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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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  • Re:Please note (Score:2, Informative)

    by maynard (3337) <j...maynard...gelinas@@@gmail...com> on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:42PM (#16816502) Journal
    Which is why the country election commissioner should take the machine(s) apart and check the vote tape. It is only 36 votes, so it shouldn't be hard to do. I am simply pointing out that this example is more likely error than fraud.
  • by mr_matticus (928346) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:59PM (#16816704)
    SOP in most places is to count the number of write-ins, but not the name of the candidate. If the number of write-ins is significant, they will go back and look for any trends in the names. Even if the vote goes 45-40-10 among named candidates and write-ins only account for 5%, they'll still look because if most of that 5% went for a single person, it could be newsworthy or insightful.

    The actual, exact breakdown of the write-in names is usually not calculated (and therefore can't be released), except in presidential elections, where write-ins above a certain number (a relatively low threshold, at that--somewhere around 1000 IIRC) are counted and recorded.
  • Re:Please note (Score:5, Informative)

    by WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) * <sexwithanimals@gmail.com> on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:01PM (#16816728) Homepage
    It's a trade secret, you can't look inside the voting machines.
  • 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 myth_of_sisyphus (818378) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:10PM (#16816842)
    I was just trying to set the scene. There was this asian guy poll worker who took my ballot. If it had been an old lady I would have said: "a white-haired old lady." If it had been a hot young filippino chick I would have said: "a hot, young filippino chick." You have to get details to make it more readable. No harm intended.
  • 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 ozzee (612196) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:39PM (#16817122)
    The U.S. voting system does not meet international mandated guidelines for a "democratic" election yet we say we are the "greatest democracy on earth", go figure ....

    Until there is a viable independantly managed standard, it's impossible for citizens to truly trust the outcome of elections. Given that fellow citizens have died to save our democracy, anything less that the utmost trust in our voting system is to show fallen the utmost disrespect.

    Other countries have very strict voting rules. If the shennanigans on the HBO special were to have happened in any other true democracy, they would have been rounded up in election fraud arrests the next day. It's that serious.

  • HAVA (Score:3, Informative)

    by benhocking (724439) <benjaminhocking@@@yahoo...com> on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:56PM (#16817250) Homepage Journal

    I'm curious as to why a town of 80 people needs to be using electronic voting? It wouldn't be a particularly onerous task to hand count <= 80 paper votes.
    HAVA [fec.gov]
  • Re:Please note (Score:2, Informative)

    by maynard (3337) <j...maynard...gelinas@@@gmail...com> on Sunday November 12, 2006 @07:24PM (#16817464) Journal
    Nope. It is impossible to create any physical system that exists outside the boundaries of probability. Which means that there is always a margin of error. Always. Thermodynamics and all that.

    However, there are specific reasons why the US system is particularly prone to error. Especially when dealing with large state and national races where differing regional elections laws, differing voting systems, and tabulation rules, make *extremely* accurate counting absolutely impossible. Which is why elections officials care more about outcomes than individual vote counts.

    IIRC, Avi Rubin talked about the probability issue during his interview on C-SPAN. Here is his web page [avirubin.com], there are links to .mov files of that interview available there.
  • Re:Please note (Score:4, Informative)

    by chill (34294) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @07:37PM (#16817558) Journal
    Unless there is a power glitch, or any one of a number of other statistically small possibilities. In this case, I'd accept that the system is flawed, unless they could demonstrate it was voter error. While they say "electronic voting machine", that is rather ambiguous and could mean any one of a number of things.

    As far as "not one single vote", that isn't going to happen. There are just too many little things that could go wrong, and some of them eventually will.

    The law [eac.gov] [Vol 1. Section 3.2.1] states a test of 1 in 500,000 "ballot positions", per processing step is acceptable. They do not measure voters, but rather ballot positions. A ballot position is the number of candidates and the number of other votable issues on a ballot. Steps include things like the electronic recording; the paper trail; transferring data to jurisdiction HQ; etc.

    For example, if there are 3 people running for mayor, that is 3 ballot positions per voter -- assuming no other races. If there were 7 bond issues (yes and no spaces), that is another 14 ballot positions. Add in things like other races, referendums, etc. and what looks like a small election can have 30-50 "ballot positions" per ballot. Multiple that times the number of voters then the number of steps and it adds up fast.

    To be fair, the target is 1 in 10,000,000 and in an election this small, they should have gotten it right.
  • Re:Please note (Score:3, Informative)

    by duguk (589689) <dug@fragBALDWIN.co.uk minus author> on Sunday November 12, 2006 @07:43PM (#16817604) Homepage Journal
    I call Bullshit. Yes, there is always a margin of error with everything. There is not a reason for margin of error for COUNTING up to 36, nor counting up to a MILLION. There is no excuse for it. DugUK
  • Re:Please note (Score:3, Informative)

    by Smidge204 (605297) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @08:06PM (#16817830) Journal
    Uh, no.

    You're COUNTING. vote = vote + 1

    You are not doing any calculations, which I agree may indroduce errors. You are counting. Of course the systems are not perfect because humans are involved, but the machines themselves should be able to fucking COUNT. It's not like they're counting particularly fast, either... each individual machine handles maybe one vote every 2 or 3 minutes.

    If I vote for person A, then person A's vote count should increase by 1. There is NO acceptable scenario where that would not work. There just isn't.

    But I'm letting you drag me into a semantics argument. Shame on me... the point is you're trying to make light of a fuckup that at the very least needs to be investigated to find out why and how it happened, not whether or not errors should exist at all.

    The error needs to be investigated. Do not just say "oh well nothing's perfect" and try to write it off.
    =Smidge=
  • by jkmartin (816458) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @08:08PM (#16817856)
    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 booble (638328) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @08:09PM (#16817862)
    I guess I'm lost. Reading through that webpage all I saw was a writing by Jimmy Carter about the work done by he and his foundation. No where in his article did it speak to mandating anything. Setting that aside, it is completely different to set standards to receive aid in a country known for threatening voters with death in comparison to voting in the United States.
  • Asians and Cthulhu (Score:3, Informative)

    by meringuoid (568297) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @08:24PM (#16817976)
    some asian dude

    What the hell does that have to do with anything?

    Not geeky enough, sir!

    Clearly, our Asian election official was aware of the cults within his ancestral homeland which worship the Cthulhu. Recall from The Call of Cthulhu:

    "What the police did extract, came mainly from the immensely aged mestizo named Castro, who claimed to have sailed to strange ports and talked with undying leaders of the cult in the mountains of China ... There had been aeons when other Things ruled on the earth, and They had had great cities. Remains of Them, he said the deathless Chinamen had told him, were still be found as Cyclopean stones on islands in the Pacific ... No book had ever really hinted of it, though the deathless Chinamen said that there were double meanings in the Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred which the initiated might read as they chose, especially the much-discussed couplet: That is not dead which can eternal lie, And with strange aeons even death may die."

    Plainly our man had had some contact with this oriental cult of the appalling ancient Things, and had come - or his family had come - to America fleeing these nightmares. Now he is working at a polling station, and a man comes to him with a ballot, with the dread name of CTHULHU scrawled at the top. Small wonder he reacted as he did!

  • Re:Please note (Score:3, Informative)

    by Penguinoflight (517245) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @08:41PM (#16818098) Homepage Journal
    In the town where this mayoral race took place it is very possible that the outcome would change. 8-9 people who told him personally that they would vote for him, himself and his wife... how many of those people had friends who might also vote for him? Why did the other two candidates still have a runoff?

    Are you assuming that none of the other candidates votes were incorrectly tallied? Are you also assuming that none of Wooten's votes were incorrectly assigned to another candidate?

    If Wooten truely had 9 supporters and the voting machines somehow misassigned all of those votes to another of the candidates this would force a runoff between the other two candidates even though they weren't even close (The official tally was 18 and 18).

    "No, this incident is probably not an example of electronic voter fraud."
    -- How do you mean this? The chances that a man thought he voted for himself but didn't are rather slim. Are you saying that incorrect results due to problems with the system (diebold) does not qualify as voter fraud?
  • by pablodiazgutierrez (756813) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @09:17PM (#16818376) Homepage
    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.

  • 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.

  • by mkiwi (585287) on Monday November 13, 2006 @12:19AM (#16819566)
    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 databases are not encrypted.

    Most interesting was the fact that all the individual ballots get stored on a memory card, which has an embedded SQL engine. All the memory cards are plugged in to a central computer where all the votes are tabulated using a program called "gems.exe". Just 1 SQL statement can change the entire election. Poof, our Democracy is gone.

    Another friendly reminder to use open source (or Oracle) databases and to code in languages like C++ and Java rather use MS Visual Basic/SQL Server combination currently used.

  • Re:Please note (Score:2, Informative)

    by Dissman (997434) on Monday November 13, 2006 @02:23AM (#16820268)
    Was he on the ballot???

    Ohio for one doesn't allow write-ins unless the person files a declaration of candidacy as a write in... but that's just signing a form. Probably different in other states, but YMMV.

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