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Man's Vote for Himself Missing In E-Vote Count 672

Posted by Zonk
from the there's-your-smoking-gun dept.
Catbeller writes "The AP is reporting that Randy Wooten, mayoral candidate for Waldenburg Arkansas (a town of eighty people) discovered that the electronic voting system hadn't registered the one vote he knew had been cast for him ... because he cast it himself. The Machine gave him zero votes. That would be an error rate of 3%, counting the actual votes cast — 18 and 18 for a total of 36." From the article: "Poinsett County Election Commissioner Junaway Payne said the issue had been discussed but no action taken yet. 'It's our understanding from talking with the secretary of state's office that a court order would have to be obtained in order to open the machine and check the totals,' Payne said. 'The votes were cast on an electronic voting machine, but paper ballots were available.'"
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Man's Vote for Himself Missing In E-Vote Count

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  • by Frobnicator (565869) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:32PM (#16816400) Journal
    Oops.
    • by PatrickThomson (712694) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:46PM (#16816552)
      no, I believe the word is:

      PWNED!
      • by JamesTRexx (675890) <m.nystromNO@SPAMmbitz.nl> on Sunday November 12, 2006 @07:48PM (#16817658) Homepage Journal
        Actually, the word here is scary.
        If things go wrong with just 36 votes in a town of 80 people, what do you think this means for an entire country voting electronically?
        • by feepness (543479) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @08:39PM (#16818080) Homepage
          Actually, the word here is scary. If things go wrong with just 36 votes in a town of 80 people, what do you think this means for an entire country voting electronically?

          Even more scary... why is a town of 80 using electronic voting at all? Shouldn't they get a gas station first?
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          point is, it's kind of hard to smooth over this and handwave. With, say, 1 vote out on a vote of 40/80, nobody will know for sure. With this guy, we know something's fishy. The voting machine company just got caught balls-deep in apple pie, so to speak.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          If things go wrong with just 36 votes in a town of 80 people, what do you think this means for an entire country voting electronically?

          Actually, if errors are random, the more votes involved, the lower the expected error. Statistical variance.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 12, 2006 @09:36PM (#16818484)
            Actually, if errors are random, the more votes involved, the lower the expected error. Statistical variance.

            If the errors are random then it doesn't matter how many votes there are, the expected error is the same. Statistical variance affects the actual error.

          • Are you suggesting the buttons and tally counters of a voting machine react according to some probabality curve such as stochastic?

            Somehow that flies in the face of digital accuracy, code predictability, database integrity, system security, and application reliability, doesn't it?

            We're talking about straight-forward button-press counting systems here, not some sort of complex interest accruals or tax filing analysis. There are no heuristics, there are no inference engines, and there is so little code

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by plopez (54068)
              t would take a COMPLETE FREAKIN' MORON to field a computer program that can't count to 80 without screwing up!
              Welcome to the wild and wacky world of commercial software development.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by mkiwi (585287)
          Are these counties using those Diebold voting machines?

          After watching the HBO special (which was very slanted, to say the least), it is clear to me that their electronic voting machines suck. Here are some interesting tidbits I learned from the pseudo-documentary:

          • Diebold voting machines use Microsoft Windows
          • Diebold voting machines use Microsoft Access and SQL server for their databases.
          • It is relatively trivial for someone with knowlegde of Access to change a vote using a simple SQL statement.
          • The data
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by arth1 (260657)
            mkiwi (585287) wrote:
            • The databases are not encrypted.

            Why should they be? Once the votes have been anonymised, the more openness, the better. In an ideal situation, any voter should be allowed read access to the data and processing routines. The voting should be secret, the counting should be public.

            Regards,
            --
            *Art
    • In other voting news (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 12, 2006 @08:48PM (#16818154)
      Regular slashdotters might remember [centos.org] a certain Tuttle, Oklahoma [slashdot.org].

      In late-breaking Tuttle news, utility clerk Juanita Coffey has won the vote for the city pumpkin decorating contest. City manager Jerry A Taylor [tuttle-ok.gov] is quoted as saying:

      all of the city office staff enjoyed the contest and the votes cast for all the decorated pumpkins was very close.

      It is important to note that there have been no allegations of voting irregularity, despite Jerry's 22 years of technical experience.

      You will also be pleased to hear that unlike the progressive clamor across the rest of our great nation, the good folks in Tuttle, Oklahoma seem to have reddened their necks further and elected three more Republicans [tuttletimes.com] to the statehouse.

      This is a fitting opportunity to remember the great Jerry A Taylor, so deserving of his $5000 pay rise for his legendary competence [tuttletimes.com]. I wonder what he is up to these days?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by FhnuZoag (875558)
      I guess the system didn't recognise his write-in vote of 'ME'.
  • the funny thing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by f1055man (951955) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:33PM (#16816406)
    about the article is that his wife was the one who told him he got zero votes. She asked him if he had voted for himself to make sure it was wrong....err, someone's going to be sleeping on the couch.
  • by Nick Gisburne (681796) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:38PM (#16816446) Homepage
    So he voted for himself, but his wife went to check the vote for him. Okay, so who did his WIFE vote for?!
  • by russ1337 (938915) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:39PM (#16816472)
    this comment makes it sound like its his own fault as he didn't cast a paper vote:
    "Poinsett County Election Commissioner Junaway Payne said ...'The votes were cast on an electronic voting machine, but paper ballots were available.'"

    WTF? Blame the guy for his own vote not being counted!!
  • by Unknown Poltroon (31628) * <unknown_poltroon1sp@myahoo.com> on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:41PM (#16816484)
    I put in a write in for a local office with a strange name. ANy idea where i could find the listings of write ins in MD? I checked the elections sites, but couldnt find anything.
    • by Pink Tinkletini (978889) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:52PM (#16816624) Homepage
      In my state, at least, they only go to the trouble of reading and recording write-ins if there's a possibility they'd affect the outcome. So if any of the (regular) candidates on the ballot gets more votes than there are total write-ins, the write-ins for that office don't get recorded.
  • News at 11 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JoshJ (1009085) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:41PM (#16816494) Journal
    Voting machines are rigged for the two-party system, who's really surprised here?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:43PM (#16816510)
    Why? Don't they have first-graders who can help them count the votes?
  • by ozzee (612196) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:43PM (#16816520)

    I'm sorry, but who in their right mind would blow money on a voting machine for 80 votes.

    Our election officials have gone mad !

    I think I can tally 80 votes in less than 15 minutes so it's not as if "time to tally" is at issue.

    Accuracy is certainly not at issue either.

    I think the US must stop having elections driven by locals and have a federally mandated independant voting "authority" that answers only to the judicial branch. Politicians must not have any say in the way it is run and the legal standards must be very stringently applied.

    The HBO special really did shock me more than I expected it to. Unless we have utmost confidence in our voting system, we will alienate our society.

    Oh, while we are at it, we should also go to a preference system as this two party system just means can never hit your own party where it counts without voting for the dark side.

  • by tscholz (614009) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:45PM (#16816544)
    Why would a town of 80 people even use an electronic voting machine? Too much money in the budget? If people can't be bothered with count a 80 paper votes, i would label it the most lazy people in the world.
  • by myth_of_sisyphus (818378) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:48PM (#16816574)
    I wrote in "Cthulhu" for Governor and the optical scan machine was jammed so
    the poll worker--some asian dude--told me to put the ballot in the lockbox
    slot. I had trouble getting it in because one of the pages was bent so the
    guy grabbed the ballot and moved them. On top was my write-in: CTHULHU
    in big black letters. He paused. Looked at it, looked at me. Swallowed. And
    I said "Thank you" and left.

    "In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming."
    • by commodoresloat (172735) * on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:11PM (#16816850)
      Your candidate won!!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      That's interesting.
      I wonder if Arnold would get the vote if you wrote in something like:
      'Conan The Governator'
  • by pseudorand (603231) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:04PM (#16816768)
    I think we need a law that requires 100% accuracy for any electronic voting system. When people counting votes, you'd expect some error and you'd expect that error to be some reasnabally small number. When a computer doing the counting, you'd expect 100% accuracy. If you have a mistake, you can't assume it's some small percentage that can be ignored. It's just as likely to be a very large error.

    Anyone care to draft legislation to send to our reps?
  • by dpbsmith (263124) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:05PM (#16816780) Homepage
    ...or reported. I don't know whether this is a terrible thing or not. Anyone who has ever cast a frivolous vote for themself, their friend, or their pet and looked for it in the official tally has been disappointed. Only when you have a large systematic write-in campaign do they really get counted... and even then, the organizers of such campaigns routinely charge undercounting of such votes.
  • by Subm (79417) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:11PM (#16816846)
    The system works fine. I voted for the other guy 18 times and each time the machines worked perfectly.

    And the count came out correct. I don't see the problem.
  • by mark-t (151149) <{markt} {at} {lynx.bc.ca}> on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:21PM (#16816946) Journal

    With one vote that wasn't counted among a town of 80, that's an error rate of 1.25%, based on population.

    So if that error rate is taken nationally... the USA has about 300 million people, with a 1.25% error rate in vote counts, there could be as many as 4 million votes that are either lost or counted for an opponent if the same sort of problems can occur... 4 MILLION!

    That's enough to sway the outcome of almost any national election.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

      With one vote that wasn't counted among a town of 80, that's an error rate of 1.25%, based on population.

      So if that error rate is taken nationally... the USA has about 300 million people, with a 1.25% error rate in vote counts, there could be as many as 4 million votes that are either lost or counted for an opponent if the same sort of problems can occur... 4 MILLION!

      That's enough to sway the outcome of almost any national election.

      Because of the "winner takes all" nature of the electoral system, it is poss

    • by espressojim (224775) <eris@NOsPam.tarogue.net> on Sunday November 12, 2006 @08:01PM (#16817788)
      When seeing a count of 0, and expecting a 1, you can't say that the error rate is 1/n. The true error rate in that case is x (number of individuals who voted for that guy) over n. We don't know how many people voted for him, because AFAIK, they did not poll the entire 80 people to find out what the true number of votes is.

      All that we know is that an entire class of votes (for this candidate) are absent. That's FAR more worrying to me than a 1.25% error rate.
  • by neomage86 (690331) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:39PM (#16817120)
    According to the actual article it says 8-9 other people claim to have voted for Wooten (the canidate who had 0 votes registered. Out of a town w/ a population of 80 (and with less than 50 people actually voting) that's over 20% error. Completely unacceptable

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=2646802&CMP [go.com]
  • by esnible (36716) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:55PM (#16817244)
    CNN's coverage of this story puts it under the 'offbeat news' category: [ http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/11/11/zero.votes. ap/index.html [cnn.com] ], as if this is some colorful rustic joke.

    Waldenburg isn't the only Arkansas mayoral race with odd results. In the town of Gateway, 199 votes were cast in a mayoral race for a city with only 122 residents. In Pea Ridge, 3997 votes were cast in a mayors race for a city with 3344 residents.

    http://www.nwaonline.com/articles/2006/11/11/news/ 111106bzelectioncontinued.txt [nwaonline.com]

    Gateway and Pea ridge use machines from Election Systems & Software. I don't know what machines were used in Waldenberg.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jkmartin (816458)
      I voted in Benton County and my electronic vote (for a Green Party candidate) apparently wasn't counted. The unresponsiveness of people connected with the election, with so many obvious problems, is unacceptable.
  • by twisty (179219) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @10:40PM (#16818962) Homepage Journal
    This story at least provides the rare but helpful proof of improper accounting. Usually, in larger races, you'd need a sizable group to testify they had voted contrary to the "official" total. Because laws often allow for a margin of 'error,' there is a definite sense of diluted responsibility that regards acountability to be out of reach in existing systems. At least some systems exist such as PunchScan.org [punchscan.org] that address the ability for the total to be checked as counted-as-cast. I only wish the story stated *which* electronic voting machines Poinsett County used.

    Diebold's Accuvote TS machines have a history of failing the counted-as-cast test, starting with the NEGATIVE 16,022 votes awarded Al Gore in Volusia County's 2000 election. (At the time, Global Elections made the machines. Afterward, they were bought up by Diebold, who were instead infamous for their insecure ATM machines. Ironicly, Their "success" in the voting sector is selling more ATMs to bank chains such as 5th/3rd.)

    According to the "HACKING DEMOCRACY" HBO Documentary, Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) Elections threw out the signed paper audit tapes used in the 2004 elections, despite the legal obligation to file them for 14 mounths after a presidential election. Bev Harris of Black Box Voting is seen retreiving the tapes from the election board's warehouse trash, with signatures, and it shows hunreds of discrepencies from the "official" tape they printed afresh for her.

    In my own experiences here in Butler County Ohio, I have no confidence in the results of our elections: suspicous to say the least. This year's 2006 results [butlercoun...ctions.org] deny every Democrat candidate any victory in each race, despite the larger state [state.oh.us] totals [wkrc.com] (including non-electronic voting counties) giving the win to a Democratic Governer, Secretary of State, Treasurer, and Senator. But what makes the local results [wkrc.com] anomolous is that the House Representative an local offices were awarded to Republicans, and the county itself is largely a 'welfare county' whose largest City (Middletown) is founded on a failing steel industry. The disparity seems more closely tied to the voting machines than the voter demographics. Creepy.

  • Logical Result (Score:3, Interesting)

    by awol (98751) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @11:18PM (#16819200) Journal
    I can think of a few reasons why the machine might not report these results.
    (1) any candidate that gets 2 votes reports as zero to avoid revealing a singleton voter which might reveal the vote of a member of the electorate
    (2) as above but to avoid having to report vast number of candidates (the system may not make a distinctyion between the niber of voters and the number of candidates
    (3) In small electorates only candidtes that get above teh "deposit" threshold are reported as having any votes.
    A few facts from the incident in question might help to find other resons why there is nothing to see here.
  • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Monday November 13, 2006 @12:17AM (#16819552) Homepage Journal
    I am a voting anarcho-capitalist [unanimocracy.com] and I advocate voting for yourself as a way to vote none of the above [unanimocracy.com]. I do it, and I figure this is a great way to actually NOT waste you vote. If all the eligible non-voters voted for themselves, it would really show the State that there are a ton of people who don't like anyone -- neither evil.

    If the 30-40% of eligible non-voters "won" over the winner of the candidate who got the majority of yes-voters, it would really turn things on its head. Imagine, a Republican getting 37% of the vote (winning), the Democrat getting 33% of the vote (loser) and the Unanimocracy voters getting 40% of "Other."

    I'm a fan of that decision.

There is nothing so easy but that it becomes difficult when you do it reluctantly. -- Publius Terentius Afer (Terence)

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