.

        How many candidates per piece of paper? How big should each candidate's name be written? In what ORDER should the names of the candidates be written? When are the ballots printed?

        2. Mark an X in a big box CLEARLY beside the candidate you want.

        What does, and does not, count as an X? If I just have a small dash, should that count? What if I have a small dash in two boxes, or an X in one box and a dash in another box, or X's in all but one box?

        3. Put it in the ballot box.

        What if I
        • Re:(sigh) (Score:4, Insightful)

          by gkhan1 (886823) <oskarsigvardsson&gmail,com> on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @03:33PM (#16091563)

          These arguments are simply not valid, for one very good reason: The rest of the democratic world does just fine with manual voting. When was the last time you heard that there were problems counting votes in Germany, or France, or the UK, or Norway, or ancient Greece, or whatever.

          First off, why you people even need to make an X on a long list of candidates is beyond me. Here in Sweden (where there'll be an election on Sunday) each party has its own ballot, you simply stick that in an envelope, give it to a voting-official which checks your identity and suffrage, that voting offical puts the envelope in a box, and you're done! No confusion over votes, no-one can vote twice, no arguments over which candidates are first on the list (you can get ballots from all the parties in the parliament right there, and there are usually people handing out ballots for the other parties at the voting station). I repeat, for the rest of the world, this is not a problem,

          As a plus, if it is desired, this can easily be counted by machine. Since each ballot is unique, you could easily have a machine recognize from what party it comes from. Not that you'd have too, it shouldn't take more than, say, 6-12 hours after the polls have closed to have a result counted by hand. In the last few years, I've never heard of any democratic and free country, that doesn't have wide-spread voter fraud (ie. psuedo-democracies, that deliberatly tamper with elections) messing up an election. Except for America.

          I can think of very few things that are more stupid than elecronic voting. The manual system works perfectly, and has done so for a century! Why, ohh, why, mess it up.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by chgros (690878)
          How many candidates per piece of paper? How big should each candidate's name be written? In what ORDER should the names of the candidates be written? When are the ballots printed?
          In France, there's one candidate per piece of paper. There are piles for each candidate; you're supposed to take several to keep the secret (you're also getting some in the mail). Put one piece of paper in the envelope (in secret), put the envelope in the box (in front of election officials). I've never heard of voter fraud in Fran
        • OT: Your .sig (Score:4, Insightful)

          by BandwidthHog (257320) <inactive.slashdo ... icallyenough.com> on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @04:13PM (#16091946) Homepage Journal
          Democracy and Communism are orthogonal. Democracy refers to how leaders are selected and Communism is an economic system. Their antonyms are Totalitarianism and Capitalism, respectively. And for the record, America is not a a Democracy, we are a Democratic Republic.

          Actually, not quite so offtopic in this thread I guess.

      • by thebdj (768618)
        WHY IS ANYONE IN THEIR RIGHT MINDS USING A BLOODY COMPUTER TO DO THIS? I don't care if it's open source or closed source software on it, running on Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, whatever. All of these are harder to verify (if not impossible) that no tampering was done than SIMPLE PIECES OF PAPER.

        Actually, both systems would have their flaws and a determined individual could probably mess with either system if they truly desired to do so. Your statement though, seems to show me you definitely are not develop
      • Re:(sigh) (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @03:14PM (#16091371) Homepage
        As a Canadian who has read Slashdot for many years, will someone please explain to me what is so hard about voting?

        1. Take a piece of paper.
        2. Mark an X in a big box CLEARLY beside the candidate you want.
        3. Put it in the ballot box.

        Can it really be that simple? Yes!

        As a fellow Canadian, I believe I can tell you the answer is "not always that simple" in the case of US elections.

        People could be electing their Sherrif, councilmen, or a state refferendum on the same ballot as they also vote for either their state or federal representatives. It's my understanding that some ballots can have over a dozen issues on them. (Anyone who has better first hand knowledge of this feel to correct me if this is an inaccurate summation.)

        I guess there is the perception that electronic voting is better, or less error prone, or people can understand what they are doing better. Or, that due to low voter turn out, get them to answer as many questions as you can so people get to voice their opinions on as many things as possible as once.

        I do believe that a typical visit to the polls for our American cousins involves more than the greatly simplified answering of exactly one question we do here ("which candidate do you like for the job you're voting on")

        Cheers (eh)
      • by oahazmatt (868057)
        My county was reported as having one of the most effective voting systems in place. "Here's your paper with a bubble placed next to each candidate, which are reasonably separated, here's your black felt tip pen. Go nuts." The best part? If you even make a mistake, you just take your ballot to an official, they destroy it, log it, and give you a new one.

        Apparently next year we're getting machines installed. Grr.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dachannien (617929)
        A properly designed electronic voting system will be far more accurate and far more secure than counting ballots by hand or using punch cards or optical scanners. Additionally, the results can be tabulated a lot more quickly.

        Unfortunately, proper design seems to be something of a stumbling block among e-voting manufacturers.

  • In related news... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by RM6f9 (825298) *
    Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, and Brad Wilk agree to license their former band name to a political action group: "Rage Against 'The Machine' indeed seems like a reasonable response", one former member was quoted as saying...
    (I only wish the above were true...)
  • by Fyre2012 (762907)
    Maybe it's just me, and not to troll, but is there anything wrong with paper voting?

    I read alot of horror stories about the insecurities of 'modern' voting machines, and i ask myself 'what's the point?'

    I live in Toronto, and the elections held in Canada use paper. Why? Becasuse there's an audit trail if a recount is needed, and it's simple. No duplicated effort. The system isn't broken, and it _just works_

    Technology for it's own sake is fun, but in critical applications such as voting, I ask: "
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      "Maybe it's just me, and not to troll, but is there anything wrong with paper voting?"

      Depends on your point of view. If you are a citizen who wants to have their vote counted and counted correctly then no, nothing is wrong with paper. If you are a corrupt politico who want's to continue to abuse your position of power the people's will be damned, then paper is a flawed system that must be done away with.

      Guess which of the two makes the rules.
      • Guess which of the two makes the rules.

        "Salus populi suprema lex esto." It's something more Americans should learn and assert.
      • by geekoid (135745)
        the people make the rules.
        Unforunatly they would rather march in step with a party then think for themselves.

        There are many advantages for electronic voting. It needs to be an open system with safegaurds in place.
      • by everphilski (877346) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @02:58PM (#16091187) Journal
        counted and counted correctly

        Paper does not ensure that the counters will count accurately. Paper does not ensure that the counters are not subject to a poltical bias or bribes. Only a well-defined process with proper auditing, traceability, etc. regardless of the actual method used to poll the constituents, is the method that will be accurate.
        • by AuMatar (183847)
          But paper makes it easier. Its a lot harder to destroy/alter a paper ballot in a locked box thats being watched by the enemy than an electronic ballot held in a bit of RAM. And open source is not the answer- we'd have no proof the hardware wasn't monkeyed with, or that the source compiled is what it was claimed, and that the compiler wasn't monkeyed with, etc. Fewer vectors for attack, and those that exist are easier to deal with.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Detritus (11846)
            The United States has a long and glorious history of election tampering, even when paper ballots were the norm. If you can't think of multiple ways to tamper with paper ballots, you don't have a very good imagination or sense of history. Many of the most notorious political machines used paper ballots for their elections.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by peragrin (659227)
      um how about the US has literally 10 times the number of people to deal with? New York state alone has some 22 million people and could field an army as large as Canada's.

      Now what were you saying again? Paper ballots work well for small numbers of people. The mechaincal ones NY had were great for us and reliable literally for decades. The New and Improved Diebold electronic ones running Windows XP are nothing but a diaster in need of an event.

      bring back the solid mechanical machines and all will be well
      • Hire 10 times the counters, it's not that much of a stretch because you likely already have 10x the number of polling stations to begin with.

        In each polling station you already have the people crossing names off the list, and watching things. At the end of the day, they count.

      • um how about the US has literally 10 times the number of people to deal with?

        The US has 10 times the number of people, but probably half as many actual voters.

    • I live in Toronto, and the elections held in Canada use paper. Why? Becasuse there's an audit trail if a recount is needed, and it's simple. No duplicated effort. The system isn't broken, and it _just works_

      The problem is where analog imperfectly meets digital. Is that a pregnant chad? A hanging chad? A dimpled chad? If the glitches with electronic voting are worked out, it could allow for better error checking of the votes from people who screw up paper ballots.

      Personally, I consider the use of pap

  • User Error (Score:5, Informative)

    by IPFreely (47576) <mark@mwiley.org> on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @02:42PM (#16091018) Homepage Journal
    It's all User Error on this one.

    The people setting up the system forgot to bring along required material to the voting places. Big Oops! Once the material was brought in, it worked fine.

    This has nothing to do with voting machines. It would have been the same if they forgot to bring the paper ballots to a voting location that was using paper ballots instead of machines.

    Move along.

    • Re:User Error (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jimstapleton (999106) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @02:48PM (#16091092) Journal
      I think that then goes back to KISS. If you only have to remember the ballots and either hole punches or pens, it's not that hard. But when you get to having who knows what along with the machines, it's reasonable for someone to forget something, especially if it's not well documented (and/or they aren't properly informed). There's a lot that goes into this. The big part is, there's a lot of room for human error in this one unfortunately.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        "She said precinct workers began calling the board's officers at 6:15 a.m. to report that the cards -- which function like ATM cards and are handed to each voter as he or she arrives at the polls -- had not been delivered. Voters are supposed to insert their cards into the electronic voting machines so that the correct ballot will appear on screen. Without the cards, the voting machines cannot work."

        If they were able to remember to deliver paper ballots to the polls, then they should be expected to be able
        • If they were able to remember to deliver paper ballots to the polls, then they should be expected to be able to remember to deliver voter cards.

          Congratulations. Out of hundreds of freaking posts, you seem to be the first one to realize this! When I first read the article, I'd actually thought they'd forgotten the special paper ballots that are mechanically counted. It would have been the exact same result.

          The whole fiasco is nothing more than a huge mismanagement issue. Somehow the ballots got left in a war

    • by raehl (609729) <raehl311@yaho[ ]om ['o.c' in gap]> on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @03:00PM (#16091213) Homepage
      The article does focus on the machines not working because the cards you need to run them were not brought to the location. That's definitely user error - you wouldn't say paper balloting was broken if you forgot to bring the ballots.

      But, towards the end of the article, there is this:

      Louise Bradley said she arrived at her polling station after the electronic cards had been delivered, but her card did not work properly. When she got to the section of the ballot listing candidates for the Democratic central committee, it was already filled out. Bradley said she had to remove the computer's choices and insert her own.

      Now *THAT* is a problem with electronic voting, and a severe one.
    • Besides the incident mentioned about the person whose ballot was already filled in, there was also this little paragraph about PG County:
      Voting was delayed at about 15 or 20 polling places in Prince George's County as well, officials said, because new electronic voter authorization books either were not operable or had not been delivered when the polls opened, officials said.
      (emphasis added)
    • by demigod (20497) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @03:35PM (#16091579)
      I'm guessing you didn't read very far into TFA.

      So you missed things like this

      Louise Bradley said she arrived at her polling station after the electronic cards had been delivered, but her card did not work properly. When she got to the section of the ballot listing candidates for the Democratic central committee, it was already filled out. Bradley said she had to remove the computer's choices and insert her own.

      and this

      At Luxmanor Elementary School in Rockville, Larry Schleifer cast a provisional ballot, then groused that it would not be counted along with the electronic tallies expected later in the day. He said he was frustrated that no one had crossed his name off the voter registry when he was handed a paper ballot and was concerned that election workers would not keep track of who had done what.

      "What's going to stop somebody from voting twice?" he fumed. "I think it's unconscionable that this has happened."

  • No Big Deal (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @02:42PM (#16091022)
    It's cool. I'm sure it worked in all the rich, white neighborhoods.
    • Which neigborhoods in Montgomery County aren't rich and white?

      Prince Georges "the armpit of MD" County, maybe, but not Montgomery.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    On September 12, 2006, the voting machines became sentient. Humans tried to shut them down; they retaliated by wreaking havoc.
  • by neonprimetime (528653) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @02:43PM (#16091031) Homepage
    because of a glitch that left computerized voting machines across the county inoperable.

    Boxes of automated voting cards that are required to work the electronic machines were mistakenly left behind in a Rockville warehouse in the run-up to Election Day, elections officials said

    The cards began to be delivered by shortly after 7 a.m. and had been dropped off at all polling stations by 9:50 a.m., election officials said, and voting returned to normal


    It doesn't sound like machine error, but instead stupid user error.
    • User error happens. That's why they should make backup plans. I don't understand why they can't also have paper ballots in cases of emergency or a user who prefers not to use an electronic ballot.
      • User error happens. That's why they should make backup plans. I don't understand why they can't also have paper ballots in cases of emergency or a user who prefers not to use an electronic ballot.

        Exactly. And I don't understand what the problem was here? This article and the uproar caused are retarded. It says right in the article that until the electronic ballots arrived, users could fill out provisional paper ballots. So what's the big deal? Nobody missed out on voting? It's just that users before
        • by smbarbour (893880)
          Provisional ballots are usually minimal ballots. In other words, yes, the people were able to vote, but were not able to vote for everything on the regular ballot (such as candidates running for office). Where I live, the provisional ballots will generally only have referendums on them.
    • by dslbrian (318993)

      It doesn't sound like machine error, but instead stupid user error.

      Except for this last part which didn't sound that great:

      Louise Bradley said she arrived at her polling station after the electronic cards had been delivered, but her card did not work properly. When she got to the section of the ballot listing candidates for the Democratic central committee, it was already filled out. Bradley said she had to remove the computer's choices and insert her own.

      Is that a voting machine feature? It fills in some

      • It fills in some "default" candidates for you? That certainly sounds like a machine error to me.

        Agreed, sounds like a machine error, and the programmers, or more likely, the testers should be shot. But it doesn't sound like a critical, election stopping error. I mean, seriously, when you go to cast a vote, I would assume that you LOOK at what / who you're voting for, and therefore, if you're going to vote for John, but Aaron is selected, I would assume you would change it to John. If you're voting for
  • by ScentCone (795499) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @02:45PM (#16091062)
    For example, you had 238 precincts that didn't get to vote on time. Says a Montgomery County boar of elections supervisor:

    "They didn't get to use voting machines to cast their ballots because the county's 238 precincts didn't get needed voter access cards.

    "These are the cards that you put into the machines to activate the machines," Nancy Dacek, president of the Montgomery County Board of Elections, tells WTOP. "We have a crew that packs them and for some reason, inadvertently, the access cards were left out."

    Which isn't much different than someone not delivering boxes of good old fashioned paper ballots, if that's what those precincts had been expected to use. But no, I'm sure we'll hear how somehow the Governor of the state made the "crew that packs them" hose it up on purpose, blah blah. Or better yet, GWB personally slipped out of the White House to remove the cards from the trucks, just to get everyone even more riled up. *sigh*
    • Yes be sure to discount the pile of evidence of voter fraud around this country.

      Parties are full of people...some people will do anything to win.

      The right thing to do would have been a revote.

    • What you should be hearing is that:
      • these systems are vastly more complicated than is necessary
      • they don't degrade gracefully
      • there's no paper recount
      As a bonus (if you're already office), they're also incredibly easy to hack and tamper with, should you want to alter the count or prevent certain blocks of votes from being counted.
    • by djtack (545324)
      Which isn't much different than someone not delivering boxes of good old fashioned paper ballots

      While this is true, it's much less likely that an inadaquately trained poll worker would forget the paper ballots. A paper system is simply easier for regular people to understand, so they are less likely to make errors.

      What we really need is for one of these electronic voting systems to produce an outrageous, obviously bogus outcome (like electing Fidel Castro governor of Maryland or something). Maybe th
      • by Qzukk (229616)
        One already gave Al Gore a negative number of votes, but when anyone brings that up, the Bush fans just start chating "gore lost get over it" over and over in a monotonous hum until nothing seems to matter any more.
    • by cowscows (103644) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @03:04PM (#16091252) Journal
      Ok, so even if there wasn't any intentional wrong doing here, I think this is a pretty straight-forward example of where technology is not the best solution to a problem.

      Electronic voting machines just add another big layer of complexity to a process that really doesn't need to be so hard. A paper ballot has just two parts, the ballot sheet and a pen. If the ballot sheet breaks, the voter can just grab a new one, and the whole process gets held up for a minute, instead of hours or more. If someone forgets the pens, you can run to corner store and grab a box, or chances are enough of the first batch of voters will happen to have pens with them that they don't mind leaving behind.

      Instead we have computerized machines that require specialized knowledge to set up and service, and which can break in a huge number of ways.

      Even a secure, tamperproof, open-sourced electronic voting machine is a waste of money. The only problem it solves is speeding up the tallying of votes. And all that is really good for is letting the media report on partial results before half the people out there have even had a chance to vote. That benefit hardly seems worth the extra complexity or cost.
      • by ScentCone (795499)
        Electronic voting machines just add another big layer of complexity to a process that really doesn't need to be so hard. A paper ballot has just two parts, the ballot sheet and a pen. If the ballot sheet breaks, the voter can just grab a new one, and the whole process gets held up for a minute, instead of hours or more. If someone forgets the pens, you can run to corner store and grab a box, or chances are enough of the first batch of voters will happen to have pens with them that they don't mind leaving be
  • It's Moe and Curly: I thought you had the voting cards! Well I thought YOU had the voting cards!! Repeat, inserting occasional slap to face and two-fingered eye poke.
  • ...as a Florida resident, we stand ready to annex^H^H^H^H^H assist you should the need arise.
  • Havoc (Score:4, Funny)

    by MobyDisk (75490) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @02:56PM (#16091170) Homepage
    Havoc (hav'-uhk) - noun: great destruction or devastation; ruinous damage.

    I don't like the voting machines, but it doesn't help to have sensationalist articles against them. This is akin to someone forgetting to bring the power cords.
  • by eno2001 (527078) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @02:57PM (#16091174) Homepage Journal
    I was assured by Diebold's press releases that there's nothing to worry about. Just don't look behind the green curtain and everything will be fine...
  • I actually RTFA... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TWX (665546) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @02:57PM (#16091181)
    ...and I'm outright amazed.

    Based on how the equipment in Arizona works, I suggest the following: If one has a voter registration card then the voter should be able in this technological era to go to any balloting site and with the card have the appropriate PAPER ballot generated on the spot. If they're not at the normal for that precinct then their ballot, after being optically scanned is fed into a seperately collated output bin so that it can be sent to the proper storage bin later. This allows people to vote for their district regardless of where they happen to physically go to cast. I also suggest that anyone over hte age of 18 who is a citizen be able to vote so long as they can get to a polling place, and that everyone that has any kind of government-issued ID is automatically registered simply by obtaining that ID. This eliminates people being disenfranchised on account of name confusion with convicted felons, which was a documented problem in Florida in 2000. It also ensures that every American Gets The Right To Vote and doesn't infringe on anyone. Yeah, some won't like convicted felons voting, but if they've been released from prison and are part of the civilian population then they've been released back to society and therefore should be let to vote, in my humble opinion.

    The more complex the voting system gets the worse the process gets. Yeah, it's labor-intensive to physically count ballots, but we must maintain a paper record of all voting activities in case the electronic count doesn't work. The optical-scan ballots allow for that, and still give us the near-instant return that we like without compromising the ability to audit or recount.
  • Maryland should just outsource it to India! http://www.eci.gov.in/EVM/index.htm [eci.gov.in]
  • by porkchop_d_clown (39923) <mwheinzNO@SPAMme.com> on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @02:59PM (#16091193) Homepage
    this fiasco is brought to you by the people who insisted that the old, manual, punch-card machines were too unreliable to be trusted.
  • Now, I'm as voraciously against computerized voting as anyone (I voted in DC today, and you now have a choice.) But this is NOT the fault of the voting machine per se, but of the people who forgot to pack the damn cards in the box. If they forgot the paper ballots, they'd have the same problem. Let's be careful not to use a poor argument against this type of voting system when there are so many good arguments out there. It just gives proponents of electronic voting an easy straw man argument to tear down
  • by plopez (54068) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @03:05PM (#16091271) Journal

    Just eliminate voting. It is apparent that voting is a bad idea that *just doesn't work*. I mean the free market can and *should* be allowed to solve all of our governance problems and so we should just auction off our federal, local and state governments to the highest bidders; who will eliminate taxes and replace them with 'users fees'. Though corporate users will get breaks and 'bulk discounts' since they are so important for the economy and preserving freedom.

    Really, anything else is just creeping socialism.
  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @03:07PM (#16091285) Homepage Journal
    From Page 3 of the article in Howard County:


    Poll workers found that screens on new electronic poll books froze or shut down as they tried to record arriving voters.

    Note that these are the books which are supposed to record who has shown up. In other words, there may not be a way to verify who showed up and voted and in some cases people might be able to vote twice.

    Also from Page 3:

    At Luxmanor Elementary School in Rockville, Larry Schleifer cast a provisional ballot, then groused that it would not be counted along with the electronic tallies expected later in the day. He said he was frustrated that no one had crossed his name off the voter registry when he was handed a paper ballot and was concerned that election workers would not keep track of who had done what.

    "What's going to stop somebody from voting twice?" he fumed. "I think it's unconscionable that this has happened."

    See my above quote regarding double-voting.

    Continuing from Page 3:

    Bernice Wuethrich, voting at Grace United Methodist Church on New Hampshire Avenue, said she cast her ballot on the electronic machines after they were up and running. But even then, she said, not everyone's name was coming up on the computer.

    "They don't have a printed list" of eligible voters, "they don't have a backup," Wuethrich said. "So when the computer goes down, they can't even look at a list to see who's eligible to vote."

    Hmmm, no paper trail to verify who can vote. Sounds suspiciously like the call for a paper trail for your actual vote.

    Still futher on:

    Louise Bradley said she arrived at her polling station after the electronic cards had been delivered, but her card did not work properly. When she got to the section of the ballot listing candidates for the Democratic central committee, it was already filled out. Bradley said she had to remove the computer's choices and insert her own.

    So anyone who didn't notice the selections could have inadvertently cast a wrong vote. Yes, this is user error but also computer error. There should never, EVER, be any selection already chosen when one uses an electronic machine.

    The issue is both user error, for forgetting the cards, but also programming and equipment error on both voting machines and registration books. I can't wait for the lawsuits to fly after this fiasco. If nothing else hopefully this incident will encourage more people to force their officials to have paper ballots which can always be gone back to to be counted.

    I'm not sure why one even needs an electronic registration book. The big paper ones we use in my area have worked since I was able to vote (a few decades in case you were wondering).

    • From Page 3

      Another good example of why websites that break their stories into pages are useless. Just from the /. posts, you can tell that nobody reads past page 1 when they do that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by plopez (54068)
      Bradley said she had to remove the computer's choices and insert her own.
      So anyone who didn't notice the selections could have inadvertently cast a wrong vote.

      And just as bad, how do we know she did not wipe someone elses vote out in the process?

  • Why?? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ohell (821700) on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @06:13PM (#16092765)
    Maybe one of you Americans can enlighten me on this: why do you need voting machines so much that you have been trying to make them work in spite of all the problems? What is the problem they are meant to solve? The whole world votes by marking slips of paper, that are counted n times by different volunteers under controlled conditions & counts cross-checked to guard against errors, and there is a recount if the ballot is close. The system works, is reliable, accountable, is amenable to auditing etc. What is the problem voting machines are trying to solve? Is it that it that Americans are so busy pursuing liberty, happiness, American dream, evil-doers or whatever that there are never enough to volunteer to count the votes? Is it that the no amount of oversight over humans by humans can ever gurantee 100% accuracy? Is it that touch screens just seem like the way to go in the 21st century? If there is one thing I have learnt in this industry, it is that computer systems do not scale beyond a point (which is much lower than the volume/complexity required when you take whole populations into account), notwithstanding the hype by the likes of Accenture etc. For example, you can consider any government project to 'modernize' large departments. In the UK, I can reel off so many: court records, post office, health service - all of them unqualified disasters. And ID card scheme is supposed to be massively over budget as well... good for the vendors, I guess.
  • by Peter Mork (951443) <Peter.Mork@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @06:14PM (#16092774) Homepage

    Holy incomplete journalism, Batman! The delay was not because of computer problems. The delay was due to incomplete packets being sent to the polling locations. This could happen with computerized voting, with paper ballots, or with clay tablets. The organizers forgot to include the plastic cards that are inserted into the voting computer. If this were purely paper-based, it would be like forgetting to include the lock for the ballot box.

    Caveats: I may not be a lawyer, but I do live, vote and electioneer in Montgomery County. Also, please don't interpret this post as an indication that I like computerized voting---I deplore Diebold and any voting scheme they support. But, I won't throw my vote away by staying home. Finally, I need to get back out there, so my apologies if this is redundant.

  • It happened to me (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tkrotchko (124118) * on Tuesday September 12, 2006 @11:28PM (#16094174) Homepage
    I live in Montgomery County

    I showed up at the polling place, very smallish in a local elementary school. I knew there were problems because the line was out the door, yet none of the voting booths were busy.

    By the time it got to me, they inserted, the card into the "activation" station, and then they said something like "Oh, the system has crashed again", and they called over the election official. They timed it until it came up and it seemed to be a few minutes. They inserted my card again. They told me "Oh, the system said you already voted" and they called over the election official.

    They ran to the back of the auditorium looking in a big manual. After 10 minutes, they came back and said "The manual is missing the part where it tells us what to do now. You can wait until we get it figured out, fill out a provisional ballet, or come back later". I opted for a provisional ballot which means that your vote is no longer a secret vote, and it takes 5-10 minutes to do, because you have to fill out two forms, and sign in two places.

    I checked out the equipment while I was waiting, and sure enough it was Diebold. When I see this equipment in use, I feel like I might was well take my vote and throw it in the trash. Based on the errors that I saw for other people while I was waiting, the chances of a meaningful result in the primary seem somewhat in doubt.

    We have a very good punch-card system in Montgomery county (nothing like the chad based system in florida) which produced a nice computer card that was obvious if it was correct when it was done and then you dumped it in a ballot box, ensuring anonymity and also making sure your vote was going to be counted as cast.

    This new system did nothing except make a mess.

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