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More Voting Shenanigans in Florida 680

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the just-don't-feed-them-after-midnight dept.
stewwy writes "It looks like the the shenanigans have started already, the Register is running a story about the difficulty early voters are having with casting votes for Democrats." From the article: "The touch-screen gizmos seem strangely attracted to Republican candidates. One voter needed assistance from an election official, and even then, needed three tries to convince the machine that he wanted to vote for Democrat Jim Davis in the gubernatorial race, not his Republican opponent Charlie Crist."
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More Voting Shenanigans in Florida

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  • User Error (Score:0, Insightful)

    by sycodon (149926) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @02:55PM (#16676713)
    As someone who talks to teachers all day in software support, you'd be surprised how hard it is for people to simply click on the right button.

    Plus, considering that it's Florida, User Error is a good bet.
  • by Lord Bitman (95493) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @03:00PM (#16676837) Homepage
    You seem to have never used a touch screen in your life. Allow me to explain: They are always poorly calibrated peices of shit due to the seperation between the display and the sensors. They often read inputs a bit above or below what you intend to push. Depending on the type of touchscreen, this often is due to the height of the user, though simple poor maintenence is also an issue and can lead to left/right problems as well.
    People in Florida are well known for not knowing what to push based on what they see and how tall they are, see: http://www.newyorkslime.com/florida-ballot.jpg [newyorkslime.com]

    I recommend getting rid of all the short people.
  • by xzvf (924443) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @03:04PM (#16676937)
    The Register read an article at the Miami Herald saying people were having trouble voting. The Miami Herald reported the experience of some (one or two users) and some hearsay about poll workers saying it happens all the time. How about the journalist at the Miami Herald trying to get more information. Both Democrat and Republican reps are at every polling station. Election officials are known people. Other people are voting early. Put some meat on the story.
  • by creimer (824291) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @03:07PM (#16677007) Homepage
    ... so now why would I want to be taxed out the ass to help a bunch of lazy people on social programs.

    Your generous support is helping the lazy rich stay of politics so they can give their money to the lazy people on social programs. You just gotta love being a middle class taxpayer.
  • by soft_guy (534437) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @03:14PM (#16677141)
    Touch screens can be aligned and then they are not hard to use. Alignment does not have to be a lengthy process, nor is it difficult, nor does it have to be done often. Anyone who ever used a Newton or Palm knows this.
  • by Hijacked Public (999535) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @03:17PM (#16677209)
    Touchscreens are used extensively in the manufacturing industry for operator/machine interfaces. Some of the better HMI packages even have built in drivers and calibration.

    These screens are used by people of widely varying height, vision, mental bandwidth, sometimes wearing gloves and sometimes not. They are also exposed to dust and sand and solvents and grease.

    While I agree that people have a hard time knowing what to push I wouldn't blame the screens. If someone can't cobble together a reliable touch interface that doesn't need to be calibrated in the field, for a system will run only one application, they are either incompetent or purposely screwing up. The latter would be my guess.
  • Re:Nice summary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SpeedBump0619 (324581) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @03:34PM (#16677589)
    You know, If I were going to try to be subtle about hacking these machines I would do it pretty much exactly this way. Randomly bias towards the candidates I want selected, in the knowledge that most people don't really check their ballots thoroughly.

    What I'd need though is an easy out in case it gets detected...some way to allow the blame to be placed on something that can be 'fixed'. Maybe the touch-screen alignment? That's a great idea...I'll just make it so that my random bias hack is temporarilly disabled when the touch sceen calibration routine is executed. That way the pollsters have a simple fix that seems reasonable. I'm sure it will be one of the first things they try if anyone complains.
  • Re:Nice summary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Khomar (529552) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @03:38PM (#16677727) Journal
    It is not rocket science to deduct the machines were intentionally miscalibrated - especially when the producer of voting machines happens to be a republican backing company.

    Give me a break! I can just as easily say that all democrats are communists and are helping the Chinese plot an invasion to get some American territory (and women!). Have we become so cynical that we believe the absolute worst of everyone? (Answer: yes) I think everyone needs to take a chill pill for second. Just because a company can does not mean that they will. It is just as likely that it was a genuine mistake that just happened to appear slanted toward Democrats. Remember, we all have a tendency to find patterns [slashdot.org] that conform to our personal bias. Until there is actual proof of intentional tampering, we need to give the benefit of the doubt. Remember, it is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty (regardless what the IRS does).

    This inane bashing of the other party has got to stop. For every attack on Republican ethics, I can guarantee that I can name one for the Democrats. They both seem to be crooked and immoral. The fact is that I don't like either side right now. The Republicans seem to causing more harm than good and have lost their foundation. The Democrats offer no real solutions than to say they would do "better" than the Republicans. Both sides seem to be borderline incompetent (okay... no, the Democrats are incompetent -- this election should probably be won by a landslide, but they insist on shooting themselves in the foot). Until we actually start debating what is actually best for the country instead of what will best push forward our agenda or political party, we will only continue to tear ourselves apart.

    Why can't we just focus on the problems with electronic voting rather than turning it into a political debate? Why can't we just say that the design is flawed and should not be used? A company can have a bad or flawed design without malicious intent. Anyone who doesn't think so hasn't programmed in the business world very long.

  • by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot.kadinNO@SPAMxoxy.net> on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @03:44PM (#16677879) Homepage Journal
    While I agree that people have a hard time knowing what to push I wouldn't blame the screens. If someone can't cobble together a reliable touch interface that doesn't need to be calibrated in the field, for a system will run only one application, they are either incompetent or purposely screwing up. The latter would be my guess.

    I disagree. Never attribute to malice what you can attribute to idiocy, carelessness, ignorance, stupidity, incompetence, or laziness; particularly in combination with each other.

    That the machines are just poorly-thought-out, poorly-engineered, poorly-constructed, poorly-maintained piles of shit, seems far more likely than such an obvious conspiracy.

    I suspect that people cutting corners and generally being lazy or careless results in the deaths of more people every year than intentional, thoughtful acts of evil do. Probably a lot more.

    There is a finite amount of evil in the world, but an infinite amount of stupidity.
  • by killjoe (766577) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @03:59PM (#16678189)
    Even if it was the voting machine randomly switching votes isn't that something to be concerned about? You make it sound like if the votes were switched randomly everything is hunky dory.

    Having said that...

    1) There is documented evidence of votes for democrats going to republicans.
    2) There is no documented evidence of votes for republicans going to democrats.
    3) The elections office is being run by republicans.
    4) The voting machines are made by a company which is being run by an avid republican supporter.

    If you want to keep pretending that this is some minor glitch then go ahead.

  • Re:Nice summary (Score:3, Insightful)

    by radtea (464814) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @04:15PM (#16678561)
    The truth is, these machines are just poorly designed and implemented, irrespective of who made them or the makers' political affiliation.

    JUST poorly designed and implemented?

    So that's ok then, is it?

    As near as I can tell, rabid partisanship has reached the point in the U.S. where no issue matters unless it is a partisan issue. This would explain all the utterly moronic responses to this article that suggest "this is no big deal because it's JUST gross incompetence on the part of the machine manufacturer. After all, it's not like this is something REALLY IMPORTANT like Republicans versus Democrats!"

    Except that to anyone who hasn't been lobotomized by party loyalty, nothing is more important than a reliable, trusted electoral system.

    And the terrifying thing is that there does not seem to be anyone like that left in the United States.
  • by KFury (19522) * on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @04:48PM (#16679143) Homepage
    Speaking as a UI designer, there's an easy way to counter minor calibration drift: Give people large buttons.

    Most races have a small number of candidates, and giving users the largest possible button drastically decreases misvotes. Interestingly, the larger the button, the more the user will press the center of it, resulting in fewer miscalibration (or, more likely in a voting environment, parallax) issues.

    It would be interesting to run a few empirical tests and see if the calibration drifts depending on whether the democrat or republican is listed first.

    Another good answer would be to unobtrusively recalibrate for each user by giving them a few simple 'press here to continue' screens.
  • by Progoth (98669) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @06:36PM (#16681213) Homepage
    I have total control of the voting machines, and I'm going to fix the election. I need some help though...I have a hard decision to make...

    Should I a) let the voter choose whatever he or she wants, and then assign all the votes to my candidate? or b) randomly have the machine reassign input to choose my candidate, giving them a chance to verify and correct their vote?

    I just don't know...this is such a tough decision...I must not be cut out for this election stealing business.
  • Re:Excellent! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @07:02PM (#16681553)
    Most of the media does not lean left. You meant to say that most of the reporters employed by the media lean to the left. What does the political leanings of a company's employees have to do with its own political ties?


    As far as Democratic stories getting buried: Yep, I remember 1994 - 2000. No stories about Democrats in the news at all. You're an idiot, but I'm not surprised. It's sort of a prerequisite for your political persuasion. Your last two sentences have assisted in making my case.

    Another angry Democrat posting anonymously. As for 1994-2000, positive economic stories abounded during those years. Yet today we're looking at a booming economy with an unemployment rate even lower than Clinton's era, and you don't see that trumpeted by the press at all like during the Clinton years, do you? Pretty interesting how that works out. Have you examined the political leanings of the last few New York Times editors? Have you read into why CNN's head exec Eason Jordan resigned after certain anti-military comments (I wonder if you even know about it, since the press buried it even though it would be plastered all over the media if it was a Fox News exec)?

    Heck, Newsweek was going to bury the Monica Lewinsky story at the request of the Clinton administration, but the Drudge Report caught wind and exposed it. If a Republican president had an affair with an intern, it would be instant front page news on the New York Times. If it's a Democrat, it gets buried at the last minute by Newsweek's higher-ups who deem it as "non-news."

    Why do you think conservatives dominate talk radio and political blogs? It's because they feel like they don't have a fair outlet in the mainstream press, so they took over an alternative market to get their voice out, and the market responded enthusiastically. It's not a comment on which side is right or wrong; it's just a point to illustrate how fucked up politics is due to extremists filtering the facts on either side. You have to navigate the sea of bias to get the facts from both sides.
  • Re:Excellent! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @07:06PM (#16681597)
    Accidentally left out my response to this:

    Most of the media does not lean left.

    According to the study, it does. Another recent study done shows that mid-term election coverage in the media, again, heavily favors the Democrats. The New York Times recently endorsed Democrats across the board for the first time in its history--no Republicans at all.

    You meant to say that most of the reporters employed by the media lean to the left.

    No, I didn't.

    What does the political leanings of a company's employees have to do with its own political ties?

    A lot. The net result is a filter on the news you see and hear and a relentless denial from its enablers.
  • by weston (16146) <westonsd.canncentral@org> on Wednesday November 01, 2006 @07:35PM (#16681991) Homepage
    ... it's best to be alert for it.

    Have we become so cynical that we believe the absolute worst of everyone?

    In politics? It's not hard. This has nothing to do with political philosophy, and everything to do with actions that look shady, both circumstantially and concretely. Perhaps you've heard about the recent campaign letter in Orange County discouraging immigrants? Perhaps you've heard about the groups threatening individuals with arrest if they show up at the pools, or telling that 'Democrats vote on Wednesday'? Blackwell's management of voter registration in Ohio 2004?

    I'm not about to argue the Democrats have a clean history in this regard. Evidence of machines making it difficult to vote for Republicans is equally worthy of investigation. However, there's ample evidence there are people in both parties -- *Republicans Included* -- who are willing to cheat. The motive's there. The means and opportunity are documented. That makes it nearly inevitable, so when some voting trouble comes up that looks and quacks like a duck....

    The Democrats offer no real solutions than to say they would do "better" than the Republicans

    First of all, even *assuming* all the Democrats have to offer over the Republicans is that they're not the current crop of Republicans, that's still a virtue. Expressing disapproval is a real form of feedback. Turning over ineffective officials may not get you who you want immediately, but it's absolutely necessary if you want change, and it tells politicians who NOT to be.

    Second of all, while the statement 'Democrats offer no real solutions' may be true of a given candidate, and while it's more largely true in terms of campaign tactics (which value rhetoric over substance), I'd say that phrase far more commonly means "I'm unfamiliar with the Democratic candidate's policy positions." I can't count the number of times that people said that about Kerry during 2004, but when I'd follow up with something like "So, you don't like Kerry's plan for shaping tax incentives to hire domestically?", 90% of them had no idea what I was talking about.

    And the Democratic candidate for Senate I'm supporting this election (Pete Ashdown) has been genuinely expressive about many of his positions and views.

    It's also true, of course, that not every Democrat is a good candidate, nor does every Republican need to be turned out. I simply find that phrases like "the Democrats are just as bad" or "the Democrats have no ideas" to be false.

    Why can't we just focus on the problems with electronic voting rather than turning it into a political debate?

    It's an excellent idea, but for whatever reason, talking ourselves blue on the technical merits of the issue seems to have done nothing to get the population up in arms and our elected officials to do anything.

    I think in the end, the problem isn't that there's partisan accusations of cheating. It's that we seem to have no significant social equipment for investigating the issues without invoking partisan ire.

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