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Information Technology and Voting 128

Posted by kdawson
from the matter-of-trust dept.
ChelleChelle writes, "In an interview in ACM Queue, Douglas W. Jones and Peter G. Neumann attempt to answer the question: Does technology help or hinder election integrity?" From the article: "Work in this area is as politically loaded as work on evolution or stem cells. Merely claiming that research into election integrity is needed is seen by many politicians as challenging the legitimacy of their elections... One of the problems in public discussions of voting-system integrity is that the different participants tend to point to different threats. Election-system vendors and election officials generally focus on effective defense against outside attackers, usually characterized as hackers. Meanwhile, many public interest groups have focused on the possibility of election officials corrupting the results."
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Information Technology and Voting

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  • Motives (Score:4, Insightful)

    by peacefinder (469349) * <alan.dewitt@ g m a i l . com> on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @04:27PM (#16756629) Journal
    "Election-system vendors and election officials generally focus on effective defense against outside attackers, usually characterized as hackers."

    Absolutely untrue. What could be more hacker-proof than a paper ballot system?

    No, what election officials evidently want is speed and ease-of-use. Hopefully they also want accuracy and precision, but the evidence suggests that many don't value those as highly.

    What election-system vendors want is money. They make promises regarding speed, ease-of-use, accuracy, and precision to get that money. They may have excellent intentions, too, but its the profit that motivates them.

    "Meanwhile, many public interest groups have focused on the possibility of election officials corrupting the results."

    That's always been a problem. It's just that now, the inner workings of many election systems are no longer observable. That makes it very difficult to verify the integrity of the election process.
    • by SpaceLifeForm (228190) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @04:35PM (#16756785)
      The DRE machines are actually slowing down the voting
      process, leading to long lines, with waits in the hours.

      Many people can't wait that long and have to go to work.
      • by TommydCat (791543)
        Most states have laws requiring employers to give adequate leave for their employees to vote. Perhaps I should find a busy polling place and use it as an excuse to take the day off, though I promise to send in my absentee ballot ;)
        • by omeomi (675045)
          Perhaps I should find a busy polling place and use it as an excuse to take the day off, though I promise to send in my absentee ballot ;)

          The question is, are you most likely to find that "busy polling place" in poorer arears that are more likely to vote for democrats, essentially disenfranchising the voters who are least likely to be able to show up late for work because they're voting? That's what happened hear in Chicago in 2004. There were a number of overcrowded polling places on the poorer south si
          • My polling place is at a very nice country club. I've never had to wait in a line of any sort, and we don't use those Diebold touchscreen voting contraptions. We fill in little ovals. It's been that way since I moved here 4 years ago.

            Well, I live in a place that's fairly affluent, or at least becoming fairly affluent -- we have a Panera Bread, an Applebees, etc, though a few years ago it was farm country - - but our polling place, like all in my home state of Michigan, is in a local public school building.

            W

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Tuirn (717203)
          while it's true that in many place, employers are require to give adequate leave for employees to vote. Most employees are payed hourly and won't received any money for standing around in line all day. The poor and even the middle class can't afford to do this living pay check to pay check. Today should be a national payed holiday.
          • by tdelaney (458893)
            Australia makes it simple. All voting is done on a Saturday. The vast majority of people do not work on a Saturday.

            Provisions are made for people who have religious beliefs preventing them voting on a Saturday.
          • by TommydCat (791543)
            Some states make this paid timeoff [nfib.com]. For those states that don't require paid timeoff, or do not require timeoff at all, go vote on your dime for someone that will make this happen! ;)
      • Larimer County offered voters a choice between optically scanned paper ballots and Diebold touch-screen systems. Based on a small, highly unscientific sample (those present when and where I voted), signs point to a landslide victory for paper and ink. The twenty or so paper ballot booths were filled to capacity, but the handful of touchscreen booths were mostly vacant. This was likely influenced by the HBO documentary [slashdot.org], as well as the touch screen booths having no privacy curtains so that the screens were in
    • Perception (Score:5, Insightful)

      by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @04:41PM (#16756875)
      What they want is perceived hacker-proofness. Joe Sixpack can easily think of ways in which a paper ballot could go wrong (stuffing, losing papers, miscounts), but cannot think of easy ways to hack an electronic system. Therefore to Joe Sixpack, the electronic systemm seems more secure.

      Remember in politics truth is putty.

    • How can they take offense to the people wanting transparency in elections? It is by the consent of the people that government is deemed legitimate, at least here. If the people demand to know elections are fair before giving that consent it is their prerogative -- some would even say, duty.

      And with RovoCalls and voter list purging and obvious conflicts of interest all over the place, who really can be blamed for wanting some level of assurance that the procedures and structure of election administration i
    • It's just that now, the inner workings of many election systems are no longer observable. That makes it very difficult to verify the integrity of the election process.

      “Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.” — Joseph Stalin

      • While Stalin's statement is often a good approximation of the short-run results, its important to remember that regardless of political system, the mass of the people are always in charge, and decide everything based on whether or not they decide to accept the people that claim authority, whether based on supposed divine authority, votes (honest or forged), some strain of political theory, or whatever other basis. As Stalin's successors in the Communist Party eventually discovered.
    • What could be more hacker-proof than a paper ballot system?

      Well, as far as malicious electronic hacking goes, you are correct, and I'm not gonna disagree with the spirit of your statement. However, a dedicated individual can still do a lot of damage to paper ballots. Its not as easy as twiddling a few bits, but it can be done. A few dedicated individuals working together can cause even more havok. Also, given that the voting machines are not networked, this means that one person hacking one machine
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by peacefinder (469349) *
        Ars Technica [arstechnica.com] detailed a plausible transmission path for a viral hack on a single machine to spread to the precinct, county, or even state level.
      • ...given that the voting machines are not networked...

        This statement is unsubstantiated, and should be retracted.

        Every system which is capable of being reprogrammed is 'networked'. The network may be sneakernet, but it is networked none the less.

        Many electronic voting machines do have modems or other network cards for reporting or maintenance purposes. Those which do not generally receive updates and programming through smart cards, which are as capable of bearing malicious content as any other data t

    • by kfg (145172)
      No, what election officials evidently want is speed and ease-of-use. Hopefully they also want accuracy and precision, but the evidence suggests that many don't value those as highly.

      See SQL.

      KFG
    • by krlynch (158571)
      What could be more hacker-proof than a paper ballot system?

      Rewind to the turn of the last century, and the invention of the mechanical vote tabulating machines. You know, the machines with the big levers that closed the curtain behind you? You selected your candidate by pushing a little lever down, and then registered your votes by pulling the big lever the other way. The machine went "CHUNK", registered your vote, reset all the little levers, and opened the curtain so you could leave. What was one of t

    • Voting by mail would remove some of the worst opportunities to screw with the ballots themselves. Instead of thousands of decentralized places where ballots are accumulated, with varying degrees of training and quality of equipment, ballots should be mailed in to fewer centralized places where they can be counted with more oversight and more accuracy. Delivery of the ballots would be by US Mail, which has existing mechanisms in place to investigate theft of mail.

      Plus, the ballots arrive before the election
      • I live in a jurisdiction where we vote by mail in municipal elections. The system is fairly neat and tidy.

        The only thing that I don't like about it is cuts a week from the time I have to evaluate the candidates because the ballot needs to be posted sufficiently early to arrive at a central location by election day. It's not a show stopper but it's a bit hard sometimes to arrange things so that I can make an informed choice by the week before election day.

        I've spoken with a host of people who've expressed th
      • As it happens, I live in Oregon.

        Vote by mail does have a really big impact on turnout levels. It also speeds up final counts quite a bit, because the county elections offices can start counting a huge pile of early returns first thing in the morning instead of waiting for precinct deliveries. (In my county, about 44% of ballots were at the elections office by Monday at noon.)

        VBM comes with its own problems, of course. It makes easier various sorts of retail fraud such as false registrations, voter intimidat
        • by mpe (36238)
          Larger scale fraud includes collecting ballot envelopes from voters for delivery, and throwing out ones belonging to voters with the "wrong" registration.

          In most parts of the world the only public information about voters is their name and address. The majority of people are not members of any political party and it's perfectly possible for someone to be a member of more than one party. The only information political parties on how people are likely to vote are their own membership lists and "canvas retur
    • Absolutely untrue. What could be more hacker-proof than a paper ballot system?

      I'd hardly call paper ballots "hacker-proof", maybe "computer-hacker-proof" but paper ballots can be hacked any number of ways (ballot stuffing, spoiling, ballots going missing, simply being miscounted etc.). Voter fraud existed even way back when paper ballots were the only option.

      That being said I like the optical-scanner/paper ballot system they use in my state. It provides a nice balance, presumably impartial machines do
    • by PDAllen (709106)
      A paper ballot is obviously proof against electronic tampering. That doesn't make it perfect - after all, if you keep your money stuffed in a mattress it's safer from hackers than if you had it in a bank (as electronic records). But in the former case you will lose everything if a thief comes round.

      The problem you have is that you want an election system where only the voter knows how they voted (to avoid intimidation et cetera) but also the counting is verifiably accurate. Unfortunately these aren't compat
  • Does technology help or hinder election integrity?

    Warning: That question makes the assumption that "election integrity" actually even exists at all in the first place.

  • In the end... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Otter (3800) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @04:31PM (#16756701) Journal
    The bottom line is that regardless of technology, there's an absolute need for:

    1) Sincere trust in the vote-counting process

    2) Sufficient respect for the system to not make gratuitous accusations

    To the degree that people rightly, wrongly or dishonestly don't buy into the system, there's no technology that can prevent that.

    That said, that security researcher who is allways linked here, who argues for pencil and paper even though the blurbs always make him out to be a fellow source code-fetishist, is spot-on.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Salvance (1014001) *
      Your first two points are spot on. However, I have to disagree when you say:

      To the degree that people rightly, wrongly or dishonestly don't buy into the system, there's no technology that can prevent that.

      People trust technology when there is sufficient evidence that the technology is trustworthy, reliable, and sufficiently tested. When technology experts say "this is rock solid", people trust that. Up until now, there has been far more skepticism and, at best, guarded optimism surrounding the new vot

      • by Otter (3800)
        People trust technology when there is sufficient evidence that the technology is trustworthy, reliable, and sufficiently tested. When technology experts say "this is rock solid", people trust that.

        See, I just don't believe that. The appeal of conspiracy theories or cheap-ass cynicism is a lot stronger for some people than the facts. It's a social issue, not technical.

        On the other hand (and maybe this is your point), you do want to have technology that rational, fair people do fully trust. Plus you want it

    • by am-not (704414)
      In most any democracy there has been a history of cheating. Disenfranchising and harassing minority voters, gerrymandering voting districts, outright bribery of voters, it's a long list. But it becomes impossible to have transparency and verifiability if the voting methods are hinged on private company secrets and an obfuscated (or absent) transaction trail. Having a paper tape inside the voting machine is not transparent.

      If your voting experience is like the one reported by CBS News [cbs4.com], or if you are an offic
      • by Otter (3800)
        Obviously I'm not opposed to making voting technology better. (Which doesn't necessarily mean making it higher-tech.) My point was that you can't eliminate paranoids and cynics through technology, regardless of how good it gets.
        • by Ash Vince (602485)
          Eliminate paranoids and cynics?

          I have better idea, lets eliminate gullible morons instead.

          Oh wait, were talking about America so we would have to get rid of the whole goddamn country.
    • Eventually, though, we'll realize that even paper ballots are insecure: ballot stuffing, counterfeiting, etc. NO system is truly safe from fraud. There will always be someone (or ones) willing and able to find a way to cheat the system.
  • by ribuck (943217) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @04:32PM (#16756717) Homepage
    Technology hinders election integrity. How can you beat the integrity of a paper vote system, where the ballots are removed from sealed ballot boxes and counted immediately at the close of polling, with scrutineers from each party watching? There's very little scope for mischief.

    Why bother bringing technology into the voting system? Polls are infrequent, so there's no real cost benefit to automation. It's not like voting is being done every day and needs to be automated.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by UbuntuDupe (970646)
      I agree, and think this is one instance of a more general mentality of "more advanced technology = better" -- a mentality people should dump ASAP. It's the attitude that makes software bloat right as computational power increases (Microsoft, I'm looking in your general direction). It's the attitude that says people should shift movie formats every 6-7 years (Sony, I'm looking in your general direction).

      It's not Luddism if you want a new technology to actually be an improvement before you switch to using i
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DarkBlackFox (643814)
      Where I voted this morning, we had paper ballots that were fed into an optical scan machine (by Diebold). The ballot was handed to me after I checked in, and each polling station had a hidden desktop with a felt-tip pen. All I had to do was fill in the circles corresponding to whatever candidate I wished to cast my vote for (much like a standardized test). When I was done filling in the circles, I took it over to the big machine, where a poll worker watched me insert it, and made sure the machine process
      • by Fahrenheit 450 (765492) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @04:57PM (#16757127)
        The only way to really screw up a system like that is in the optical recognition software, which I'd hope is tested by poll workers before the polls actually open. And even then, with the paper ballots being retained inside, it's easy enough to do a manual recount.

        Many counters have counting registers that can be set to start at any offset you like. Start one candidate at +X votes and the other at -Y and so long as X and Y are in the statistical noise you've done your part to help rig an election without giving anyone reason to call for a recount.

        Now, given a properly designed electronic system with voter verifiability, any joe can head out to someone he trusts (his computer, the Library, the League of Women Voters, the local Republicrat party office, all of the above) and have them verify that his vote was registered correctly and added into the final count correctly, and you can catch cheating at a very fine level (of course we'd still need to define policy for how to launch an investigation, but evidence gathering can be done by anyone). You can't get that with paper.
        • Many counters have counting registers that can be set to start at any offset you like. Start one candidate at +X votes and the other at -Y and so long as X and Y are in the statistical noise you've done your part to help rig an election without giving anyone reason to call for a recount.

          Which is why any system with electronic counters must feature full-manual-count audit of randomly selected precincts, preferably by persons not responsible to the people immediately responsible for running the election and d

        • by PDAllen (709106)
          So how do you design an electronic system with individual voters able to verify the total count?

          (hint: not possible unless you introduce a 'trusted body' who is allowed to know who everyone voted for)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Chandon Seldon (43083)

        Optical scan vote counting is potentially a good idea, but it leaves a loophole compared to hand counting the ballots.

        Consider the following situation from the 2004 election:

        In one of the counties in Ohio, computer counted ballots were used. When a presidential candidate challenged the results and suggested a recount, the county election officials first recounted a random 3% of the county votes as required by Ohio state law. When that 3% showed no discrepancies with the computer vote totals, the recount w

        • by svallarian (43156)
          Check out the video, they presorted a 3% sample to where there would not be a discrepancy. Sometimes I think this is more incompetence than conspiracy.

      • by Dirtside (91468)

        That was also easy enough, but mechanical machines like that are prone to more common failures, which was the primary reason for going with the electronic machines.

        There are a LOT of other ways for a mechanical voting system to work without having to rely on an electronic machine. In California, we use something called "InkaVote" which is basically an ink-tipped prod that you use to mark your votes. The ballot slip slides firmly into the voting machine, and you flip the pages over and put a mark next to e

    • by loolgeek (717288)
      I can't agree more ! Keep it simple guys. papers + envelope + curtain is the key. No pencil, just paper, like that there is no problem mis-interpretation. Just put papers you agree on (Yes for prop. 87, No for prop. 92, etc.) in on single envelope, and put the envelope in the box. The curtain is important too. It means that you and only you decided without third-party influence what to put in your envelope. Once the envelope is in the box, it is totally anonymous, nobody can figure out what you voted
    • by mpe (36238)
      Technology hinders election integrity. How can you beat the integrity of a paper vote system, where the ballots are removed from sealed ballot boxes and counted immediately at the close of polling, with scrutineers from each party watching? There's very little scope for mischief.

      It depends what the technology is. "Voting machines" remove transparancy from the process. Whereas having video cameras view the ballot box increases transparancy. Another userful technological addition would be to have ballot box
  • The amazing power of the microprocessor has become the "magic" of the 21st century. Security threat from terrorists? Make face recognizing, profiling, data sniffing software. Problems with elections? We need electronic voting!

    While the concept of a truly programmable tool is an amazing and powerful thing, we have to remember that some tools are just not right for some jobs.

    It has always seemed to me that Godel implies that 1) computers aren't great for security/intelligence work, and 2) computers
  • Yes that's it! I think it's stupid to bring votes into a world were copying only takes a fraction of a second and where it's easy to monitor something AND it's easy to control and abuse things if YOU made the system, before you have the technical means to guarantee safety, whether it's for integrity, copying or the ability to have everything checked by independant(i.e. independant, not "independant") inspectors.

    For the copying music industry, communities and various other businesses have already presented v
  • by Maclir (33773) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @04:39PM (#16756833) Journal
    The most important part of any electoral system is that the general public must have confidence that the system is transparent and fair. That is, that everyone who votes has their vote recorded exactly as they cast it, and that there are built in checks and balances that make sure any attempt to defraud or corrupt the system are caught before the process is altered.


    If people have no faith in the validity of the process - then the legitimacy of the results are shrouded in doubt - and then the basis of the democratic system starts to fall apart.


    So by using technology the way the US is - no method to independently verify counts, no unalterable audit trail, lack of confidence in the integrity of the system - has not just hampered the process, but is severely damaging it

  • by deinol (210478) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @04:40PM (#16756843) Homepage
    But my experience here in Orange County, CA with electronic voting was quite good. The click wheel interface looked the same as I remembered last election, and the device was easy to use. At the end of selection, it has you verify your votes on the screen in a final summary page. It then prints your votes on a sheet of paper and has you verify it again. Thusit has: ease of use, electronic counting, and paper trail for verification. I can't complain.

    So while there may be a ton of voting systems that are flawed, it seems there are some excellent vendors out there. Now if only we could get more precincts to use the good systems.
    • by darkonc (47285)
      That was pretty much the point of the article -- A properly designed system with a voter-verified paper trail has the redundancy and internal checks and balances needed to endure voter confidence -- Unfortunately, a very large number of voting systems do not have the kinds of proper design processes that you encountered.

      Things like smart cards are nothing more than bling-bling. There's no way for the average voter (or even the average voting official) to recognize if one of those things has been compro

  • .. of internet voting! Cut to four years later.... 'So, remind me again, how did we end up with a bunch of clones of Hank the Angry Drunk Dwarf running congress?'
    • by Pompatus (642396)
      People have written in Micky Mouse for congress for years, with no success. I believe internet voting is a great idea. You could print a receipt if a paper trail were that important. Personally, I'm not going to vote because it's too much of a hassle. I don't worry about people "stealing" my vote online either. Anytime people complain that I don't vote, I make an offer to them. If they give me $5 and get an absentee ballot for me to fill out, and provide money for postage, I'll vote however they want.
  • I got a music funny video [youtube.com] in my email today that's entirely dependent on info technology, and which is all about voting.
  • Robot (R-NE) (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @04:50PM (#16757001) Homepage Journal
    Like even more fraudulent Republican robocalls [blogspot.com] harassing voters, this time in Nebraska?
  • I walked in prepared to wrestle with uncalibrated Diebold machines, and was greeted with the cardboard sheet and pen. It rocked. If you can't figure that one out, you aren't smart enough to cast an informed vote anyway.
  • When the tech is used directly by the people to communicate with each other, like live blogging from the voting in Ohio [progressohio.org], it puts power in people's hands, which can outweigh all the tech power used against the people.
  • by jesterzog (189797) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @04:53PM (#16757051) Homepage Journal

    Election-system vendors and election officials generally focus on effective defense against outside attackers, usually characterized as hackers. Meanwhile, many public interest groups have focused on the possibility of election officials corrupting the results.

    Personally I think the second part of this paragraph is the most important. One of the huge problems with any use of information technology as a fundamental part of an election process is trust. Above anything else, an election system should be trusted by as much of the population as is possible, and to be fully trustworthy, the election process has to be fully visible and understood by as many people as possible.

    It's quite easy for most people to understand a manual election. It's as simple as voters making a mark on a paper ballot, putting it in a secure box, and then having the votes counted afterwards. Any concerned groups from nearly any cross-section of society can examine the process, provide observers, and make sure it's being done properly.

    Wrapping up the selection, verification and counting process inside computers reduces the amount of people who can understand what's happening by orders of magnitude. It doesn't really matter if the voting system is open source, well designed and administered, or whatever. It's always going to exclude the majority of the population from being able to fully understand how it works, and to trust that it's working properly.

    It's quite possible that IT systems can help with elections, and they already are in some places, but I don't personally think they should be used at the expense of a manual process, and I don't think they should be depended on for anything other than an early indication of the result. Voting machines, when used, should always provide voter-verified paper trails that are always deposited in a secure box in a voter-verified way using a fully visible and voter-controlled process. Manual recounts should be mandatory if there's any reasonable doubt of the outcome by anyone.

    • by kvnflynn (614963)
      you are correct. What's most important here is the ability for people to track and verify what has been voted. If we want computers to speed up the counting of votes then we should also have printed verification for the voters as reassurance and redundancy if needed. Most people like to look at this issue from several soapbox point-of-views, but the real reason this is a problem is because it makes the process less transparent and more suspicious than it needs to in order to accomplish the small benefits re
  • The tech is, as usual, neutral. It's the technocrats [buzzflash.com], the people controlling the machine, who determine whether it helps or hurts us.
    • The problem most states have is that they do not have a large pre-existing and non-partisan based bureaucracy in place with a tech background, that possesses an understanding of the potential pitfalls with electronic voting machines, along with vast experience in enforcement. These States should look for help from one that has a long history of dealing with honest and transparent auditing from electronic devices.

      In Nevada, Dean Heller, the Scretary of State, decided to tap the knowledge of the Nevada Gami

      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        I pulled a bunch of metal levers in a booth here in NYC. I've never heard of any tampering with those "iron maidens", in all my years of voting in NY since the 1980s. I have faith in them that's reinforced every time I pull the big red lever back to commit the votes, and hear them actually going into the tape inside.

        In 2008 they'll all be replaced with digital devices, as per the HAVA law Bush's Republican Congress pushed on America. Faith no more.

        I'm looking at voting by mail until those digital devices ar
  • Way I understand it, is that neither has been adequately addressed, despite all of the work that has been done (Ed Felton, Bev Harris, bradblog, the HBO documentary, RFK Jr, and countless others) that specifically states what the problems are w/the technology that is used. Instead, Diebold is whining "Trust us.", while collecting megabucks and going on their merry way.
    • the Greens, the Libertarians, and the Socialists. Yes, the Socialists have done a hell of a lot--just look throughout History, especially Labor History, better yet, read "The Jungle". It demonstrates a complete failure of the free market. Third parties are really working to protect voters rights, while the democrats make speeches and then push it all under the rug and a majority of the republicans who deny a problem exists!
  • The whole point of a democratic system with free speech is that challenges to a solution (either proposed or implemented) are a good thing. If the system survives a well formed (or even an ill-formed) challenge, that only makes it stronger. The 'survival' may require modifications to address the issues raised -- which is also a good thing.

    The presumption that challenging the leadership (including the proprietary of that leadership) is somehow a bad thing is a holdover from the days of kings and dictators

  • Vote By Mail (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @05:02PM (#16757215) Homepage Journal
    Vote By Mail is the answer [buzzflash.com]. To broken/crooked voting machines in polling places, at least. Then we've got to make sure the machines that count the votes aren't broken/crooked. But there's so much fewer of them, not operating in realtime, that it becomes a manageable IT problem rather than an IT nightmare.

    We should probably replace the counting machines with humans, picked from random volunteers and OK'd (and monitored) by each party on the counted ballots, recorded on videotape. One step at a time.
    • Actually, previewing before posting is the answer - to broken posts.

      Vote by Mail [dailykos.com] is the answer to the question of how to vote.
      • Vote By Mail as practiced in Oregon is open to vote buying and voter intimidation.

        I personally think the federal government should step in and remove all the canditates voted in (and overturn all the laws passed) since Vote By Mail was initiated in Oregon, under it's powers to ensure a democratic form of government in each state of the union.

        Unlike absentee ballots Vote By Mail ballots are not invalidated by a vote on election day but are in leu of a real vote and so it does not have the same protection aga
        • I personally think the federal government should step in and remove all the canditates voted in (and overturn all the laws passed) since Vote By Mail was initiated in Oregon, under it's powers to ensure a democratic form of government in each state of the union.


          The federal government has no power to ensure a democratic form of government in each state.

          It has an obligation to ensure a republican form of government in each state.

    • by Doc Ruby (173196)
      On the other hand, Vote by Mail lets people "oversee" the person filling out the ballot before it goes in the inner "secret" envelope. Husbands, mothers, priests, union bosses, vote buyers.

      Going to a public polling place, where poll workers can make sure each person votes privately, helps ensure people vote their own way. Sure, their "significant others" can still try to beat them into voting "the right way", but only the voter truly knows what vote they cast when cast alone, but in public.

      Once we can fix t
    • Vote By Mail is the answer.


      Well, its a way of eliminating some problems of vote-by-machine, though of course it necessarily means your ballot being handled by a numebr of relatively unaccountable people between you and the elections office, without even the show effort into security that goes on with paper ballots cast at polling stations.

      • by Doc Ruby (173196)
        Is there any evidence that the pipeline from the mailbox to the counter has any but theoretical vulnerability? All of Oregon and many other districts/fractions have voted by mail for years, so there would be some evidence already if that were a significant risk.
    • by Doc Ruby (173196)
      I was thinking the same thing [slashdot.org] about voter intimidation. And the points about the invalidation are real. Though the buying can be partly mitigated (though, statistically, not nearly eliminated) with overrides.

      The intimidation seems fixable only with traditional voting in public, alone in a supervised booth. To overcome the inconvenience, the booth should issue receipts good for a day off (with two weeks notice) any time until the next election, as a federal holiday. Now, if those days off were tradeable, we
  • That a company that actually knew its ass-end from its elbows could put together a trustworthy voting system that could actually allow votes to be placed over the Internet and verified later by the person who placed them and no one else. If Google took a stab at writing a voting system, for example, I'm sure it'd be awesome and a lot less succeptable to fraud than even the paper ballot system is. I'm really surprised that they haven't done this yet just to prove what a technologically awesome company they a
  • Tech I trust (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Malakusen (961638) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @05:04PM (#16757241) Journal
    I trust technology to let me send emails around the workcenter, I trust it to let me play games on my home system, and I trust it to let me write up form and documents and such, related to work. However, I have had more then enough problems with all of those, with corrupted documents, computer troubles related to gaming, problems with the email servers, and so forth, that I do not trust a computer implicitly to save my life or run an election. Computers are great tools, but they are not perfect tools. I frakking love technology, but that doesn't mean I implicitly support it. I also work with technology enough to realize that it is possible to get a computer to do whatever you want it to, if you know what you're doing. That means I've got little to no trust in the reliability of electronic voting machines and vote counting machines, and nobody else should either.
    • by Moofie (22272)
      Do you trust machines to give you the requisite number of $20 bills? Why should we accept or expect that voting machines should be any less reliable than that?
      • by Moofie (22272)
        Err.../s/machine/ATM
      • by Malakusen (961638)
        I trust that if I do not receive the requisite number of $20 bills, there is actually something I can do about it. I can look at my ATM receipt and count the bills and go "Oh, I was supposed to get $100, but instead I got $80", and I can go into the bank and say "You were supposed to give me $100 from my account, but I only received $80", and so on. There are avenues open to me with an ATM that are not with a voting machine.
  • The IETF sets standards that govern the Internet. We need a comparable body to establish standards for hardware for voting equipment and befoe-and-after testing procedures to ensure software and configuration integrity, coupled with Open-Source software for the voting software itself. Open source software would ensure that the code doesn't have latent (or intentional) bugs. Robust before-and-after testing (e.g., external validation of the software integrity from outside the computer) by law enforcement p
  • ... on whether or not the technology being employed is beyond the capability of the majority of the voters to understand.

    Zero automation voting using paper ballots is fraught with possibilities for error, mostly due to the normal and expected error rates from human counting (and ANY automated system also has a certain error rate that is a function of its design), but including all of the fraudulent errors that interested parties on all sides are wont to insert into the machinery.

    The problem with computerize
  • DENVER - The computer system that checks the registration of voters and allows them to vote was down citywide for around 20 minutes Tuesday afternoon. (Just pulled from www.9news.com)
  • The only way politicians would STOP treating the US as their own private empire and start listening to the people (whom they work for) is if the Justice (ha!) Department investigated ALL instances of voter fraud and charged ALL involved parties with TREASON. Of course all of the charges wouldn't stick, but I'm sure it would make most people sing!.
    Find the ring leaders and, regardless if it includes the President of the US, publicly execute them for High Treason. They've shamlessly destroyed what this cou
  • Information Technology and Voting

    The two are simply incompatible.

    Next?
  • Doug Jones website: (Score:3, Informative)

    by sakusha (441986) on Tuesday November 07, 2006 @10:42PM (#16762379)
    I have posted links to Doug Jones' website on numerous occasions here on Slashdot and this seems like another good time to post them. His reports on the history and theory of voting are excellent.

    In particular, I recommend his essay on Paper Ballots. [uiowa.edu]
    A Brief Illustrated History of Voting [uiowa.edu] is another excellent essay.
    There are dozens of technical essays on voting systems on Jones' main Voting and Elections site. [uiowa.edu]
  • I would like to lay out the fundamental argument against the use of computers anywhere in the chain of voting to vote counting. I don't take this from a luddite stance, but from a Information Theoretic stance. In Computer Science, we study what can and cannot be computed. We have found many limits in what computers can do. Unknown to most people, but there is no such thing as "verifying" a computer program. No process can detect all possible outputs from any sufficiently large computational system. Computer
    • While I don't think computer application is better than hand counting necessarily, I don't think your argument prove that it is necessarily worse. The fact is hand counting has its error rates also. There is no way to verify it either except by hand counting it again. It would take an infinite iteration of this to make the error go to zero in the general case.

      As other have said, it has the benefit of simplicity and trust, but it is not necessarily more accurate.

      I think it is more profitable to analysis t
  • by Doc Ruby (173196)
    It sounds like we're on the same page, especially regarding universal inalienable human rights. Which is really redundant - everyone is on the same page on those rights, by definition, whether we realize it or not. Some of us have set ourselves more free than others, usually because we were lucky enough not to get imprisoned as children by people around us. All of us more free people I've met have the same compulsion to protect universal freedom, regardless of specific policies and implementations under tha
  • by Doc Ruby (173196)
    Well of course you can't override later than the total count. You can override later than your original vote, but before the winner or any counts are known. That thwarts vote buying, because they don't know whether the vote they're buying will count.

    It's still got a hole, because there's got to be a last vote. A buyer/intimidator could just make you send an "override" out at the last minute, preventing the voter from overriding.

    Secret voting in public is still the surest way, though it's got its own problem
  • claiming that research into election integrity is needed is seen by many politicians as challenging the legitimacy of their elections

    Tell them that, if they are innocent, they have nothing to hide.

Top Ten Things Overheard At The ANSI C Draft Committee Meetings: (4) How many times do we have to tell you, "No prior art!"

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