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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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  • 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 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 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.
  • Re:Please note (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 12, 2006 @05:47PM (#16816568)
    Dude, you are totaly missing the point of why this is news. Just *what* *the* *hell* is going on inside of these voting machines if they are making this kind of error. With such a small number of votes to count, missing a single one, much less 8 or 9, is exceedingly suspicious.

    It really makes one wonder what the algorithm inside these things is. They're essentially black boxes, and if there is some code inside that ensures that the "right" candidate gets elected, it's very possible that the malicious programmer didn't consider the case where a single vote by a single voter would be able to be identified by this. Think about it: Typically you're dealing with thousands or millions of votes, and a 5-10% "error" in the direction you want would not be able to be traced or proved because votes are not mapped to specific voters. But in this small community this total anonymity wasn't there, and someone *did* notice.

    The guy didn't win, and maybe he had no chance of winning. But this is _definitely_ something that should make people raise their eyebrows.
  • 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.
  • SECRET ballot (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Hao Wu (652581) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:06PM (#16816786) Homepage
    There is no way of us knowing that he really did this. He could be lying for whatever twisted reason... he just doesn't like new-fangled electronic things.
  • internet (Score:2, Interesting)

    by emmanuel.charpentier (36227) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:12PM (#16816858) Homepage
    Let's use the net to replicate all votes in real time, let's set an id onto each vote and trace its movements wherever it goes.

    In fact it should be as easy as a mailing list of all votes!

    http://leparlement.org/security [leparlement.org]
  • Re:Please note (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slughead (592713) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @06:22PM (#16816958) Homepage Journal
    It doesn't matter if it changed the fucking outcome! The point is that VOTES WERE NOT COUNTED!

    NO freakin kidding.

    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.

    We don't even have electronic voting here.

    I should point out that nothing came of it, either.
  • 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:Please note (Score:2, Interesting)

    by chill (34294) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @07:00PM (#16817272) Journal
    It doesn't matter if it changed the fucking outcome! The point is that VOTES WERE NOT COUNTED!

    What point? Votes are not counted all the time, and it is normal.

    Let me make it REAL clear -- it is statistically IMPOSSIBLE to have a 100% accurate vote, 100% of the time. It WILL NOT EVER HAPPEN. You need to get over it and come back to reality.

    We need to find ways to minimize inaccuracy, and understand what is "normal".

    Keep in mind, as long as the accuracies are evenly distributed, they have minimal impact on the outcome. "Errors" are normal, and can be handled by the system. What needs to be watched is manipulation.

  • by ozzee (612196) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @07:25PM (#16817474)

    ... Mandated by the USA !

    see http://www.afsa.org/fsj/feb01/carter01.cfm [afsa.org]

    We mandate the democratic election standards through aid funding to needy countries, yet we don't meet the same standard ourselves.

    Go figure.

  • I do this too (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 12, 2006 @07:38PM (#16817566)
    Well, this last election I didn't, but the previous several elections, I have always written myself in for at least one un-opposed race, and I have YET to see it tallied anywhere. I think they mostly just throw away any ballots with write-ins, or with any of the races left blank. I don't know that for a fact, but this guy's in the article experience jibes with mine.

    I also know that in the real world unless you are extremely rich and powerful it won't amount to a hill of beans if you go and complain about it, because 1)yes, reality is reality, paper ballot or electronic, you can't prove who you voted for to even have the complaint stand and 2) the goons in charge won't care anyway. Possibly with an all paper ballot you might be able to find it again, but with electronic? Handwriting recognition? How can any machine possibly instantly get it correct? if this was so we'd have much better quality handwriting input out there, and we don't, and I don't think these voting machine companies would throw away that tech just to make stupid voting machines. The write-in ballot is next to impossible with e-voting near as I can see, even from a theoretical angle. That they even offer that option is ludicrous.

  • by Boglin (517490) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @08:16PM (#16817906) Homepage Journal
    Al, Bob, and Chuck are running for the same office in a town with only three eligible voters. Currently, the three voters are expected to vote as follows

    • Al, Chuck, Bob
    • Al, Chuck, Bob
    • Bob, Chuck, Al
    This gives us Al at 5, Bob at 7, and Chuck at 6. Chuck calls in help from his two friend, Dave and Ed. Now, they don't really have anything to offer, but Dave is blind and Ed is in a wheelchair, so everyone feels bad about putting them last. The election now comes to:
    • Al, Chuck, Dave, Ed, Bob
    • Al, Chuck, Ed, Dave, Bob
    • Bob, Chuck, Ed, Dave, Al
    Chuck still comes out to six votes, but Al is now at seven, so Chuck wins the election. While this is an admittedly silly example, since there are more candidates than voters, it is an illustration that an unpopular third party candidate can still change the outcome of the election. In fact, there's a mathematical proof (Arrow's Impossibility Theorem [wikipedia.org]) which specifically states that there is no completely fair voting scheme. The unpopular third part falls under the "independence of irrelevant alternatives" section. In order to eliminate this problem, you have to give up one of the other attributes. In practice, most people who truly fix the third party hole wind up with a system where you can cause a candidate to lose by voting for him.
  • Re:Please note (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zcat_NZ (267672) <zcat@wired.net.nz> on Sunday November 12, 2006 @08:25PM (#16817984) Homepage
    Why?

    When you add 2+2 on your cheap Taiwanese calculator, how often do you expect an answer different from '4'. Feel free to do this calculation as often as you like and get back to me with a percentage error rate. (errors in entry due to the numbers wearing off the buttons do not qualify.)

    Now try something like a computer CPU. If you run several million simple integer additions, what percentage of those will be in error?

  • 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:Please note (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mac Degger (576336) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @10:13PM (#16818740) Journal
    Means there's a lot less variables to track, as well.

    And it's cute that banks lose small amounts of money...but you can bet your arse that if an ATM was mistracking money, there'd be an investigation as large as neccessary to find where things fubar'd, and in the end someone will be fired.

    Why isn't that done with votes?

    And of course the real question is why are voting machines blackboxes? Democracy only works if it is seen to be practiced...ie, if it is open and transparent. The mechanism of democracy (voting) needs to be that, almost per definition.

    You know what? Strike the 'almost'.
  • by mp3phish (747341) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @11:01PM (#16819110)
    It is fundamentally flawed in certain circumstances... like the one we are in right now. Now it wasn't setup to be like this but over the many years it has slowly grown this way. The idea that one vote used wisely only works for third parties when you have caps on spending low enough for (reasonable) 3rd parties to compete with it. However, any time a three party system could be applied to this method, you are in a state of instability, ie, it will always tend towards a 2 party system in the long run and stay there (at least with current election rules).

    In a ranking system(instant runoff), or approval system, every person can vote their conscience and still have a backup who is of the party they lean towards. This type of voting tends to make the end results to prefer the most popular party when better alternatives are not there, but still gives the alternative candidates a chance when they are more popular than any given party. This method, even with unrestricted spending, could tend towards a multi-party system in a stable state.

    Now, there may be things which could cause instability in the multi-party system that we are missing about a ranking system that would not reveal itself until many years down the road once the different parties figured all the little tricks and dynamics involved in that type of voting system. But you must address those problems as they come up, something that isn't being addressed with the current system.

    People have been researching polling methods for hundreds of years, and the scholars mostly agree against a 1 vote used wisely system for the very reasons mentioned above. It works good for simple elections involving 2 people. But only run-off style elections allow a 3rd or 4th party to be involved while still accounting for the will of the people. That is why most local/non-partisan elections are run this way (but not instantly, but a second election)
  • 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 billsoxs (637329) on Sunday November 12, 2006 @11:56PM (#16819426) Journal
    I live in a town of 88. It has four gas stations.

    And what, 8 bars? Yeah I grew up near towns like that - farmers have to go someplace. (Our town was the MAJOR metro area - having maybe 10,000 people. ;-) )

  • 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.
  • by gerardrj (207690) on Monday November 13, 2006 @01:51AM (#16820116) Journal
    I think we should move to a system where we vote against the people we don't want in office. Vote against as many candidates as you like. The candidate with the least votes wins.

    This gives people a good reason to vote for "third party" candidates as you could, for example, support both the Libertarian and Democratic candidates by voting against the Republican and any other candidates.

    I think it would also give the politicians a much better view of the thought process of the voter, there's more expression possible with the ability to more accurately describe your preferences.

    Being able to choose between a "positive" and a "negative" ballot could be interesting but would require some significant thought to totaling the votes.
  • Re:Wait a second... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Schemat1c (464768) on Monday November 13, 2006 @02:13AM (#16820224) Homepage
    Wait a second this is all digital - THERE SHOULD NOT BE SAMPLING ERRORS!.

    Exactly. How many cash registers would IBM sell with these error rates?

    In fact if you want accurate voting machines maybe we should just refurbish some old registers, put the candidates names on the buttons and you have the paper receipt for backup.
  • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Monday November 13, 2006 @01:00PM (#16824976) Homepage Journal
    Are you ready to recognize that it is crucial for our native to survive as a democracy that we elect people who actually give a crap about stuff like this?

    Well, despite the bad grammar, I'll point out that even if you count people like me who are down to around 1/64th of one tribe, 1/16th of another, who would never be recognized by any tribal council or the damed BIA, you'd be hard pressed to find 5 million natives in the entire country. Secondly, democracy has been nothing but a marketing phrase since the Supreme Court took away our citizenship in 1876, and gave it to the corporations instead. So worrying about whether your vote for Jim Johnson, whose campaign was sponsored by Corporation X, will instead go to John Jimson, whose campaign was sponsored by Corporation Y, because of a bad electronic voting machine, you might want to ask why a couple of artificial people (Corporations are legally people) whose sole interest is profit (by law, Corporations must show a profit) would be paying for politicians in the first place.
  • by camg188 (932324) on Monday November 13, 2006 @02:07PM (#16825948)
    Not necessarily. You have to consider the possibility that the guy is just a dumbass and screwed up when he tried to vote for himself.

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