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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:5, Insightful)

    by WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) * <sexwithanimals@gmail.com> on Sunday November 12, 2006 @04:39PM (#16816458) Homepage
    It doesn't matter if it changed the fucking outcome! The point is that VOTES WERE NOT COUNTED!
  • Re:Please note (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LuckyLefty01 (803490) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @04:39PM (#16816460)
    It doesn't matter if it was abject fraud or not. Either way it needs to be determined why his vote wasn't counted, and then the issue needs to be fixed. Just because it's not intentional doesn't mean it's okay for votes to go AWOL.
  • by russ1337 (938915) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @04:39PM (#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!!
  • Re:Please note (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frequency Domain (601421) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @04:40PM (#16816480)
    It doesn't need to be fraud to be disturbing. It means the machines don't do their fundamental job, to wit, correctly counting votes. Even if nobody was trying to manipulate the vote, that should scare the hell out of you.
  • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Sunday November 12, 2006 @04:41PM (#16816490)
    If one vote was missing or applied to the wrong candidate, other votes could also be lost or shifted.

    If other votes could, then enough votes to change the election could have.

    It all starts with verifying a single vote.
  • News at 11 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JoshJ (1009085) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @04:41PM (#16816494) Journal
    Voting machines are rigged for the two-party system, who's really surprised here?
  • by ozzee (612196) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @04:43PM (#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.

  • Re:Please note (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nacturation (646836) <nacturation@@@gmail...com> on Sunday November 12, 2006 @04:44PM (#16816532) Journal
    Had his vote, and the votes he assumes had been cast for him (because his friends said they did), he still wouldn't have received enough votes to win the election. Further, it's not clear he would have received even enough votes to change the *outcome* of the election (there will be a runoff due to two other candidates having won the same vote count).

    As others have pointed out, who cares that he wouldn't have won? The votes should be accurate purely out of principle. Even if the leading candidate is winning with 99% of the votes and the losing candidate is 1 vote off, we must know what happened to that one vote so that the system can be improved.

    However, in this case I think those missing votes certainly did change the outcome. The other two candidates got 18 votes each. If there are several votes missing for Wooten, which candidate got the benefit of those misplaced votes? This results in a runoff election on November 28th instead of declaring a clear winner already.
     
  • by maynard (3337) <j DOT maynard DO ... AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday November 12, 2006 @04:51PM (#16816608) Journal
    We're talking about a local county election with a sum total of 36 votes cast. Clearly there was an error of some sort. Which brings up two fundamental questions all election officials must ask:

    1) Did this error change the outcome of a race? That is the first consideration, because if it didn't then the severity of the error is vastly reduced.

    2) If this error changed the outcome of a race, was it intentional? That is, was the outcome of democracy subverted, and done so with fraudulent intent?

    I think (but don't know) that the answer to those two questions will ultimately be "NO". That is, the error did not affect the outcome of his loss - though the error might have impacted the necessity for a runoff. And, further, it is highly unlikely that for a race this small anyone would have been actively engaged in voter fraud. Certainly, if these results are the result of fraud, it is almost certainly not due to party involvement.

    It may be a justifiable fear that someone might perpetrate a nationwide fraud using unverifiable electronic voting machines. But this example does not support that fear. Mostly because there is a verifiable paper trail within the machines, and the race is too small for organized fraud to be worth the trouble.
  • Re:Please note (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @04:55PM (#16816658) Journal
    If there is one error on the machine, why would it not be possible for there to be more? In fact, it is possible that 20 of the votes were for him, which would mean that he won. Until the check this machine, and hopefully, several other machines from other areas are checked. If there is a failure, it needs to be determined if it is in one machine or is system wide.

    What I want to know, is why is it that we are not spot checking ALL system across the nation? It strikes me that all systems should be checked. What is amazing is that all closed systems AND both major parties seem to fight this.
  • by Alcari (1017246) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @04:57PM (#16816676)
    If the guy: A - Voted correctly B - Pressed the right button, not a slip of the finger to another candidate. They've all got printouts right? So comapre the 36 printouts with the 36 votes, and see if they match, easily done in such a small town. Also, 80 people and only 36 votes?
  • by thc69 (98798) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @04:58PM (#16816694) Homepage Journal
    We're talking about a local county election with a sum total of 36 votes cast. Clearly there was an error of some sort. Which brings up two fundamental questions all election officials must ask:

    1) Did this error change the outcome of a race? That is the first consideration, because if it didn't then the severity of the error is vastly reduced.

    2) If this error changed the outcome of a race, was it intentional? That is, was the outcome of democracy subverted, and done so with fraudulent intent?

    3) Is this the only instance of an error?

    4) Is this the only office for which there was an error?

    5) Is this the only machine in which there was an error? (If not, how widespread is it?)

    Besides, with a dead tie between the other two candidates, there's even an important question for that particular office:

    6) Was the error a failure to count his vote, or was his vote counted for the wrong person?
  • by Coryoth (254751) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:03PM (#16816754) Homepage Journal
    Which brings up two fundamental questions all election officials must ask:
    1) Did this error change the outcome of a race? That is the first consideration, because if it didn't then the severity of the error is vastly reduced.
    2) If this error changed the outcome of a race, was it intentional? That is, was the outcome of democracy subverted, and done so with fraudulent intent?

    I would have to say that the first question you really ought to be asking is:

    1) What caused this error, and could the problem be systemic?

    Until you have answered that question adequately then you can't really say whether the error changed the outcome of the race. Perhaps it was a simple screw-up that just meant this single vote didn't get counted, but perhaps it was a systemic error that means that none of the counts are valid. Dismissing this until the nature of the error has been adequately determined is remarkably premature. It probably is nothing of consequence, but there is every reason to go to the trouble of finding out that that is the case.
  • by pseudorand (603231) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:04PM (#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 the_wesman (106427) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:06PM (#16816792) Homepage
    I must ask: what confidence do you actually have in our voting system?

    The reason I ask is this: our voting system, though not _officially_ designed so support a 2-party system is fundamentally flawed in the way that votes are tallied. Let me give an example. Let's say there are 3 candidates - 2 conservative and one liberal. Let's say that 30% of people voted for each conservative and the remaining 40% voted for the liberal. The winner here would be the liberal despite the fact that 60% of the people that voted wanted a conservative winner. See the issue here?

    This is why voting for a third-party candidate is considered "throwing your vote away" Unless this changes, we will rarely see the public's best choice as the winner.

    A simple solution would be to have voters rank the candidates instead of simply choosing one. In the example above, a voter could give one conservative candidate a '1', the other a '2' and the liberal a '3' - the canidate with the lowest number wins.

    People take about voting reform and doing away with the electoral college, but I don't think there is enough emphasis on this particular issue.
    -w
  • by Qzukk (229616) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:11PM (#16816854) Journal
    with a sum total of 36 votes cast.

    No, with a sum total of 36 votes counted. Your belief that the result of this investigation would not change the outcome of the election contradicts this statement: if there were only 36 votes period, then when this man's vote is "fixed", the race ends 16/15/1, and there will be no runoff. Either there were more than 36 votes, or the outcome changes.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:13PM (#16816866)
    You have a machine that facilitates the voter's selection by way of touch screen etc.... then it creates a paper ballot, the voter verifies the ballot and puts it in the ballot box. If there is any question, you just count the paper ballots. How is it that you folks can't seem to get this simple concept down?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:15PM (#16816890)
    ...While I agree with you about a machine for 80 votes, your comment only reveals how little you understand the U.S. government structure. It would be impossible to do what you are referring to without completely reorganizing the government.
              First of all, the politicians appoint the judiciary and therefore have a 'say' in everything they do.
              Second, your suggestion removes the only peaceful 'check' that 'the people' have on their government. Believe it or not, the constitution mandates a government for the people, of the people, and by the people. Removing the current voting structure is not going to help our problems with that, it will only make it worse. (Especially if Gun control legislation is passed, then the second 'check' the people have on government will also be gone.)
              If you really believe in your comment you need to move to Idaho or Montana and join some militia; because you have already torn up the basis for the constitution. (I am assuming you are not already a Montana/Idaho resident and member of said militia.)
  • by Leffe (686621) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:16PM (#16816908)
    Oh, the machines do exactly what they are supposed to do. It's whoever dictated what they were supposed to do that is at fault.
  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@lynx.b c . ca> on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:21PM (#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:Please note (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AJWM (19027) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:42PM (#16817146) Homepage
    But when scaling up a transaction to even just hundreds of thousands of dollars in a medium sized transaction, it becomes impossible to count _every_ dollar. It's just a statistical impossibility.

    When confronted with such large numbers, it has become standard practice for accountants to concern themselves not with each individual dollar but with verifying flow for any particular transaction. That is, what matters is whether the balance is positive or negative, not specific dollars in the process.

    Fixed that for you. Now how do you feel?
  • by happyrabit (942015) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:46PM (#16817192)
    It's not a poll, it's a vote so the 'error rate' should be 0, no?
  • by smash (1351) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:02PM (#16817294) Homepage Journal
    They have an internal paper trail eh? And what if it records the vote on the internal paper trail incorrectly?
  • by grimarr (223895) <langford@@@silicon-masters...com> on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:07PM (#16817340)
    and also:

    7) In a town of only 80 people, why did they feel the need to spend money on an electronic voting system in the first place?
  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:10PM (#16817368)
    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 possible to rig a national election with much, much less than 4 million. Taking the recent congressional election as an example both Montana and Virginia were won with margins of less than 10,000 votes each. Less than 5,000 votes "flipped" the other way in each of those two states would have been enough to change control of the US Senate.

    When you consider the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on running the various campaigns, it is almost inevitable that someone out there will decide that "investing" a couple of hundred thousand, even a million or two, in bribes to an insider at the voting machine company would be a good strategic move for their candidate.
  • Re:Please note (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheGavster (774657) * on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:12PM (#16817374) Homepage
    The issue here is that not only was the vote count innaccurate, but there are only 80 residents of the town. From the article, only 36 residents voted in the mayoral election. 1 vote in 100M might be insigificant, but 1 in 36 most certainly is.
  • Re:Please note (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stormwatch (703920) <rodrigogirao@NOsPAm.hotmail.com> on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:18PM (#16817416) Homepage
    What the hell?! This is frickin' electronic voting, not a single vote should ever be lost. If it does, the system is flawed or rigged.
  • Re:Please note (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Socguy (933973) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:22PM (#16817446)
    Isn't that one of reasons that electronic voting is being promoted? I mean, as much as it sucks, it's sort of understandable, in the context of human error how one single vote could be miscounted. It is a whole lot more disturbing how a machine designed specifically for this task could err.
  • by darkonc (47285) <`stephen_samuel' `at' `bcgreen.com'> on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:25PM (#16817476) Homepage Journal
    All that we really know is that the votes have not been counted properly. At least nine people say that they voted for him. If all nine votes were assigned to one of the opponents tied for first, then the other might win without a recount. Worse yet, it may be that more than nine have voted for him. It looks like there were a total of 36 votes cast, so if the stolen votes were distribute evenly, it would take 12 votes (only 3 more than have acknowled voting for him) for him to make it into a 3-way

    Now one thing that should be noted at this point is that, in a town of only 80 people, there may be a good number of people who have voted for him and are unwilling to acknowledge it for fear of personal retribution (this is why we have secret votes). If everybody who voted for him had to acknowledge their vote before the box got opened, then we'd be degraded to a soviet style voting system where every vote is done in public, the implicit threat of a political officer quietly taking note of everybody who votes 'incorrectly'.

  • Re:Please note (Score:4, Insightful)

    by atrocious cowpat (850512) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:32PM (#16817522)
    We had the same thing happen in Arizona a while ago--the guy voted for himself, and his wife voted for him too. Final count: Zero.
    Could you please back this up with a link to a newspaper article or some other traceable source of information?
    I'm not disputing that this happened, yet I'm definitely not taking your statement at face value.
  • Re:Please note (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Fulcrum of Evil (560260) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:37PM (#16817560)

    Fixed that for you. Now how do you feel?

    Amused that someone modded that blather insightful. The difference here is that financial transactions have an audit trail and can be traced back to who paid what for every of 10 million transactions. Voting is necessarily secret, and that alone changes things radically. Never mind that in both cases, we have to depend on corruptible people to get things done.

  • by JamesTRexx (675890) <m.nystrom@mb i t z . nl> on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:48PM (#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 DrJokepu (918326) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:50PM (#16817688)
    Actually, I'd even expect human accuracy to be 100% (or very close to it). Especially with at least one other person observing. Counting isn't that difficult is it?

    Yes, it is. Counting x*1000 votes is really a monotonous job, and you quickly lose your ability to concentrate by doing so. I think that an accuracy of 99.95 would be an acceptable value of accuracy (which means you miscount every 2000th vote) for manual counting. Nonetheless, the accuracy of electronic counting should be no less than 100%. There is really no excuse for anything smaller. If a CPU had an accuracy of 99.99999999%, it would crash just a few seconds after booting.
  • by mark-t (151149) <markt@lynx.b c . ca> on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:50PM (#16817692) Journal
    True enough... and there weren't 80 eligible voters in the town either... the article said that the town _population_ was 80 people.
  • by espressojim (224775) <eris@NOsPam.tarogue.net> on Sunday November 12, 2006 @07:01PM (#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 Sandlin (872325) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @07:09PM (#16817864)
    Anonymous asked:
    "You have a machine that facilitates the voter's selection by way of touch screen etc.... then it creates a paper ballot, the voter verifies the ballot and puts it in the ballot box. If there is any question, you just count the paper ballots. How is it that you folks can't seem to get this simple concept down?"

              Dang, that's the solution, and I've thought so since they started using the darned machines, but you just can't get this simple solutionn through the thick skulls of our legislators. Duh. We've voted in some really stupid, thick-headed folks who ought to go!
            I'm also utterly amazed when the testers of the machines on which they are trying to install paper trails , complain that the print-outs get all fouled-up. they just can't get then to work right. What? I use a Diebold machine on regular basis at my bank, and that machine has no problems providing an accurate print-out every single time. Now, if they can have near 100% success on the banking machines, why can't this be duplicated on the voting machines with paper trails? Because, they don't want to! Why they don't want to ought to scare the crap out of you.
  • Re:Please note (Score:3, Insightful)

    by offput (961196) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @07:16PM (#16817910)
    Nobody here is stupid enough to truly believe that because a computer does it, it is infallible. However, these absurdly rare occurrences you have listed are not what people talk about when these computer voting systems screw up. Power glitches and transmission errors are very very unlikely in a properly built system; or at least they can be dealt with via redundancy in the system. The point here is that either the system is poorly built (and in this case so poorly built that in a town of 80 people it can't manage to keep track of the votes which does not bode well for considerably larger elections of say 50 million) or there was tampering done to modify the vote counts. Either way, your defenses of the imperfect electronic system don't hold up. We either need to make the system less fallible than it appears to be currently or change to a different system.
  • Re:Please note (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tftp (111690) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @07:19PM (#16817932) Homepage
    My main argument is this: there are acceptable error rates with non-electronic voting, why the hell are we so adamant that because they are "computer" based they should magically be 100% accurate and reliable?

    Because a computer is a deterministic machine, where for any given input you will get certain output, and only that output, and nothing else (or your computer is broken.) Quantum computers are not like that, but we don't yet have them either.

    There is absolutely no reason to NOT expect a 100% correct accounting of all votes cast. The "power loss" scenario doesn't hold water. The voting machine can write the vote into the Flash (and/or print it on a tape), read it back from the Flash, compare, and if all is well then it tells the voter that he is done and can go. If not, summon maintenance. How often banks miscount your money? How often your Visa card incorrectly charges you? How often your paycheck is wrong? Almost never, barring software errors. But a voting machine is so simple, it can be mathematically proven that the algorithm is correct (and it can be also easily tested.)

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

    by ScrewMaster (602015) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @07:22PM (#16817960)
    Apparently, you missed the point. Typical for Slashdotters but ... really.

    Engineers will generally (if they're halfway competent) do the best job they can with the resources at their disposal. Fact is, the engineers themselves are a resource, a tool. In any technical organization, somebody in management is responsible for selecting the engineering staff and providing them with project goals, adequate resources, and the requisite guidance ... in other words, the tools to do the job.

    Voting machines are big business. BIG business. These are not shoestring operations, which means there's plenty of money to go around to attract the best and the brightest. It doesn't matter whether management hired second and third string engineers, or hired high-level people and simply mismanaged them. Maybe they did get good people and received a good design, but failed to commit the QA resources to make sure it actually worked right. Whatever. The responsibility for bad design and bad implementation lies at the top. You know that as well as I do. That is why the people at the top make so much more money that the people doing the actual engineering. Well ... that's one reason.

    Corporate management often says it wants the best possible product. Unfortunately, they rarely back up those words with the resources to achieve it. Then, when customers complain about the defective products the company has been manufacturing, the finger is immediately pointed at the engineers who designed them. And that's wrong: it's their manager who should be shot on the spot for being an incompetent, because only an incompetent would hire an incompetent, much less give him a position of responsibility.
  • Re:Please note (Score:5, Insightful)

    by morcego (260031) * on Sunday November 12, 2006 @07:27PM (#16817996)
    Many precincts are too small for generators to be practical, and UPS units also have a failure rate. What if, even though it was tested the week before, the generator fails on the day of the election? There is also the cost associated. Who is gonna pay for it all.

    Wouldn't that be like ... fighting for the democracy ?
    Sorry, I'm not an american, but I though you people didn't mind spending money while fighting for democracy. But maybe I misunderstood, and all that money is for fighting for something else.
  • Re:Please note (Score:3, Insightful)

    by QuickFox (311231) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @07:48PM (#16818156)
    If you read the article, "at least eight or nine people" told him that they voted for him. Of course such claims aren't proof, but the situation certainly deserves investigation. A glitch can't lose eight or nine votes out of 36, plus his own. That would be around 25%. If such a glitch is even possible, it's hardly an acceptable error rate.
  • by mh101 (620659) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @08:51PM (#16818600)
    Why?


  • Re:Please note (Score:4, Insightful)

    by QuickFox (311231) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @09:12PM (#16818730)
    You're making up assumptions. I once saw an accountant spend two days tracking down an error of a few cents. Obviously the amount as such wasn't worth two days of work. But the discrepancy indicated that there was an error somewhere, and that was not acceptable. The fact that there was an error somewhere did matter quite a lot.
  • by enosys (705759) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @10:59PM (#16819446) Homepage
    Take another look at the Wikipedia article on Soviet Democracy [wikipedia.org] that you linked. Sure, the laws look pretty good but look at what else is there:

    Despite these provisions, the electors were not given much choice: the electoral ballot paper always contained only one name, and an unmarked ballot was interpreted as support for the candidate. To vote against the candidate required the paper to be marked and a secret voting booth used to ensure secrecy. In practice, the use of a voting booth by an elector was itself an expression of dissent, as a supporting vote did not need the use of the booths. Around one to five percent of the electorate used booth in the 1960s and 70s, with the number of opposing votes rarely exceeding 0.5%, mostly directed against locally unpopular individuals. Only at the lowest level did such votes have a chance of having any significant effect; in the Soviet Union circa 1970, about one in ten thousand candidates at village level was defeated.

  • Wait a second... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by billsoxs (637329) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @11:03PM (#16819472) Journal
    But the more votes there are, the greater the chance that random errors would cancel themselves out, especially in a situation where the actual votes are evenly split. The situation partly depends on what kind of errors you're talking about (deleting a vote vs. recording a vote incorrectly), but I think GP is correct for most reasonable definitions of of random errors. The terminology may or may not be correct, but the idea is.

    Wait a second this is all digital - THERE SHOULD NOT BE SAMPLING ERRORS!.

    Statistics has nothing to do with this - or else you will find that 3+2 = 6 some times and 4 other times. On average you'd still get 5 but...

  • by msobkow (48369) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @11:07PM (#16819490) Homepage Journal

    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 required it would take a COMPLETE FREAKIN' MORON to field a computer program that can't count to 80 without screwing up!

  • by icepick72 (834363) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @11:12PM (#16819522)
    As a programmer, I say a voting machine should never eat a vote silently. Votes are easy math: cast_votes++
    The machine should provide feedback that a vote has been accepted and counted, otherwise make it clear this did not happen. Somebody should at least pull out some simple unit testing. http://nunit.org/ [nunit.org]
  • Re:Please note (Score:3, Insightful)

    by IchBinEinPenguin (589252) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @11:21PM (#16819580)
    why the hell are we so adamant that because they are "computer" based they should magically be 100% accurate and reliable?

    I think most people are willing to acknowledge that it won't be 100% reliable.
    That's why they want a voter-verified paper ballot as backup.

    A system that isn't perfect is OK, 'cos that's reality.
    A system that is far from perfect, and is designed to deny verification, is unacceptable.
  • by arth1 (260657) on Monday November 13, 2006 @12:08AM (#16819868) Homepage Journal
    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
  • by voice_of_all_reason (926702) on Monday November 13, 2006 @12:51AM (#16820110)
    When presidential elections can give different results on a .5% error rate, then no, it is not a tolerable number.
  • by ecuador_gr (944749) on Monday November 13, 2006 @02:38AM (#16820618) Homepage
    Well, if we wanted to put statistics in the vote counting, we wouldn't spend millions running elections, would we? I mean all it takes is a couple of thousand sample voters, and we have our result!
  • by Lonewolf666 (259450) on Monday November 13, 2006 @03:48AM (#16820880)
    Being a programmer too, I'd like to add that a bug that eats one vote will probably eat more.

    Errors in digital systems are usually systematic errors that will occur again under the same circumstances. With the exception of intermittent hardware glitches: those are random but tend to grow more frequent as the bad part deteriorates further.

    So once a voting machine is known to give false results, it should not be assumed that it was a one-time error. Debug it or go back to paper.
  • Re:Please note (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Duds (100634) <dudley&enterspace,org> on Monday November 13, 2006 @06:20AM (#16821458) Homepage Journal
    1 vote EVER is significent. Otherwise there's no point having a vote.

    And with electronic machines it's not as if they're making math mistakes.
  • by sjf (3790) on Monday November 13, 2006 @07:21AM (#16821836)
    Whaddya mean "loser" ? Assuming he did indeed vote for himself, I suggest he got one more vote than you did.
    Pretty shoddy to argue that someone is a loser for making the effort to stand as a candidate in an election.
    Democracy wins when people participate. Democracy loses when we sit at home and whine about the outcome, but don't bother to take part.
  • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @05:27PM (#16845194) Homepage Journal
    There's more than one. But I should qualify- different types of corporations are required to show different types of profits. You CAN have a non-profit corporation that is actually banned from showing a profit. You can have a private corporation that only has to show a profit two years out of five without getting investigated as a tax shelter by the IRS. But publically traded corporations that do not show a return on their investment can be delisted by the SEC, or fined for investor fraud. Due to this, most publically traded corporations try very, very hard to have a positive balance on their required quarterly profit/loss reports- usually to the exclusion of any other consideration.

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