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Slashback: Election, Election, Election 377

Last week I came out in favor of electronic voting. Over the weekend, it turned out that its opponents' worst fears came true. Not only was some computer software buggy, but it actually threw a state election the wrong way. And though not very likely, it's even possible that this state will determine our next president! Have I changed my mind about electronic voting?

No, because the punchline is: New Mexico still uses dead trees. The bug was in the software that counts paper ballots.

New Mexico was given to Gore on election night by 6,800 votes because of buggy computer software. That software "failed to read" straight-party votes (oops!), and worse, it "also chose at least one candidate from another party."

If computer flaws had thrown an electronic-vote election, you'd be reading about it on the front page of every newspaper across the country, and pundits would be telling us (sometimes in ways very funny) how foolish we were to trust our votes to those nasty computers.

How many presidential elections does our 19th-century technology have to nearly destroy before the alternatives get serious consideration?

A friend in Sweden tells me that the U.S.A. is now being referred to as the B.R.A., the Banana Republic of America. Maybe by the 21st century we can have 20th-century voting machines installed at our polling places, what do you think?

(New Mexico could decide the election if Florida's votes are thrown out, Oregon goes to Bush, and one or two more improbabilities occur.)

Voting, right here in River(side) County Riverside County, California, used touch-screen voting in this last election. This is very different from internet voting since there was no network to the outside world. I think this is an important step and certainly should be done first.

ABC News's report describes Riverside's system and shows a photo. Randall Gardner points out that the local paper has a great story with an overview of the system and reactions from voters -- glitches, yes; late tally, yes; but all in all it sounded like a positive experience.

With a capital V and that rhymes with C and that stands for Canberra Dracophile points out an article from the Fairfax IT News website, which:

reports that voters in the Australian Capital Territory (in which our nation's capital, Canberra, lies) "could be the first in the nation to trial electronic voting at next year's territory election", according to the territory's Chief Minister, Gary Humphries. They're hoping to pass legislation next month to bring this about. Sounds cool, but the article goes on to quote Humphries as saying, "You might as well be doing it from your own home." Is it just me, or does this raise the possibility of voters being coerced into a particular vote where this sort of thing can't be seen? I'd prefer to see electronic voting available only from polling booths.

No grunge typefaces please User-interface wonks should enjoy this pure-and-simple design contest. Web Memes, Inc. is asking you to design a ballot, preferably one as unconfusing as possible while still using (spit) paper. You also get to make up your own candidates and issues.

(If the competition were digital, instead of paper, it would be a tough call between's new user interface and AmIPresidentOrNot.)

Busily coding your next election... Jason Kitcat, who says "I'm working really hard on the next release and haven't given it the PR time it deserves." Allow me.

FREE is "Free Referenda & Elections Electronically," "the first open source system for conducting electronic votes." We're now jumping from mere electronic tallying of votes in polling places to actual internet voting, so please keep your hands inside the browser at all times.

Originally an academic thesis, FREE is now GPL'd, written in Java, and its design background is available in whitepapers. I haven't tried running it. Someone let us know if the project could be useful.

See also, which comments:

...the majority of paper punching systems used in the U.S. do not produce repeatable results when ballots are tallied more than once, which means that election officials lack the means to objectively distinguish between fraud and error under these circumstances. ...we should in fact be looking to Internet voting systems in order to try to reduce those faults and thus provide for more security than what is available today -- not less security.

The seriously skeptical view Let's end on a sobering note. Scoffing at The Bell's claim to have tackled the subject a mere six months ago, Rebecca Mercuri points out (on Dave Farber's IP list) that others have been thinking about internet voting for over a decade. She writes:

Internet systems indeed DO promise FAR LESS in the way of auditability (recounts) and anonymity (privacy) than do the paper and other manual systems presently in place. To promote the belief that Internet voting, in any way provides a SAFE VOTE, is wholly erroneous.

She has an intimidating collection of links to (mostly) academic papers on the subject on her Electronic Voting page.

And in conclusion The only viable form of government is perl-based: we need a bicamel legislature with an eclectoral college. Thank you and good night!

And now for something completely the same! A note from timothy: The next piece in our continuing Hellmouth Revisited series is online. Feel free to go read it.

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Slashback: Election, Election, Election

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  • They can't. There is much to be said for the idea that voters don't rationally choose candidates. (Why else was billions of dollars spent on the campaigns, to advertise candidates just like toothpaste?) But if you can't tell what voters intended, there is no way to make computer vote totals accurate either.

    One big problem is that the "accuracy" depends on self-reports by voters of how they voted. But these reports might well be slanted to how the respondents think the listener wants to hear. For example, they might just answer 'Bush' to some questioner, to avoid an argument, when they really voted for the Socialist Labor candidate. Unlikely, but there is no way to check the accuracy then, and still keep it secret. (Maybe it would be better to run the election like the way the College of Cardinals elects the Roman Pope--burn all the ballots afterwards.)

    Another problem is that the computer can't eliminate many sources of arbitrary error within itself. For example, if there are more than some small number of candidates for a position (say 9), then it is hard for a human to keep all those names in short term memory all at once. The letters of the names must be large enough for all humans to read, not just 80 per cent. But at the same time, all the names must fit on the screen at once. This is the problem that the butterfly ballot design caused--and it confused enough voters to be deemed unacceptable. But what other design could be acceptable for such a display?

    Consider a further problem. It is generally accepted that the order of names on the ballot is important. Many candidates try to get their names listed at the top, because those names will be read first by most readers. A computer display could attempt to get around this unfair layout by randomizing the order of names. But in that case, some voters will be confused because the ballot doesn't look like the sample ballot that they saw earlier. There appears to be no good way to resolve that problem.

    Then look at absentee ballots. The Republicans in the Florida election sent out a huge number of absentee ballot applications to Republican voters, and this may have made the difference in the election. They were given some help in some counties by the election officials, since absentee ballot applications by law are supposed to contain the voter registration number. Computers used by Republican campaign team members were used to aid this process, but the voters themselves could not use computer power to equalize the absentee vote. Unfair again.

    The problem of using computers to tally votes is that people don't trust them. For a long time this will be true. Until there is a generally accepted and completely trustworthy way to rely on computers for vote totals, then we need to have a backup hand count system. Computer designers need to pay attention to the real needs of election officials, and how balloting is really done, rather than design in the abstract.

    Unfortunately, local election officials cannot easily raise funds to improve their systems. They are at the mercy of private companies that promise too much and don't deliver. If Congress is going to reform the voting apparatus of America, it ought to set up a publicly funded research project to do this, and fund the equipment and software as well. In order to make the process transparent, many of us will urge that the software be uniform and publicly owned, not proprietary and closed.

  • Not much aware of the sweatshops in New York, are you?

    You do what your triad boss tells you. Period.

  • > Finally, even if a court does agree that the ballot was confusing, there is legal precedent at the appeals level in Florida for saying "tough luck" anyway.

    FYI, the text of the re-filed lawsuit (now apparently a single state case rather than a scattershot of separate state and Federal suits) can be found at ABC's Website [].
  • I wholeheartedly agree with your premise and conclusions.

    However, from your blurb, I think you misunderstood the specific type of error the software was making. Contrast:

    • jamie: New Mexico was given to Gore on election night by 6,800 votes because of buggy computer software. That software "failed to read" straight-party votes (oops!), and worse, it "also chose at least one candidate from another party."

      FOX News: The machines initially failed to read ballots on which voters chose to vote a straight party ticket, but also chose at least one candidate from another party, election officials said.

    The cards that were erroneously counted were when someone overrode one or more races on a blanket straight-party ballot. An example: I VOTE STRAIGHT DEMOCRATIC, BUT I WANT JOHN Q. REPUBLICAN TO WIN FOR THE SENATE RACE.

    When that happened, the software probably read "straight vote" and marked JANE Q. DEMOCRAT for SENATE. Then it marked JOHN Q. REPUBLICAN. Then it saw there were two marks for SENATE, so discarded the vote for that race. It'd be an easy error to make.

  • by MikeBabcock ( 65886 ) <> on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @04:22PM (#623744) Homepage Journal
    Falsifying paper votes is pretty easy. Its paper. Think bribery.

    At any rate, digital signatures, if used properly (sufficient key sizes, certification systems, etc.) would make a very provable record of peoples' votes. The problem is that its no longer a secret ballot. What you probably need is something like a one-time pad of secret keys to be used to encrypt the ballots (Thats a lot of bit-space ;-) and they're dispensed to people as they prove their identity (I'm talking over a network, etc.) -- this gives security as strong as the network security system (high-bit public keys) and the anonymity of using your piece of the OTP instead of your actual public key to encrypt your vote.

  • I live in New Mexico so I thought I might offer some insight, albeit fairly shallow, into how the process works.

    On election morning the machines are put through a diagnostic process and there is a printout made of the system diagnostics. If everything is copacetic the machine is put into use. If it is not, that machince will not be used. After the diagnostics are completed the poll workers put in two votes across the board. The reason for this is to prevent people from learning how any one person voted. The reason I know this is that in the place where I voted, one of the machines was broke and a poll worker explained to me how it worked.

    Although this does not explain the buggy software problem, it does explain some of how it works (or is supposed to anyway).

    I am not sure that having a printout of how you voted is conducive to privacy. I think that by signing your name to get your ticket to vote you do provide a way dealing with possible errors. If the vote is screwed then by signing your name, you would be able to vote again, should the occasion arise.

    On a different note, just the sight of those straigt party ticket buttons makes me shudder. I have never seen anything that encourages voter ignorance the way that crap does.

    On another different point I think that it is absolutely ironic that if the entire student population of any large university would have voted we would not be in the mess that we are in now. Maybe all of this bullshit that is happening now will force the young people who think that their vote doesn't count to realize that it indeed does.

  • I found this on a post in a story which has since been killed. I reposted it in another kuro5hin story and repost it here again. References for these statements are to be found in a link at the end of the FAQ.


    [This draft #4 was prepared by Rich Cowan ( with help from Paul Rosenberg, Dan Kohn, Jonathan Prince, Marc Sobel, subscribers to the Red Rock Eater News Service and the electronic mail discussion, and the Yale Law School Student Campaign for a Legal Election, 127 Wall Street New Haven, CT 06511 --]

    1) Myth: Al Gore has a responsibility to concede the election.

    Fact: A 330 vote margin out of 6 million votes cast in Florida is incredibly close! It is roughly equivalent to a 1-vote margin in a city with 40,000 people and 18,000 voters. It is extremely rare for an election this close NOT to be contested for several weeks until a manual recount can take place, with observers from both sides taking part and inspecting ballots. This kind of detailed recount has not yet taken place.

    According to the US Constitution and the Laws of Florida, it is the responsibility of officials in Florida to certify the election results. November 17 is the deadline for absentee ballots sent from overseas to arrive. Since the election is close enough in Florida, Oregon, and New Mexico to be affected by absentee ballots, the results in those states cannot be certified before that date.

    2) Myth: the number of "spoiled ballots" in Palm Beach County was typical. In a press briefing televised live on all networks on 11/9/00, Karl Rove of the Bush campaign compared the 14,872 invalidated ballots in the 1996 Presidential race to 19,120 ballots for President that were spoiled in this election.

    Fact: the Bush campaign was comparing apples and oranges. There were actually 29,702 invalidated ballots this year in Palm Beach County. This is almost twice the number in 1996. "19,120" refers to only those 2000 ballots which were thrown out for voting for two Presidential candidates. The remaining 10,582 ballots had no choice recorded for President.

    According to the Palm Beach County elections office ( []), voters this year were not confused at all by the rest of the ballot. For example, less than 1% of U.S. Senate votes were invalidated because of multiple punches, compared with over 4% in the Presidential contest.

    3) Myth: The Palm Beach ballot is definitely illegal due to the presence of punch holes to the left of some of the candidates.

    Fact: According to the Secretary of State's office, there is a loophole in Florida law that may allow ballots used for voting machines to deviate from the rules governing paper ballots. This view has been contested by hundreds of Florida voters. The final decision on the legality of the ballot is likely to be made in court, as long as this issue could have an effect on the election.

    It is possible that the ballot could be ruled illegal on other grounds, such as the Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act or the Americans With Disabilities Act.

    4) Myth: "The more often ballots are recounted, especially by hand, the more likely it is that human errors, like lost ballots and other risks, will be introduced. This frustrates the very reason why we have moved from hand counting tomachine counting." -- Former Sec. of State James Baker, speaking on behalf of the Bush campaign at a press briefing televised by all networks on 11/10/00.

    Fact: In 1997, George W. Bush signed into law a bill stating that hand recounts were the preferred method in a close election in Texas. The bill, "HB 330", mandated that representatives of all parties be present to prevent fraud. Laws establishing rights and procedures for handrecounts also exist in Florida (see Title IX, Chapter 102). In fact, the Orlando Sentinel, ( []) reported that a partial hand count of Presidential ballots this year was ordered by Republicans in Seminole County, where Bush led Gore. This count took place on 11/9 and 11/10, widening Bush's lead by 98 votes. The Bush campaign did not complain about this hand count; nor did it complain about the hand count on 11/11/00 which put Bush slightly ahead of Gore in New Mexico.

    There do exist machine voting systems which are fairly accurate, but antiquated punch card systems are notoriously inaccurate. They were outlawed in Massachusetts in 1997 by Secretary of State William Galvin after a Congressional primary that was also "too close to call". The problem is that if the punched-out pieces of cardboard are not completely removed from the punch card, they can obstruct the card reader and the votes will not be counted. A manual recount of such cards can clearly reveal the voter's intentions.

    5) Myth: The process is unfair because hand recounts were held only in liberal areas of Florida, where Gore stands to pick up the most votes.

    Fact: It is true that a statewide recount would be more fair, and the Bush campaign has every right to request one. According to Florida law, hand recount requests must come from the campaigns, not from the state. To fail to request what is commonly referred to as a "defensive recount" in conservative areas of Florida, they may be making a tactical blunder that will cost them the election.

    It is also true that there were voting irregularities in the counties where the Gore campaign requested recounts.

    6) Myth: "Palm Beach County is a Pat Buchanan stronghold and that's why Pat Buchanan received 3407 votes there. According to the Florida Department of State, 16,695 voters in Palm Beach County are registered to the Independent Party, the Reform Party, or the American Reform Party, an increase of 110% since the 1996 presidential election" -- Ari Fleischer of the Bush Campaign, 11/9/00. The 2,000 votes received by the Reformparty candidate for Congress indicate that party's strength in Palm Beach County (James Baker on Meet the Press, 11/12/00).

    Fact: Of those 16,695 voters, only 337 (2 percent) are in the Reform Party according to Florida state records. The Reform party candidate for Congress, John McGuire, is connected to a more centrist wing of the Reform Party, predating Buchanan's involvement. An analysis of his support indicates that it came largely from reform-minded Ralph Nader voters.

    Regarding Buchanan's vote total, the Washington Post reported that his vote percentage in Palm Beach county was four times as high at the polls as in absentee voting. Even Buchanan himself admitted on 11/8/00 on the Today Show that many of his votes actually "belonged to Al Gore". So did his campaign manager, Bay Buchanan.

    7) Myth: If Gore (or Bush) ends up winning the popular vote, he really should win the election even if he loses Florida and other states.

    Fact: This is not the way the U.S. Constitution is written. The Electoral College decision, imperfect as it may be, is the only one that matters. It may be possible to reform or eliminate the electoral college in the future, so that small states would no longer receive extra electoralvotes out of proportion to their population. But until this change is made by Constitutional amendment, the Electoral College is still the law of the land.

    8) Myth: The Cook County, Illinois ballot from the home district of Gore campaign chair Richard Daleyis similar to the "butterfly" ballot used in Palm Beach County (reported by Don Evans, 11/8/00)

    Fact: According to the Chicago Daily Herald on11/10/00, the ballots in Chicago which had"facing pages" were referendum questions which only had two punch holes, Yes and No.

    9) Myth: The election process in Florida outside of Palm Beach County was fair.

    Fact: Actually, thousands of irregularities in over a half-dozen categories have already been reported:

    -Ballots ran out in certain precincts according tothe LA Times on 11/10/00.

    -Carpools of African-American voters were stopped by police, according to the Los Angeles Times (11/10/00). In some cases, officers demanded to see a "taxi license".

    -Polls closed with people still in line in Tampa, according to the Associated Press.

    -In Osceola County, ballots did not line up properly, possibly causing Gore voters to have their ballots cast for Harry Browne. Also, Hispanic voters were required to produce two forms of ID when only one is required. (source: Associated Press)

    -Dozens, and possibly hundreds, of voters in Broward County were unable to vote because the Supervisor of Elections did not have enough staff to verify changes of address.

    -Voters were mistakenly removed from voter rolls because their names were similar to those of ex-cons, according to Mother Jones magazine.

    -According to Reuters news service (11/8/00), many voters received pencils rather than pens when they voted, in violation of state law.

    -According to the Miami Herald, many Haitian-American voters were turned away from precincts where they were voting for the first time (11/10/00)

    -According to Feed Magazine [], the mayoral candidate whose election in Miami was overturned due to voter fraud, Xavier Suarez, said he was involved in preparing absentee ballots for George W. Bush. (11/9/00)

    -According to, CBS's Dan Rather reported a possible computer error in Volusia County, Florida, where James Harris, a Socialist Workers Party candidate, won 9,888 votes. He won 583 in the rest of the state. [11/9/00] County-level results for Florida are available at

    -Many African-American first-time voters who registered at motor vehicles offices or in campus voter registration drives did not appear on the voting rolls, according to a hearing conducted by the NAACP and televised on C-SPAN on 11/12/00.

    10) Myth: "No evidence of vote fraud, either in the original vote or in the recount, has been presented." -- James Baker, representing the Bush campaign on 11/10/00, in a Florida briefing.

    Fact: The election was held just last week, so of course many instances of fraud have not yet been substantiated. Even so, authorities have already uncovered clear evidence of voter fraud involving absentee ballots.

    In Pensacola, Florida, Bush supporter Todd Vinson never received the absentee ballot he requested. According to the Associated Press on 11/9/00, it was determined after an investigation that this ballot was received by a third party, filled out with a forged signature, and then sent in. Assistant State Attorney Russell Edgar, when asked if other absentee ballots might had been intercepted, said, "I agree there may well be many more than just this one".

    Much media attention on the issue of voter fraud has been focused on Wisconsin where cigarettes were offered to homeless people who were casting absentee ballots, presumably for Gore. The Gore campaign claims the cigarettes were not used to "buy" votes. On Monday 10/13, the London Times reported a suspected pro-Bush vote fraud operation in Miami involving over 10,000 ballots.

    11) Myth: It is highly unusual for judges to intervene after an election. Since the designer of a disputed ballot in Florida is a member of the party contesting the election, a legal challenge is impossible.

    Fact: The most fundamental right of a democratic society is the the right to vote, and to have one's vote correctly counted. The legal system exists to ensure that people's rights are not violated. Whether the person committing a violation is a Democrat or a Republican does not affect how that violation should be treated.

    Elections are ultimately struggles for political power so it should not be surprising that disputes are often resolved in court. Of course judges can be biased. That is why they must explain their decisions and why bad arguments can be overturned on appeal.

    The Florida Supreme Court ruled in 1998, in connection with a disputed Volusia County election, that if there is "substantial noncompliance" with election laws and a "reasonable doubt" about whether election results "expressed the will of the voters" then a judge must "void the contested election, even in the absence of fraud or intentional wrongdoing." (source: Wall St. Journal, 10/10/00). The Journal indicated that there was little legal precedent for a revote in just one area where an election occurred. It would be more likely for a court to order a new election or to overturn the result.

    These issues have arisen in other states as well. In a Massachusetts Democratic primary in 1996 for the US House, the election was so close after recounts that a judge had to make the final decision after examining some of the ballots that were incompletely punched, to determine the intention of the voter. The law clearly dictated that it was the will of the voter that mattered, and the candidate who was behind, William Delahunt, went on to win the final election. Call the Capitol Switchboard if you have any doubts at 202-225-3121.

    12) Myth: Richard Nixon's party in 1960 did the honorable thing in not contesting the results of the election.

    Fact: According to a column in the Los Angeles Times, 11/10/00, "on Nov. 11, three days after the election, Thurston B. Morton, a Kentucky senator and the Republican Party's national chairman, launched bids for recounts or investigations in not just Illinois and Texas but also Delaware, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, NewJersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. A few days later, Robert H. Finch and Leonard W. Hall, two Nixon intimates, sent agents to conduct what they called "field checks" in eight of those 11 battlegrounds. In New Jersey, local Republicans obtained court orders for recounts; Texans brought suit in federal court. Illinois witnessed the most vigorous crusade. Nixon aide Peter Flanigan encouraged the creation of aChicago-area Nixon Recount Committee. As late as Nov. 23, Republican National Committee general counsel H. Meade Alcorn Jr. was still predicting Nixon would take Illinois." Recounts continued into December, but did not succeed in overturning the result of the election.

    13) Myth: "Governor Bush is still the winner, subject only to counting the overseas ballots, which traditionally have favored the Republican candidates" -- James Baker, Press Briefing, 11/10/00

    Fact: The number of yet-to-be-counted overseas military ballots is likely to be in the range of 500 to 2000, based on the 1996 election in which there were 2,300 oversees absentee ballots overall, with roughly 60% of them coming from people enlisted in the military. According to CNN [11/10/00], the military overseas ballots that arrived before the election were already counted.

    The biggest difference from 1996 is that Clinton -- who avoided the draft -- was running against Dole, a decorated military veteran.

    In 2000 George W. Bush -- who avoided service in Vietnam and actually lost flying privileges in the Texas Air National Guard -- is running against Al Gore, a veteran who served in Vietnam.

    It is just as possible that Gore will gain a few hundred votes from veterans as the other way around. It is also possible that the Gore ticket will pick up votes from Democratic diplomatic appointees, or temporary residents and dual citizens of Israel.

    PLEASE HELP DISTRIBUTE THIS FLYER! We plan to make it easy for you to obtain a paper copy for distribution at your workplace, church or campus. If you post this on the web, please let us know! HTML and printable (Word, PDF) versions will be available at: /pe ople/pagre/13-myths.html []

    Internet references sometimes change, so they will be updated at:
    http://dlis.gseis.u cla .edu/people/pagre/myth-references.html []

    To participate in a student discussion, please send a blank email to:

    Tips on E-Organizing:

    Jacob Everist

  • Give every voter a unique number and a hard copy receipt. Publish all the votes on the internet. All voters can then tally the votes for themselves, and check that their votes are represented accurately.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @05:35PM (#623752)

    To the citizens of the United States of America, In the light of your failure to elect a President and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective today.

    Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchial duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories (except Utah, which she does not fancy). Your new Prime Minister (The Right Honorable Tony Blair, the 97.85% of you who have until now been unaware that there is a world outside your borders) will appoint a minister for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire will be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

    To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

    1. You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary. Then look up "aluminium". Check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it. Generally, you should raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. Look up "vocabulary". Using the same twenty seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. Look up "interspersed".

    2. There is no such thing as "US English". We will let Microsoft know on your behalf.

    3. You should learn to distinguish the English and Australian accents. It really isn't that hard.

    4. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as the good guys.

    5. You should relearn your original national anthem, "God Save The Queen", but only after fully carrying out task 1. We would not want you to get confused and give up half way through.

    6. You should stop playing American "football". There is only one kind of football. What you refer to as American "football" is not a very good game. The 2.15% of you who are aware that there is a world outside your borders may have noticed that no one else plays "American" football. You will no longer be allowed to play it, and should instead play proper football. Initially, it would be best if you played with the girls. It is a difficult game. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which is similar to American "football", but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like nancies). We are hoping to get together at least a US rugby team by 2005.

    7. You should declare war on Quebec and France, using nuclear weapons if they give you any merde. The 97.85% of you who were not aware that there is a world outside your borders should count yourselves lucky. The Russians have never been the bad guys. "Merde" is French for "shit".

    8. July 4th is no longer a public holiday. November 8th will be a new national holiday, but only in England. It will be called "Indecisive Day".

    9. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and it is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean.

    10. Please tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us crazy.

    Thank you for your cooperation.

    [source unknown]
  • A friend in Sweden tells me that the U.S.A. is now being referred to as the B.R.A., the Banana Republic of America.

    This from a socialist country with a monarchy and a parliament. Your friend and his compatriots must not pay much attention to local politics in other industrialized countries with a parliamentary system, like, say, France, the UK, or.. oh, I don't know, Sweden. In these countries when no party has a clear majority, days or even weeks pass before a viable coalition can be formed and in the meantime they have no government.

    We're a long way from that kind of chaos.

  • by Dlugar ( 124619 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @05:42PM (#623756) Homepage

    (I know this is way down at the bottom, so not likely many will read it, but I'm still interested in people's opinions. Let me know what you think.)

    My Ideas for United States General Election Reform:

    • Keep the Electoral College

    The electoral college needs to stay. A president should be elected because he receives the support of the majority of the states, not the majority of the people in the nation. Small states and minorities would lose out considerably if the electoral college were completely abolished.

    Alleged problems with the Electoral College:

    Myth 1. The American people do not really elect the president

    The American people, of course, still elect the president, but not directly. They never have. This is not a problem, and never has been. Some people like to point at elections in which the president has lost the popular vote, but won the office because of the Electoral College. A good example of this is George W. Bush in the 2000 election. If one were to look at a map of the United States, one would see that Bush won the support of the majority of the nation, while Gore won several pockets of large population. If the Electoral College were abolished, candidates could campaign only in these pockets of people, and win the office of the presidency even though the majority of states supported a different candidate.

    Nobody argues that in a basketball tournament, the winner should be the team who scores the most total baskets combined from every game. The baskets have to be arranged to win games, just as the votes in a General Election have to be arranged to win states. However, I suggest to:

    • Split Votes to Congressional Districts

    The electoral votes allotted to each State corresponds with the number of Representatives and Senators each State has in Congress. Instead of the majority winner in a particular state receiving the entirety of that state's electoral votes, have one electoral vote per Congressional district and two for the state majority.

    Myth 2. Your vote counts for more if you're from a larger state

    The number of electors a state received is directly proportional to the population of the state. Assuming that a state has 100% voter turnout, every vote counts as an identical percent of an elector. In fact, it is the smaller states whose vote counts for more, because each state has the two electors corresponding to Senators regardless of size. The problem ensues when one state has a high voter turnout, while another has a very low voter turnout. In the latter case, one's vote is worth quite a bit more. Therefore I propose that the number of electors be:

    • Representative of Voters, not Population

    Using the national census, calculate the population of the United States and divide by 435 (the number of members in the House of Representatives). This will result in the number of people per congressional district. However, instead of counting basic population, count the number of people who voted in the previous general election. Then organize the congressional districts based on this information. This way, votes from states with large populations but with very low voter turn-out don't count for more than votes from states with higher voter turn-out.

    Myth 3. Faithless electors can swing votes

    A much-touted problem with the Electoral College, the fact that electors can change their vote at the last minute has never been a problem. In the very few times it has happened in this nation's history, not once has it even come close to changing the results of an election. In addition, the electors are generally chosen from the prominent members of the political party for whom your vote is case. That is to say, if you vote for a Republican president, you are in actuality voting for the Republican elector who has been chosen by party leaders. If your vote is cast for a Democratic president, you are electing the elector whom the Democrat party has chosen. There is very little chance that such a person would choose to go against the wishes of his party without good reason.

    A bigger problem is that a president might be elected without gaining support of the majority of the nation, especially if the votes are divided among three or four parties. A form of run-off voting, such as Instant Runoff Voting or Instant Pair Runoff Voting (Condorcet), would solve this problem.

    • Use Instant Runoff or Condorcet (Instant Pair Runoff) Voting

    Instant Runoff Voting allows voters to rank candidates as their first choice, second choice, third, fourth, and so on. If a candidate does not receive clear majority of votes on the first count, a series of runoff counts are conducted, using each voter's top choices indicated on the ballot. The candidate who received the fewest first place ballots is eliminated. The ballots are then retabulated, with each counting as a vote for the top-ranked candidate listed on the ballot that is still in contention. Voters who chose the now-eliminated candidate have their votes transferred to their second choice candidate--just as if they were voting in a traditional two-round runoff election. This process continues until a candidate achieves more than fifty percent of the vote. However, this still encourages people not to "vote their conscience." A more effective system is the Condorcet, or "Instant Pair Runoff Voting" method.

    In the Condorcet election method, voters rank the candidates in order of preference. The vote counting procedure then takes into account each preference of each voter for one candidate over another. It does so by conceptually breaking the election down into a series of separate races between each possible pairing of candidates, hence it is sometimes referred to as a "pairwise" method. If one of the candidates beats each of the other candidates in their one-on-one race, then that candidate wins. Otherwise, the result is ambiguous and an optimal procedure is used to resolve the ambiguity. Unlike our current plurality election method, the Condorcet system gives voters little incentive to falsify their true preferences.

    More detailed information about Condorcet voting can be found here: tm [].

    Other thoughts to consider:

    • Move the general election to a Saturday & Sunday weekend? A mandatory national holiday?
    • Close all polling booths simultaneously across the nation?
    • Outlaw exit polls?
    • Reform campaign spending? Ban political advertising on broadcast TV and Radio?
    • Create a more efficient way of checking the validity of a voter's identification and get rid of voter registration?

    Thanks for your input. Please email me [mailto] with comments and suggestions.

  • Ack! scary thought! even on /.'s voting page we aren't supposed to trust the results! I wonder what would happen if they recounted one of them. :)

  • Here is a book called Vote Scam [] which purports that between the manufacturers of voting equipment and VNS (Voter News Service), just about any election can be rigged. Interestingly, the author points out that all of the voting tabulation equipment is run on proprietary hardware with proprietary software which no one will offer up for public peer review. Does anyone here honestly think that closed source software running inside our voting booths is appropriate given how critical this equipment is to the foundation of our democracy? I don't know if the allegations made in the book are true, but I definately believe we need to lobby congress to pass a law MANDATING that all voting systems be completely transparent and run with open hardware and software in a manner which allows for public peer review. Yup, that means Free Software/Open Source voting booths.
  • Take a look []
  • > Is Bush and Gore trying to prove that the only thing you need to become president is a good lawyer? Can you sue to become president?

    I guess I'm an anti-alarmist. For better or worse, the courts are the final arbiters of law and procedure in the USA. When an election is this close, the courts are exactly where it belongs.

    And though the courts are not completely above politicising the situation, I still have faith that their decisions will be much less politically motivated than, say, Florida's Attorney General (activist Democrat) or Secretary of State (activist Republican).

    > Who really believes that a recount is anymore accurate than the original tally?

    You may be interested to know that a recount law was enacted in Texas in 1997, with bipartisan support in the state legislature and a willing signature from GWB. That law says that in the event one party wants a recount by machine and the other a hand recount, then the recount shall be by hand. I think if you had asked anyone at all eight days ago, everyone would have agreed that a hand count is the most accurate. (Machine recounts are generally preferred due to considerations cost and speed.)

    A side note, which you probably do not want to hear, is that hand counts can detect the voter's intent in cases where a machine count cannot. There is plenty of legal precedent for this notion. (And also, IIRC, a direct mention of the voter's "intent" in the Florida Statutes. Sorry; I read big blocks of it last night, and am not up to reading it again.)

    > Out of the 6 million votes in Florida, how hard do you think it would be for Gore supporters to mysteriously come up with 2000 votes in Gore's favour?

    Whence the a priori assumption that the Democrats are more able to cheat than the Republicans are, or that they will prove to be better at it? Are you aware of the procedures used in hand recounts?
  • by Booker ( 6173 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @03:05PM (#623769) Homepage that your thuggish boss can say "look buddy, your job is history unless you give me your login and/or let me watch over your shoulder while you vote."


    Or voting at gunpoint after being hauled off to an internet cafe... you get the point. I don't know any way around that.

    I would like to see electronic tallying at the polling place, though. Just dial up and submit your totals at the end of the day.

    BUT... I would really still like a hard copy of each vote, right after each vote. God forbid that we wind up with an election such as the one in Florida, with nothing but bits vanished from the ether as a record of people's votes.

    Is there any way to do this securely w/o a physical record of the vote?


  • I think that it's a smart decision. States are given wide latitude on how and when to certify electors (for example, South Carolina didn't hold presidential elections until 1860). Without clear direction from statute or directly applicable precedent, the wise jurist (especially the wise *lower court* jurist) lets administrators take care of administration, intervening only when necessary.

    A ruling in the other direction, where counties would be able to overrule the legal authority of the secretary of state by merely choosing to not certify their ballot, would be truly horrifying. If you think that this election has been a fiasco, you aint seen nothing yet.

    That said, he explicitly and personally charged the Florida Secretary of State with coming up with a very good, legal reason to reject further revisions to the vote count, letting Palm Beach go ahead and recount with impunity. She cannot arbitrarily reject them merely because they come in late. Essentially, this lets her declare a certification of county vote counts which is only one in name, not in fact.

    However. Like most lay observers, it seems that the person to whom we are replying ascribes motives to the process of law. The best thing that judges can do is rule for legal consistency, not justice, not cowardice, and certainly a pox on both your houses. They're quite romantic explanations but nowhere near the truth.

    Lewis covered the bases as a competent judge should - he granted controlling legal authority to the controlling legal authority - but placed restrictions on that legal authority. Where Harris wanted to ignore any further revisions after 5PM (really, this is the only reason to call for certifications at this date), Lewis left the door open for them.

    If Harris were a lawyer, she'd probably take this as a rebuke to her overstepping the bounds of her authority as Secretary of State. Because she's a Republican partisan with limited experience, it probably went over her head. I'll bet good money that the Republican legal team understood, though, and is hard at work coming up for possible reasons to close the door on Palm Beach Co.'s manual recount.

  • by HardCase ( 14757 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @04:36PM (#623779)
    Computer voting is fine, I suppose, as long as the security and anonymity is guaranteed (as much as can be), but I wonder how such an undertaking would be financed?

    Riverside County's electronic system cost tens of thousands of dollars to implement. Apparently the county could afford to do it, but what about Los Angeles County? Or other very populous counties? What about sparsely populated, poor counties?

    The reason that we punch a piece of paper is for the same reason that we still use pencils and paper. By and large, the system works, and works well. I believe that no matter what system is in place, irregularities will occur. That's just the way things go with a project of the scope of a national election. But the beauty of the system as it is now is that it's quite inexpensive and quite accurate. Bear in mind that the number of ballots in dispute are a small fraction of the total of number of ballots cast. Given the closeness of the election, any small problem ends up appearing quite large...but I still do not see a strong case for making a change, other than, perhaps, the gee-whiz factor.


  • It seems that the only presidential candidate in the US who really cares about people (and not whoever will help them the most) is Ralph Nader, and he doesn't have many vote. I live in Canada, and i've just started hearing ads on the radio for the NDP (our election is the 27th). Their site ( says

    "Our commitment to Canadians:

    We'll increase federal money for health care and add home care and help with prescription drugs to Medicare.

    We'll establish tough national standards and strong programs for safe food, clean drinking water and clear air.

    We'll implement a national plan with solid targets to make jobs our first economic priority.

    We'll double the Child Tax Benefit and create a National Early Years Fund for early childhood education and child care.

    We'll roll back tuition fees and create interest-free loans for college and university students.

    We'll fight for fair trade deals that put the needs of Canadians ahead of global corporations."

    They actually have 10-20% of the seats, i think (can't find it anywhere...), and that's better than Ralph Nader.
  • I don't know. I have to disagree.

    For the past week, I've been watching and reading the news with increasing trepidation as one person after another attempts to pass off their partisan opinon as the one and only correct, unbiased interpretation of the law. Campaign staffers, GOP and Dem politicians, regular voters, the digerati [], and even the press. I view both the Democrats and the Republicans with equal distaste, and am equally unhappy with either candidate. I think that's about as unbiased as you're gonna get. Am I the only one in America?

    Ironically, the most level-headed non-partisan statement I've heard yet has come from Al Gore. And not even that was without a slant.

    And as I've been watching this whole circus, I've been hollering at the TV screen and muttering to my newspaper, "stop acting like third world politicians, pretending you aren't arguing from an extreme position!" All these people, especially James Baker and Mindy Tucker, seem to have absolutely no clue as to how biased they sound when they make their public statements. They're so blinded by their partisanship they can't see how hypocritical they look to people who are only interested in a fair outcome.

    Of course, what should I expect from Florida? Chicago and Louisiana may have the reputations as corrupt, but I used to live in Florida. Based on the amount of corruption, con artisanship, and good ole boy networking I endured there, I was immediately cracking jokes about how ironic it was that the outcome of the presidential election would depend on the integrity of Florida officials. It is a banana republic folks, in a lot of ways.

    There are a lot of Americans who believe that we have the most honest, ethical system of government in the world. And they have good reason to believe it - it's drummed into us from day one. And it may still be true. But always remember and never forget: that doesn't mean it's completely honest and totally ethical. To say "it can never happen here" is to leave the door wide open for corruption. And I fear that's what we have done.

    Look at it this way: when money can buy policy in DC [], the way it does now, just how soon will it be until money can buy an election? And has it happened already?? We need to keep asking those questions, or else it will happen right under our noses.

    Heck, that's exactly why I voted for Nader. There's too much influence in Washington by special interests with lots of money. Nobody there does anything if it's not greased by megabucks. Is that ethical? Is it good government? It disturbs me that these practices are so widely accepted. I know I'm not the only one, but it seems there aren't enough of us.

    And, in closing, I have to unleash my inner conspiracy theorist or he's gonna eat a hole in my spleen: it sure smells a lot to me like the Bush boys tried to buy an election, and it blew up in their faces. But we'll probably never see any evidence to support that... then again, stranger things (cough, Monica, cough) have happened!

  • I find it difficult to believe that Triad bosses even care who votes what. But we were talking about ordinary employers, not criminals. If you knowingly sign up to work for a criminal, you get what you deserve. If you discover that your employer is a criminal after the fact, you need to get out of there as soon as safely possible. I really feel for the Triad slaves, but they have bigger problems to worry about than voting.

    The solution of Triad bosses telling their slaves how to vote is not solved by devising yet another voting scheme. The solution is to send the Triad bosses to the bottom of a deep dark prison cell and to free their captives.
  • by Arandir ( 19206 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @04:37PM (#623786) Homepage Journal
    Falsifying paper votes is pretty easy. Its paper. Think bribery.

    Falsifying computer records is pretty easy. Think bribery...

    Seriously! Someone in a back room can alter electronic votes. With card ballots, someone has to slip out with a stack of ballots in front of the other election workers. It can happen, but the electronic fraud is easier to get away with.
  • by nidarus ( 240160 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @04:40PM (#623788)
    If the USA was anything like 90% of the rest of the world, the country would be in flames from the rioting, looting, civil unrest, and outright rebellion that would have inevitably followed an election this close.

    Aren't we stretching it a bit?

    I mean, the USA is relatively politically stable, but your view of the rest of the world (oh, sorry, just 90% of the rest of the world) is totally distorted.

    I mean, where I live, in Israel (which is not, you must agree, the most peaceful and stable country around), the elections are almost always this close, and yet, I don't recall any rioting and looting on this issue (though for other reasons... but that's another matter), so what "90% of the rest of the world" are you talking about, exactly? Sweden, maybe?

    Of course, I cannot really blame you for this superficial view of the "rest of the world" - you probably see reports on TV about such things as the latest Yugoslavian elections and the chaos that followed. You don't a lot about the latest elections in Sweden, for example, because a news report about how "the elections went peacefully, nothing interesting happened, new prime-minister was elected" are not very interesting news indeed. Thus, you deduce that the events that followed the Yugoslavian elections are the norm in the rest of the (non-American) world.

    I'm sorry, but despite what you are implying, the "rest of the world" is not populated by mindless barbarians.
  • That might be helpful. 0/4090/contents.htm.

    I disagree. You have a system which prevents a third party (not to speak about a fourth party) of being formed and represented. When those European governments have to form coalitions, that is a very healthy thing and by NO means a chaos.

    At least if you have to form a coalition, the voices of third parties are heard and represented in the case the election results end in a tie, where neither of the two big parties gets the absolute majority.

    In Germany the Liberals have been for years the deciding factor to mellow down the divisions between the conservatives and the social democrats. The two big parties had to decide (mostly upfront), if they would consider a coalition with any third party, in case one of the big parties alone could not form a government without building a coalition with a small party. And that I consider very healthy. We even had once a situation where both big parties built a coalition.

    Just imagine that here in the U.S. Can you imagine Bush and Gore building a cabinet together ? And the funny thing is that their political differences is much smaller than the political differences between the conservatives and social democrats in Germany. So, yes, the U.S. is divided, artificially, but not really in political substance.

    Historically, the Liberals (not Libertarians), the Greens and unfortunately lately also the right wing extremists and socialist/communist extremists represent the smaller parties in Germany. They mostly struggle for decades to get more than 5 % of the vote, which by law they must get, in order to be eligible to have seats in the "Bundestag" and function as a coalition partner. That's not chaos, that is representation of diverse political ideas, IMHO.

    Contrary I find the U.S. system (due to what your forefathers feared the most: not being able to find ONE candidate everyone, including the small states, could agree upon. Apparently the dividing interests from state to state within the U.S. were so huge, that a voting system was chosen which strongly favored a majority building system trading off a more proportional representation of the popular vote.

    If you want to look at a comparison of systems the link on top can give you some insight about the differences.

    Anyway, to come back to the real subject of which method of voting and counting is more accurate or better, I still refuse to give it serious thought. Because each system will have a margin of error and each system will cause problems, if the the margin of error is larger than the difference in votes for one of the two parties.

    Let's say the popular vote for one candidate would be ONE vote (in the hypothetical situation you could get ever such an exact count out of 200 000 000 million counted votes). Would you deduct there is a mandate for the party who got ONE more vote ? I don't think so.

    Another way of solving the problem would be to introduce legislation which would make it mandatory to have a majority in the popular vote larger than the margin of error each voting system (electronic or other) has.

    Finally I think that it is far more important to have a system which is least biased than having a system which is most accurate. I could live with a margin of error, as long as that margin of error is across the board the same for all the states within the U.S. Of course an election result must be above the noise level of the voting system's inate margin of error. You wouldn't conclude anything from any scientific experiment, if the results are not statistically significant and above the noise level, right ?

  • The reason we have the electoral college is that at some levels, each state has the same amount of power. The senate has two members from each state, and constitutional amendments must be ratified by a percentage of the states. The smaller states 200+ years ago wouldn't have agreed to the union without this; similarly, the bigger states wouldn't have agreed without some form of representation proportional to the population (so we have this in the House of Representatives, for example).

    The office of President was seen as such an important one that they wanted a system that combined both of these aspects, and also, originally, the system was intended to provide for an "educated" group to actually elect the president, in times when it wasn't practical for a president to travel everywhere and communicate with the populace as a whole. In any case, the system was written into the constitution, and since small states have greater power than in any sort of system based on a single popular vote count (whether that is one man, one vote, or approval voting, or any of the other various voting systems), an amendment to change to such a system will never pass.

    Note that residents of states with smaller populations have greater power in the presidential election in two ways: First, they have more electoral votes per person (the number of votes is based on the number of members of the house + senate combined, or 2 + a number proportional to the population) -- one per 160,000 in Wyoming, but about 1 per 540,000 in California. Second, they have a greater chance of their one vote (or, say, the votes of a small group of like-minded friends) swaying their state's total.

    As far as complicated ballots, the one and only reason is that the form of ballots to use is left up to individual states, counties, or cities to decide. Very often, the choice is to continue using whatever they have been using, so many places are using whatever system of ballots was decided upon 50 years ago, simply because the government hasn't seen a sufficient reason to change.

    The "butterfly ballot" punch-card system used in some of the disputed counties in Florida has been the subject of numerous problems in the past like the ones in this election, and it has suffered a tremendous decline because places where it has caused problems in the past have chosen to use other systems. Apparently, ballots like the only ones I have ever voted with (in Texas and Massachusetts: ones where you fill in a bubble or box or some similar space next to the name of the candidate, and the resulting ballot is read optically by a computer) are the most common in the US today. However, at least where I voted in Texas, no computer reads the ballot at the time you cast your vote; instead, you just slide it in a slot in a locked box and the stack of ballots is processed later. Where I vote now, a computer does read the ballot when I hand it in; I don't know if it will give me a chance to fix my mistake if I mess up, only because I haven't seen it happen.

    The one particular ballot causing all the problems was further complicated by the fact that there were too many candidates running for president to fit all their names and the vice-presidential candidates names on one page, as is usual, without making the names too small. They instead chose this system where the names appear on both sides of the row of punch-holes, and while most of the voters could follow the arrows to the correct hole, a small fraction of the voters either were in too much of a rush or were genuinely confused, and the election is so close that the votes of these few rushing/confused voters can sway the result. When the election is won by 500,000 votes, nobody cares much if 1000 voters' votes may be counted inaccurately, but when the election is won by 300 votes, suddenly it matters a great deal.

  • by Arandir ( 19206 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @04:46PM (#623802) Homepage Journal
    A quote from some Palm Beach retiree, seen in the SJMN: "I hope they keep recounting until Gore wins."

    A lot of people are calling for the electoral college to be disbanded. The above is one reason why I think it needs to stay. No matter how much the candidates whip their supporters into irrational frenzy, it all gets filtered through the electors. It ain't a perfect system by a long shot, and I'm not claiming electors are any better than condo-maniacs, but it beats the hell out of revoting every time the election gets close.
  • That's not what he said at all. Read his ruling, here. []

    He reviewed the relevent statutes, noted the conflicting requirements of the certification deadline and the time needed for recounts, opined that the Legislature would not have provided for recounts but intended them impractical to conclude, both deferred to and cautioned the Secretary of State to apply appropriate discretion, and observed that the results may be challenged in Circuit Court within ten days of certification.

    That last point is a veiled admonition to the Secretary of State to "do the right thing" or risk being handed her partisan head in Circuit Court (perhaps his) in short order.

  • > Fact: According to the Secretary of State's office, there is a loophole in Florida law that may allow ballots used for voting machines to deviate from the rules governing paper ballots. This view has been contested by hundreds of Florida voters. The final decision on the legality of the ballot is likely to be made in court, as long as this issue could have an effect on the election.

    According to the Jurist site [], a paper ballot must have a spot for marking the voter's choice to the right of the candidate's name, and a machine ballot must conform to the form of a paper ballot "as nearly as practicable".

    \methinks the courts are going to have to weigh in on the meaning of "practicable".

    The same site also mentions that Florida officials have said that the ballot is perfectly legal, but then again Florida officials have been saying lots of things that the courts will eventually have to rule on.

    Finally, even if a court does agree that the ballot was confusing, there is legal precedent at the appeals level in Florida for saying "tough luck" anyway. (But will they say the same thing in a presedential election?)
  • I don't know about anyone else, but I find it truly frightening that we have a candidate named Al Gore who finds nothing wrong with pressuring a Secretary of State to ignore the law and just "do what we want".

    As opposed to the republicans, who've been trying to block scrutiny of the Florida votes, by attempting to stop recounts ? IMO, the secretary of state has been acting in a partisan manner also. Both sides appear to be scrapping for the last few votes. I don't blame either side, but it seems dishonest or at least very biased) to act as though one side are the "good guys" and the other side are "evil". It's really not that simple.

    And that idiot judge finds it difficult to read a statute that clearly says that "the state shall certify results by 5pm".

    Are you a lawyer ? If you're not, you are not qualified to interpret the statute. IIRC, the judge upheld the deadline, but gave the secretary discretion to accept corrections to the count after the deadline.

  • On the paper would be a machine readable version of the vote, like a bar code and a human readable version.

    Only one version, human-readable (but in a simple font adapted to be machine-readable as well). Otherwise, I could be cheated by a hacked machine that prints "Harry Browne" in the human-readable characters (so I don't know that anything's amiss) and "Al Gore" in the machine-readable characters (so the tabulation machines credit the vote to him).

  • that your thuggish boss can say "look buddy, your job is history unless you give me your login and/or let me watch over your shoulder while you vote."

    Get real! You're living in pure fantasy land. Tell your fictious boss to take a long walk off a short peer, along with a promise (no threats) that you will sue his ass off and hand it to the media for disection.
  • by jasamaman ( 221350 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @06:22PM (#623820) Homepage
    Myth:In 1997, George W. Bush signed into law a bill stating that hand recounts were the preferred method in a close election in Texas. The bill, "HB 330", mandated that representatives of all parties be present to prevent fraud.

    Fact:In 1997, George w. Bush signed into law a bill stating that hand recounts were the preffered method in a close elction in Texas on the ballots where you color in the circle, not the ballots where you punch a hole!!!
  • by bughunter ( 10093 ) <> on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @04:57PM (#623824) Journal
    This sure sounds a lot like we have Schroedinger's Candidate [].

    Someone look in the box already!

  • This is a very bad idea. You do not want individuals to be able to "prove" that they voted for a specific candidate. Your bosses and parents will try to force you to vote for their guy and there will be lots of people saing "I'll pay you $100 for a vote for candidate X."

    Now, all internet voting allows this kind of abuse, but there are a few possible solutions like allowing you to change your internet vote a the polling station.
  • Yes, the computer voting booth is pretty good if you see it print out a paper ballot in front of you, but it seems unlikely that the ballot implementors will be that paranoid. BTW, one of the biggest electronic voting corperations is run by a guy who has beenm convicted of falsifing th vote twice before and his company's software is very closed source (i don't know if they only do internet voting or electronic voting booths too). Anywho, the point is that I would expect a lot of vote rigging when electronic systems are installed since they woil not have the simple security systems like making a printout for the voter.
  • And ironically, punch cards have a 2%-5% margin of error compared to a .2% error rate for the OptiScan system to which you refer. However, the authors of this FAQ make their point quite clear and provide a reference. I believe that since at least some of them are attourneys, and understand the statute as professionals, they have better credibility than you.
  • Whence the a priori assumption that the Democrats are more able to cheat than the Republicans are, or that they will prove to be better at it?

    All those dead democrats who regularly vote in Chicago. Heck, it was about time a dead democrat was elected to office instead of just voting, and whaddayaknow, it happened. Plus, this election, just like that crooked one in the 60s, features.... a Daley!

    The whole idea of peering at a spoiled (improperly marked) ballot and determining "intent" surely seems like this kind of stuff the road to hell is paved with. I like machine tallies; machines aren't democrats, and they aren't republicans.

    Even Nixon conceded defeat under much shadier conditions (previous Daley) than this. Gore seems to think he can harangue and sue his way into office. Someone once said that anyone who wants to be President bad enough to fight to get there, shouldn't be trusted with the office. Gore is certainly disqualifying himself on those grounds.

    And these dolts on Florida thinking they get a do-over! Right! Which third-world peacekeeper-infested kleptocracy do we live in again? If ANYONE gets to vote again, I'm driving to that locale and demanding a second vote myself. Perhaps even a third, if we're going to play that game. And I'll also be buying tickets to a more civilized country, like Sweden, Norway, hell, even Argentina.
  • Let me just point out something that everyone seems to be missing. New York uses mechanical voting machines. There is no hard copy of the vote, but the voting process works just fine, and the concept of "recount" doesn't apply.

    What's wrong with at least using this in other states?
    Obfuscated e-mail addresses won't stop sadistic 12-year-old ACs.
  • Choose One [] as we still have to choose....
  • From Risks Forum:

    And others.
  • by intmainvoid ( 109559 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @03:06PM (#623844)
    I think people age getting confused about computer voting vs. internet voting - you can have computer voting (instead of the current manual or mechanical/computer system), without connecting the computers you use to the internet.

    It's perfectly feasible to have computers at the polling stations. It would mean an accurate count the first time, and avoids much the concern about people cracking the system. We should concentrate on getting the computer voting system up and running, and worry about the extra issues raised by connecting to the internet later on.

    Not every computer needs to be on the net guys!

  • by WarSpiteX ( 98591 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @03:06PM (#623846) Homepage
    You need a hard copy as proof that you voted. It's easy to alter digital records if you know how, but to falsify 10,000 paper ballots is another story. I think we should *always* have a physical record of a vote or any important action/transaction (like major bank transfers, pay stubs, credit card bills, etc.)

  • Watch Microsoft write the code and then watch the party most sympathetic to microsoft get elected.

    A simple voting system, such as a paper and pencil means everybody knows whats going on. Electronic voting allows for fraud through obscurity, because only a few people understand how the system works.

    KTB:Lover, Poet, Artiste, Aesthete, Programmer.

  • You can not trust the bar code and the human readable output to be the same. Actually, you cna not trust ANY specific machine to report the proper value for the bar code.

    I would say that you should only print the human readable form, but use a very OCR friendly font. A really OCR friendly font would not be any worse then a bar code for a computer to read.

    Also, there is no reason to allow people to leave with a recipt which states their vote unless you want to try and to weird recounts, but there are big problems with letting a person leave with .a recipt, i.e. they can get paid to have voted a specific way. Now, if you really want to do the weird recount / limited revote then you can give someone a recipt which is linked to their vote, but I think this is really unnecissary.
  • I think it's crystal clear at this point that voting has error bounds. The vote totals really should read

    Bush: 2,910,492* Gore: 2,910,192*

    * Totals are accurate to +/- 6,000 votes 19 times out of 20.

    This vote is within the error bounds and consequently any recounts may well change the result. The "winner" is merely the winner of the last recount.

    What this means is that one either accepts that certain votes are a toss of the coin, rather than the mythical will of the majority, or one revamps the system so that votes that are essentially statistically tied (perhaps 0.1%) cause a divying up of the electoral college vote.

    (Obviously, to avoid the same problem as we have now at a different edge condition, only the initial count would qualify for the "split". Any subsequent recounts would only split the vote if the the losing candidate was now numerically in the lead.)
  • I enthusiastically differ. I'm an American (hopefully not for much longer), but have many foreign friends, from heavily diverse countries. My experience speaking with anyone from outside of the U.S. is that your "90% of the rest of the world is full of barbaric murderous thugs" opinion is exactly what earns us titles like "the Great Satan." Most Americans, or at least the loudest ones, can only decry the sorry state of the rest of the world. Wake up! The only reasons America is more "civilized" are sweat shops and slave labor in those "barbaric" places.
  • by JeremyZJ ( 254854 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @09:41PM (#623860)
    As a software engineer, I know what its like to be handed a system and to see that there's something very wrong with it, and then be told to fix it. And, of course, any documentation provided is sparse and ambiguous.

    In this situation ( a legacy system ) its always best to make as few changes as possible, since we can't accurately predict how the changes will affect the performance of the rest of the system.

    The Electoral College has some flaws in it, but it has a valid use.

    We live in a Federal Republic. A federation of 50 states. 50 seperate / parallel / distributed "countries," joined by a federal government.

    Within this architecture, it is most appropriate for states to elect the President.

    A direct ( popular ) election would clearly re-inforce the dominance of states with the largest populations, and furthermore lead to the dominance of the densest cities within those states.

    Current Flaws

    1) Electors that add a useless level of indirection, and are even dangerous in that they can vote in whatever manner they please; including opposing the underlying population.

    2) A "winner takes all" approach to awarding electoral votes of a state to candidates.

    Simple Solution

    1) Electors MUST be replaced by "points." A state would have as many "Electoral Points" as it now has Electoral Votes.

    When a candidate is awarded a point, it acts as the equivalent of an "automatic electoral vote."

    This removes the useless and dangerous level of indirection. This also makes the election more direct, which co-opts part of the appeal of a "popular election."

    2) The Electoral "Points" of a state MUST be awarded to candidates in proportion to the percentage of votes they won in that state. Only whole points would be awarded, and in the case of ties, any "odd" points would be discarded.

    Example #1: Florida would have 25 electoral points. Assuming the following vote percentages ( Nader 20%; Bush 40%; Gore 40% ) the electoral points would be awarded as: Nader 5; Bush 20; Gore 20.

    Example #2: In the case of a tie ( Bush 50%; Gore 50% ) the electoral points would be awarded as: Bush 12; Gore 12, with the remaining point being discarded.

    Dividing points, allows for a more accurate reflection of the public's "will." Discarding the "odd point" in the case of a tie, and rounding to the nearest whole point, should also eliminate all the problems we've seen in the case where the margin of difference is so small.

    Nader 2%; Bush 49%; Gore 49% would yield an awarding of Nader 0; Bush 12; Gore 12, with the remaining point discarded.

    There would be no "hand recounts" because the percentage would not be changed enough to swing a point in any one direction. And because the points are divided ( in proportion to the popular vote within the state ), each candidate would not be so desperate for every last vote to be "counted."


    This compromise system retains the correct granularity for the architecture of government we currently live under, yet provides a more direct and fair representation of "the will of the people."

    Does anyone want to start a petition?

  • But people are ignoring a perfectly valid option that has been available in PG county MD at least since the 80s: Mechanical Voting booths.
    We used to have them here in Baltimore County; we went to an optical mark system (connect the dots next to your choice) in 1996, for reasons I don't know. The problem I see with our optical system is that the ballot is two-sided;I wonder how many people missed voting on the bond issues on the back.

    Old-style mechanical booths do have the advantage of clarity and built-in validity checks, but I wonder how robust the mechanical system is. Perhaps an electronic system with the same sort of interface would be best.

  • There's nothing to prevent your boss (or your abusive husband) from forcing you to vote in his presence.

    No, there's not. And there's nothing preventing your next door neighbor from coming over with a shotgun to tell you how to vote. Or for the local Mafia to come around and break you kneecaps for the sign in your yard.

    But it's all fantasy. Sure, a few wifebeaters may bosses and spouses may try it, but the threat of going to jail for a very very long time after a very public trial stops the rest of them. Did you have a boss that told you how to vote? If you did nothing then YOU are the problem, not the boss.

    It's all to easy to blame evil people for your unwillingness to stop them.
  • Forget the boss, what about the husband, wife, father, union boss, or next-door-neighbor who floated you a loan? Anyone who holds any type of power over another might be able to use this to coerce another person to vote a certain way. Or somebody might offer to buy votes--but only if you can produce proof (like a computer-printed reciept of your selections). I could even imagine NRA or AFL/CIO banquets where the admission price is proof that you voted for a certain candidate. There are a number of other ways this type of receipt can be a problem. Providing records one's voting selections to citizens fundamentally disenfranchises them. This is also why internet voting is fundamentally flawed--there is no guarantee of privacy.

    However, it may be ok to give a reciept with an identifiable number that can be traced back to the selections in the voter database--although I doubt any laws out there allow one to check or change their ballot after it has been cast. How many Floridian Buchanan or Nader supporters do you think would recast their votes now if given the opportunity?

  • There's one thing that would make that voting system a good idea - a way to have the machine print a FAKE receipt. That way you couldn't be coerced into voting by someone who demands that you show them the receipt, or someone who offers you money in exchange for your receipt for their favorite candidate, etc.
    Obfuscated e-mail addresses won't stop sadistic 12-year-old ACs.
  • Where I voted (MD) once you had filled in your ballot, it went into a little R2D2 computer. If you had marked incorrectly(voted for more than 1 candidate etc) it told the attendant who gave you the choice of starting over, or having your vote not count. I watched 2 people get errors on their presidential candidate choices,and both chose NOT to fill out a new ballot, making their choices null.
  • The Secretary of State originally claimed that she 5pm Tuesday deadline was imposed by state law, and she had no choice but to enforce it. By telling her that she does have a choice, the judge made her responsible for justifying the fairness of her choice.

    I would tag this as a work of great judicial discretion, which is not quite cowardice. He doesn't want to come down hard on either side until more facts are in. If the manual recounts are done on Friday and show that Gore has pulled ahead, and the SoS refuses to certify the revised results, then she'd better have a damn good reason. On the other hand, if the manual recounts still favor Bush, and the Democrats want to revise the tally yet again, they'd better have a damn good reason.

  • No offense towards Jamie BUT if I hired someone to post stories to slashdot I'd expect them to be up on something like electronic voting. Next time get all the facts, and make a more objective, stronger opinion before posting. Electronic votings pros and cons have been discused for the past 15-20 years and I'd expect you to have a much more objective opinion posting for Slashdot and all.

    Its upsetting to me to see the editors of this site not having their shit together. The editing quality seems to be diminishing at an equal rate to the reader quality. Just because you have a bunch of losers reading your site doesn't mean you can start slacking off on you devoted readers looking for the latest news. Stop posting repeat stories and old news and get back on track guys.
  • >If Harris were a lawyer, she'd probably take this as a rebuke to her overstepping the bounds of her authority as Secretary of State. Because she's a Republican partisan with limited experience, it probably went over her head. I'll bet good money that the Republican legal team understood, though, and is hard at work coming up for possible reasons to close the door on Palm Beach Co.'s manual recount.

    (Emphasis mine, not the poster's, and the bulk of the poster's post is non-partisan; I emphasize this bit for a reason, which I'll get to in the second part of this post.)

    Funny, I'll bet good money that the Democratic legal team understood too, and is hard at work coming up for excuses to sue the Secretary for "being arbitrary" should the (third!!!) recount go Gore's way and not be certified. They changed the definition of what constitutes a "voted" chad at least twice during the manual sample recount, and they've even sued Democratic Broward county officials for deciding that its vote was accurate enough and didn't need a manual recount.

    Make no mistake - I firmly believe the Gore team intends to continue calling for recounts until it gets the result it wants, and if it hasn't won, it'll sue to get more recounts if the recounts it gets don't pan out.

    > Like most lay observers, it seems that the person to whom we are replying ascribes motives to the process of law. The best thing that judges can do is rule for legal consistency, not justice, not cowardice, and certainly a pox on both your houses.

    In a perfect world, I'd agree. It is not a perfect world. Which is why I (unfairly and out of context) highlighted the partisan chunk of your post.

    The problem is that there are no non-partisans left - and if there are non-partisans, anyone who independently comes to any set of conclusions resembling either the Gore or Bush positions is indistinguishable from a partisan, so it doesn't matter.

    (Tackhead's Corollary to Clarke's Law: "Any sufficiently-advanced political thought in this debate is indistinguishable from partisan sniping" ;-)

    There are no [detectable] non-partisans on the bench, on the street, or on Slashdot. You and I are part of the problem.

    But as others have pointed out, it's a testament to the strength of our democracy that the protests on both sides have been lawful and peaceful. Damn near anywhere else in the world, people would be picking up guns.

    But in America, we have enough faith in the process - even if it ends up being a bunch of lawyers in a steel cage death match - that we'll abide by its results, whether they're in favor of our preferred candidate or not. In that sense, we may be part of the problem, but we're all of the solution.

  • Nope, sorry, Miami wins that one. They'll have to think of another name. :)
  • I'm kind of an anarchist. I like that kind of chaos _better_ than our kind of chaos ;P
  • Since it appears the /. readership is about as ignorant in it's math and civics skills as the general popularion (judging by the discussion I have seen in the last week) here is a quick refresher course.

    The reason why the recount numbers keep rising is extremely simple, and not any sort of consipracy or fraud. All of the principles know about it, along with the talking heads on TV. It does appear that speaking it is verboten though, so lets see if I get 'disappeared' for saying this in public. :)

    Those paper vote counting machines have a crock rate of between 1% and 2.5% depending on who you want take the spec from. This is due to both the 'hanging chad' being endlessly babbled about on TV and just plain miss counted ballots. This has been known since almost the day the machines went into service but it isn't a problem! They are still far more accurate than any manual count for two reasons.

    1. The error is RANDOM so it hits all candidates/ballot issues evenly so while it fudges the number of votes a bit it hits the percentages very closely.

    2. It is a MACHINE. It can't be biased in favor of one candidate over another. If you have three machines (in good working order, which is testable by running a batch of known sample material through) lined up they are all impartial instead of having two Democrats and a token Republican like the board overseeing the manual recount.

    As you run the ballots through multiple times more of the partially punched or otherwise problematic chads dislodge enough for the sensor to pick them up... along with the parallel problem of holes falling out that voters DIDN'T punch, which is why after two or three runs they are considered unreliable. A perfect manual count (assuming it were possible to actually conduct an impartial manual count of ballots designed to only be read by a machine) would increase the total counted votes by that 1-2.5 percent that the machines missed, which is why the two sides are behaving the way they are.

    The Gore camp KNOWS that they can pick up 1-2.5% more votes because statistically the extra votes will come out in the same proportions as the county at large. Since only heavily Democratic counties are being recounted manually, if the recount gets accepted he wins. The odds of a meteor hitting Gore smack in the forehead are greater than the odds the recount in those four counties would net Bush a single vote.

    The bush camp also KNOWS these facts and is therefore fighting like mad to prevent the Gore camp from using the public's ignorance of statistics to steal the election. If the entire state were recounted by hand both sides would pick up votes in proportion to their current numbers. But since the spread IS inside the margin of error it would all come down to random chance or outright fraud. Personally I'd bet that (especially considering Daley and the whole history of the Democratic party in the 20th Century) fraud would play a much larger role than random sampling noise and I suspect Bush is smart enough to know that also. Basically the Bush camp is faced with the reality that EVERY recount will net Gore votes (like it has been doing so far) and they are left with the hopeless task of keeping the numbers shifting to Gore slowly enough that they still lead when the public finally says "Enough!" Iceburgs have better odds in hell, but it's the hand they have to play so they are giving it their best shot.

    In my more cynical moods I say that Bush is still tilting at this windmill to 'salt the ground' so that Gore will be unable to accomplish anything and be a one term wonder. Can't really say that I blame him or the Repubs. The Democrats adopted the 'win at all costs' rules so it's only fair that they see them turned back on them once in a while.
  • Palm Beach County's ballot is a great example of this; I could go over the problems with it again, but I'm pretty sure we're all fairly familiar with the commentary on it by now. If a UI designer ever tried to sneak something like this into a software interface, he/she'd be drummed out of the company in an instant.
    Some of the exhibits in the Interface Hall of Shame [] make the Palm Beach County ballot look like a model of clarity.
  • Cool! I'm all for computer voting.

    All you have to do is add some speakers. After a doddering Floridian votes but before he returns to his land yacht, a graphic of the disembodied head of Regis Philbin can say "Is that your final answer?"

    Or, better yet:

    > Hello, I am VOTE TABULATOR. What would you like to discuss?
    * I'm voting Nader.
    > Do you believe it is normal to be voting Nader?
    * Yes.
    > Are you Sure?
    * Quite.
    > OK... "I'm voting Nader". Tell me more.
    * What more do you want?
    > We were discussing you, not me.
    * Do you want me to vote for my congressman, too?
    > Oh... want you to vote for your congressman, too?
    > Tell me more...
    * Not you!
    > We were discussing you, not me.

    *sound of feet running very, very quickly from the polling station*
  • by Greg@RageNet ( 39860 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @03:12PM (#623891) Homepage
    Think about it this way. At least they had paper ballots to go back to and recount after the bug was found in the software. Humans can sanity-check ballots against the electronic counters by doing hand-counting to be sure the counting software is performing as it should. Even if Y2K came 11 months late we'd be able to hold an election and have the ballots counted.

    If there had been purely electronic voting in New Mexico the story probably wouldn't be on the front page because the software would most likely have silently dropped the votes which were straight party votes and no-one would have noticed.

    Punch cards a a perfect compromise because they are easily machine tallied while being a permanent physical record that can be reffered to if mechanical error has made the automated count suspect.

    -- Greg
  • The BRA comment was obviously a joke, like the one in Russia about Putin travelling to America to instruct Americans in how to hold a democratic election. If you get so upset about it, perhaps it touched a nerve?

    No more than any other mediocre joke after the first dozen or so repetitions.

    I prefer our system where a party that gets more than 4% gets representation.

    And which system would that be exactly? "Anonymous Coward" sounds pretty much the same no matter where he's from.

    Besides, a party with far fewer votes than that, taken nationally, can gain representation in Congress. All it takes is for a majority of the voters in a single Congressional district to elect one. This is not at all unheard of. There are currently a number of independents, people affiliated with *no* party, in Congress right now.

    Perhaps this is the reason countries with this system usually have an election turnout of over 80%, while it is called a success if less than 40% of voters quit in disgust in the US?

    You make the common (both domestically and abroad) mistake of imuputing far more power to the President than he actually posesses. Although he is both the head of state and of government and has sole authority to conduct foreign policy, the only power he has over the legislature is the threat of a veto, and he cannot introduce legislation himself. The party of the President is not necessarily - in fact, almost never is - the party with a majority in Congress. Amazing when you consider there are only two parties in Congress these days, not counting independents.

    But what you call "disgust" most observers call "apathy." Most nonvoters aren't interested enough in politics to get disgusted. It's possible to see this as a good thing (although I admit it's a bit of a stretch): Many Americans have such confidence in both parties they feel they can afford to be apathetic. They believe that no matter who wins there will be competent leadership - or at least, leadership that's no more incompetent than usual.

    And how would that differ from the state of your democracy now, eh?

    Ah, so you're not paying attention either. The current Congress has one more session before adjourning for the year, which they do every year regardless of elections as a matter of routine business. Bill Clinton, who is still (sadly) our President, remains in office until the new President is sworn in on January 20, 2001. A new President is never officially elected until the Electoral College meets in December anyway.

    Besides, all rhetoric aside, the U.S. is not now, nor has it ever been, a democracy.

    How will any president from this election have any legitimacy?

    Check out the U.S. Constitution []. You'll find there's provision to deal with situations even more disturbed than this one. This is nothing, really. Research the election of Rutherford B. Hayes sometime.

  • by jasamaman ( 221350 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @03:13PM (#623894) Homepage
    ...Several elderly Floridians are requesting hand recounts on their bingo cards.
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @03:15PM (#623901)

    • Dem-heavy Broward County's Dem-controlled commission decides their results aren't in error and decides not to do a full manual recount. Gore sues 'em to force it anyways. That's low, even for Gore.


    • For suing yesterday in a federal court regarding what's ostensibly a state matter.

    The smartest character today is, IMHO, the judge in his ruling on today's 5pm deadline:

    His ruling on the 5pm deadline is basically: "Yeah, she [the Secretary of State] can ignore late results" (Repubs happy because that's the law), "but not arbitrarily" (Dems happy because the judge has introduced ambiguity).

    • That's either the work of great cowardice ("Fuck, I don't wanna touch this!")...
    • ... or wisdom of Solomonic proportions ("You two idjitz can't agree on who's [baby|election] this is? Fine, gimme a sword, we'll carve the [sprog|decision] in half and you can each have custody of your half. Now get the fsck out and don't talk to me until one of you does something that shows me who the real [mother|statesman] is.")
    I'm not sure which of the two it is, but I have a hunch it's the latter.
  • ...there's an election taking place, and oh my kosh are the hot buttons being pushed [].

    I haven't heard much about the parties' stance on the Internet and digital rights/privacy issues, but then again, I haven't been poring over campaign literature either.

    And while I don't think we have to worry too much about situations like the presidential mess in Florida, I'm starting to wonder if the Liberals are going to win with a much slimmer majority this go-around - or even if someone could get stuck with a minority government! Wouldn't that just be a kick in the pants, that 2000's least controversial North American election ends up being Mexico's (kudos for dropping the PRI like a giant maggot, BTW)!

    Who do I plan on voting for? Good question; none of the four "major" parties set my pants on fire, and I don't know too much about the smaller-party and independent candidates in my area. Suppose I should find out and practice what I preach, non?
  • Ok.. what I'd really like to know is why so many people seem to think that Nader is such a great guy. The man is SCUM. He is not only dishonest but a downright liar, a control freak, and probably a borderline psychopath.

    Has he done some good for this country? Yes, but not as much as people would like to believe. Now most of what he does is use his consumer advocacy groups to amass wealth and power for hiimself. Did you realize that he has opposed and fought against such horrible things as whole milk, Volkswagen cars, fluorinated water, and the Elvis stamp!?! He routinely mistreats his own workers, and lies to cover his tracks at every corner.

    So PLEASE will people stop supposrting this man and giving him more power that he certainly doesn't deserve.

    For more info, PLEASE visit []. i didn't like nader much before I read the site, but after I read that page, even Pat Buchanan was higher on my list of politicians than Nader.

  • from the article []:
    The machines initially failed to read ballots on which voters chose to vote a straight party ticket, but also chose at least one candidate from another party, election officials said.

    Note that it says that the voters chose a candidate from another party, not the machine. I could see how you might read it as Jamie did, but let's avoid spreading any more misinformation!


  • I am all for electronic voting. I think that vote collection should be standardized for national elections. Why is it someone can vote for a candidate in one state but not in another? A federal system of vote tabulation could clear this up.

    However I am dead set against voting from home or work. The problem is, the election committee cannot certify your home PC. It could have a virus on it or trojan program specifically designed to interfere with your vote. Electronic systems that are highly secure, closed from external mischief and under the care of the election officials is the way to go.

    Voting isn't like eCommerce. The system has to verify it is you, give you the proper choices, get your result AND THEN FORGET IT WAS YOU when it records the results.

    Also, since an electronic system would have the results at the close of the election I think it makes sense for the system to NOT return results until all votes have been cast. It always seems terribly unfair to the West Coast and to Alaska that the election is often decided by the time evening rolls around there.
  • ...for democracy to function, we don't just need a fair and accurate count, we need public confidence that the count is fair and accurate.

    (Suppose somebody proposed a voting system where, on Election Day, you go to your parish priest and tell him your choices for all of the races; the priests then send their tally of votes for each parish to the Pope, who announces the winner. Devout Catholics might trust a system based on the honesty of priests more than a system based on mathematical techniques that most people can't understand.)

    The great thing about paper-and-ink ballots is that an untrained Democrat and an untrained Republican can look at the same ballot and agree on who was selected -- and if they disagree, a judge can argue for one interpretation or another without needing to consult a technical expert. Yes, there are opportunities for fraud and error, but those exist in any system -- and at least in a paper-and-ink system, you don't need to be a hacker or cryptographer to understand what those opportunities are and how to guard against them.

  • So the votes of rural people and minorities should count more than everyone else's? Get real.

    Yup, that's exactly what the Founding Fathers intended and they are 100% correct. Your problem arises from mistaking this Republic for a Democracy.

    Actually the Founding Fathers understood the evils of Democracy all too well, and went to a lot of bother to supress it. If even 10% of the population were to read the constitution and grok it we might even have a chance to restore the Old Republic. Instead, each day we slide a little closer to mob rule and anarchy.

    But we ain't there yet and the smaller states will vote themselves out of a Electoral College when hell freezes over. Of course I'd have said the same thing about the States being stupid enough to give up control of the Senate, so what do I know.

  • Seriously - introduce some small quantum effect into the count so that the results change only if they are observed directly. The more they are observed the less discrete they become.
  • In these countries when no party has a clear majority, days or even weeks pass before a viable coalition can be formed and in the meantime they have no government.

    Incorrect statement. Until a new government has been formed - the old one continues to rule, preventing the country from falling into a situation where there is no government.
  • I swear, my grandma actually programmed with punch cards when she was in college.

    Damn, but you're a young'un ain'tcha?

    I used punch cards on while learning PL/1 for a 370 back at Washington University (home of the FTP-Daemon) back in '80 and '81.
  • by orichter ( 60340 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @03:21PM (#623933)
    How about a computer vote which prints out two optically scanable ballots. One for you to submit, and one for you to keep as a receipt. That way, you get the best of both worlds. Instant results, plus a fallback to count against in case of fraud.
  • Is it cheating to just submit the ballot Cambridge uses? The ballot I vote on has each canidate's name in it own box, and a circle inside the box that you fill in by pen. Then they get fed into an optical reader. Easy peasy, the voting space for your choice is clearly divided from anyone elses and visually bound to your choice.

    Punch cards? what's up with that?

    I'm actually starting to enjoy the ambiguity of it all (though that may be because of a nagging conviction that the final outcome will be really depressing.) and kind of hope that no one will know the decision until the electoral college actually gets together and officially ballots. I definitly don't think anyone should conceed until after the EC has spoken. Everyone should just sit back and take a big ol' chill pill and enjoy the funky uncertainty. pretend the vote is in december and you sent in your absentee ballot REAL early. :)

    -Kahuna Burger

  • by seaneddy ( 121477 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @03:21PM (#623935) Homepage
    Turns our, 19th century technologies actually work. There's very little wrong with the punch card ballots. The problem is that this election fell within the statistical uncertainties inherent in any large scale counting process. I don't care what technology you use to count, there will always be a +/-0.01%. And I will bet large amounts of money that if you computerized elections, you would have far more massive screwups than we've seen this year.

    My evidence? Witness the computerization of the GRE (Graduate Record Exam). They no longer give it on paper. You have to take it by computer. The net result of the computerization of the GRE -- my university, and many others, silently no longer enforce our requirement that applicants give us GRE scores, because the computerized system is such a disaster, many students aren't able to even take the test.

    And don't get me started on other well-meaning but totally screwed up attempts to replace an "obsolete" but effective system with a "modern" computerized one that doesn't work any more.

    Think voters are disenfranchised now? Wait 'til we turn an election over to a lot of bug-ridden hardware and software.

    Bah. I say keep using 19th century technology until you actually need to replace it. Computers are good at many things - and interacting 100% reliably with the general public isn't one of them.

  • The Onion has a very important news update [] on the election.
  • Are these people complaining about the inappropriateness of hand counting the same people who took the administration to court over the necessity of counting the census in person by hand? Whut with them thar new fangled stuhtiztucks and stuff Yuh nevuh no whut yer gonna git ?!?!?!?!?!?!

    Do the math people - what demographic would benefit most from online voting? Don't forget that 'Dewey won' when the networks interviewed upper class white Republicans.
  • A Zimbabwe politician was quoted as saying that children should study this event closely for it shows that election fraud is not only a third world phenomena.

    1. Imagine that we read of an election occuring anywhere in the third world in which the self-declared winner was the son of the former prime minister and that former prime minister was himself the former head of that nation's secret police (CIA).

    2. Imagine that the self-declared winner lost the popular vote but won based on some old colonial holdover (electoral college) from the nation's pre-democracy past.

    3. Imagine that the self-declared winner's 'victory' turned on disputed votes cast in a province governed by his brother!

    4. Imagine that the poorly drafted ballots of one district, a district heavily favoring the self-declared winner's opponent, led thousands of voters to vote for the wrong candidate.

    5. Imagine that that members of that nation's most despised caste, fearing for their lives/livelihoods, turned out in record numbers to vote in near-universal opposition to the self-declared winner's candidacy.

    6. Imagine that hundreds of members of that most-despised caste were intercepted on their way to the polls by state police operating under the authority of the self-declared winner's brother.

    7. Imagine that six million people voted in the disputed province and that the self-declared winner's 'lead' was only 327 votes. Fewer, certainly, than the vote counting machines' margin of error.

    8. Imagine that the self-declared winner and his political party opposed a more careful by-hand inspection and re-counting of the ballots in the disputed province or in its most hotly disputed district.

    9. Imagine that the self-declared winner, himself a governor of a major province, had the worst human rights record of any province in his nation and actually led the nation in executions.

    10. Imagine that a major campaign promise of the self-declared winner was to appoint like-minded human rights violators to lifetime positions on the high court of that nation
  • You need a hard copy as proof that you voted.
    There is. When you walk into the polling place and identify yourself, they look up your name and addresss in a book and put a checkmark next to it. That's a physical record.
    It's easy to alter digital records if you know how, but to falsify 10,000 paper ballots is another story.
    Falsifying ten thousand paper ballots is trivial. You take the ones that indicate the candidate you don't want and throw them away. In a precinct that is statistically heavy on the opposing candidate, you can bias the election towards you by throwing ballots away without taking the time to read them. If you want to be extra sneaky, you can double punch the ones you don't like, invalidating them.

    You can also invalidate them by making up new counting rules [] every time the count comes up in a way you don't like.

    OTOH, there are lots and lots of ways to make pretty thoroughly unalterable digital records, using write-once media (CD-ROM, anyone?) and a "signing" hash like MD5. If you want a physical record you could dump the ones and zeros out as big, scannable dots on paper.

    From a CS perspective, this problem is almost trivial. Applied Cryptography [] discusses it specifically. But even if you do come up with a 100% effective solution, there are still some much more difficult wetware problems to resolve, like people voting in more than one district. In North Carolina, for example, the courts decided you cannot be asked for positive ID when you vote. See, if a state ID costs US$15, and you need one to vote, you've effectively created a US$15 poll tax, and poll taxes are illegal. Give away IDs for free? Sure, but this is still a wetware problem, far beyond the scope of the simple, well documented, doable task of making unalterable, non-refutable digital records.

    I think we should *always* have a physical record of a vote or any important action/transaction (like major bank transfers, pay stubs, credit card bills, etc.
    I don't know what you consider a "major" bank transfer, but the ones the banks themselves consider major are done electronically, billions of dollars worth every hour.

    Show me a laser printer and a piece of paper, and I'll show you a falsifiable physical record. They even have a name for the act of falsifying a physical record. It's called forgery, and it's a crime that's been around ever since about two weeks after the first physical records of things were made.


  • Example #1: Florida would have 25 electoral points. Assuming the following vote percentages ( Nader 20%; Bush 40%; Gore 40% ) the electoral points would be awarded as: Nader 5; Bush 20; Gore 20.

    Did you write the vote-counting software for New Mexico?
  • The machines initially failed to read ballots on which voters chose to vote a straight party ticket, but also chose at least one candidate from another party, election officials said.

    It seems that isn't bug to me. If you are voting a straight party line ticket, PLUS at least one candidate from another party, then you would be voting for TWO candidates for the same office somewhere on the ballot.

    For example, if I wanted to vote a straight Democratic ticket, AND I voted in addition for Bush, that would be TWO votes for president and the ballot should be tossed out.

    On the other hand, the software should have prevented this while the voter was still in the voting booth, so they could correct the mistake and "make their intention known".

    On a side note, due to a severe storm in the SE corner of NM on election day, several polling places lost power for a couple of hours. I haven't heard this mentioned as a possible cause of errors in NM's very close presidential race, but even if it resulted in just a handful of lost votes, it might be enough to change the winner in the state.

  • Forced voiting is already a possibility with absentee ballots, right? How is internet voting going to change anything?
  • > Plus, this election, just like that crooked one in the 60s, features.... a Daley!

    I don't think anyone is denying that the big Democratic party machines in Texas and Chicago were corrupt. What's missing is the relevance in the current case.

    > The whole idea of peering at a spoiled (improperly marked) ballot and determining "intent" surely seems like this kind of stuff the road to hell is paved with.

    For better or for worse, there is ample legal precedent for it. After all, the voters' "intent" is the ultimate imperium in a democracy.

    Perhaps you'll sleep better for knowing that certain safeguards are taken, such as the proceedings being conducted by representatives from both parties, the proceedings being open to the public, etc.

    Honestly, people only have a problem with this when it means their man is going to lose on an accurate count.

    > Even Nixon conceded defeat under much shadier conditions (previous Daley) than this.

    Not everyone agrees with this. First, not everyone agrees that Nixon could have garnered enough votes even if all the acknowledged problems had been corrected, and second, Nixon's people did pursue things in court for months, contrary to the myth about his noble concession.

    Also, as I posted last week, if Nixon really had won, what gave him the right to throw away the true wishes of the voters just to look like a noble man?

    > Someone once said that anyone who wants to be President bad enough to fight to get there, shouldn't be trusted with the office. Gore is certainly disqualifying himself on those grounds.

    I'm inclined to agree, though I find it odd that Gore's is the only name you mention in the present context.

    > And these dolts on Florida thinking they get a do-over!

    From The 2000 Florida Statutes, Title IX, Chapter 102, Contest of Election, item #8 [], re remedies for contested elections -
    The circuit judge to whom the contest is presented
    may fashion such orders as he or she deems necessary to ensure that each allegation in the complaint is investigated, examined, or checked, to prevent or correct any alleged wrong, and to provide any relief appropriate under such circumstances.
    Emphasis mine.

    Also, there are ample legal precedents for revotes, at least in other circumstances.

    Some say that The Congress's constitutional right to set the day for general elections means that a revote on a different day would be unconstitutional. IANAConstitutionalLawyer, but that interpretation seems to be problematic, at best.

    For instance, if a category 5 hurricane hit southeast Florida on election day, would anyone seriously argue that the US Constitution disenfranchised half the state's population for that year's vote, due to their own bad luck?

    And what about absentee ballots? No one is insisting that they be received on the day designated by The Congress. Or perhaps they should be filled out, rather than received, on the designated day? Is anyone checking?

    Or what about jurisdictions that allow early voting. Mine does, and I did. Is my ballot lying uncounted in a dumpster somewhere right now? Should it be?

    I don't at all think a revote is a forgone conclusion, and in fact I don't really expect one, but it's a very head-in-sand approach to laugh at the idea as though it were impossible.
  • Why not have backup power? Would it really be so hard? If we assume they can afford touch screens, as many people have suggested, I think they can afford enough backup power to shutdown the computers safely, and then they can simply send the rest of the voters on to the nearest functional polling center. Hell, for that matter, why not get donations of old B&W display laptops? Those babies could run often in excess of 5 hours on a fully charged battery, most likely enough to get them through until the power is brought back up. We don't need gobs of computing power here, all we need is a simple machine to record votes, and print some sort of paper backup copy.

  • Yes, the computer voting booth is pretty good if you see it print out a paper ballot in front of you. The main problem with completely manual voting is that the average voter is far too stupid to fill out a ballot correctly. 99% of voting irregularities would be solved if you could force people to fill out their ballot correctly. Picture this: you walk up to the computer, insert your ballot card in the slot, bob the talking paper clip guides you through candidate selection on-screen, makes absolutely sure you haven't fucked up, and fills out the ballot for you. Your valid ballot pops out of the slot, you walk across the room and stick it in the other slot, where bob's cousin automatically parses it, adjusts vote totals and dumps the ballot in the audit bin. Sound foolproof? You yanks would just invent a better fool, wouldn't you? :)
  • Ok, so how about ATM voting? You get a printed receipt stating your votes, and a hardcopy for the records, and backed up for easy tallying on a plastic card. You can even keep the Yellow copy for your records!
    I think this could work and make misstakes alot harder to make. You'd know, just like when you're rung up wrong at the store, ecatly what you did and what is going in the books. That is, if anyone cares enough to look at the receipt before leaving the polling place....
  • Very few large retailers still use paper journals. Electronic journals are easier to transmit back to head office, easier to find a particular transaction (or credit card, or item) in, and in most cases are nearly as reliable as the file system and disk hardware. That's significantly more reliable than paper that can jam, ribbon that can run out and ink that can smear.

  • by crotherm ( 160925 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @03:28PM (#623977) Journal
    A co-worker and I have been discussing a viable electronic voting scheme.

    We would like to see a system that would still have the voter go to a polling place. The voter would go into a booth and make their vote electronically. The voting hardware would print out 2 copies of what was selected. On the paper would be a machine readable version of the vote, like a bar code and a human readable version. It also would have a unique number for use later. The voter then must compare the electronic vote and the paper. If all is OK, the voter tells the machine to submit the vote. The voter must then give one copy to the poll person which would place it into a ballot box. At a later date, the voter would be able to go to a web site that would allow the voter to enter the unique number to verify that their vote is in the system.

    Random sampling of the paper outputs, both bar-code for speed and human for extreme cases, could be done as a check on the system.

    This system would have the speed the electronic proponants want, and it would have a hard copy for the luddite folks.

  • In some places, the polls stay open until the people who were in line at closing time are done voting.
  • by Paul Crowley ( 837 ) on Wednesday November 15, 2000 @12:03AM (#623979) Homepage Journal
    One of the goals of a voting system is to give you no way to prove how you voted, to make sure voter coercion is ineffective. Receipts defeat that goal.

    The biggest advantage of a computer vote that prints a paper ballot is excellent usability: if you press the big "CONFIRM" button when the screen says "You have cast your vote for Pat Buchanan and (somebody-or-other) of the Reform Party. If this is your final decision, please press Confirm, otherwise press Back." then there's not much can be done to stop you voting that way!

    And of course, you get a human-readable paper ballot out of it, so if the software tries to substitute fake votes it'll get caught.

    I would still count the ballots entirely on paper, though.
  • The law specifically states the rules by which a punch card ballot would be considered voted.

    ------------------------------------------------ --------------------------------
    127.130(d) Subject to Subsection (e), in any manual count conducted under this code, a vote on a ballot
    on which a voter indicates a vote by punching a hole in the ballot may not be counted unless:

    (1) at least two corners of the chad are detached;

    (2) light is visible through the hole;

    (3) an indentation on the chad from the stylus or other object is present and indicates a clearly ascertainable intent of the voter to vote; or

    (4) the chad reflects by other means a clearly ascertainable intent of the voter to vote.

    (e) Subsection (d) does not supersede any clearly ascertainable intent of the voter.
    ------------------------------------------------ --------------------------------

    It is interesting to note that the DEMS are currently suing to have precisely this legal standard applied to the hand count in Fla.

  • Well, the number of votes was 84% of something. But you don't know how many people created that number of ballots. In theory, one person created each vote. That's fine, in theory.
  • Not every computer needs to be on the net guys!

    Exactly. If the computers used in voting booths use open-sourced programs and hard copies of the votes are printed out at the same time, then we have a pretty trustworthy system. Open source is necessary to ensure the voting procedure is reliable, and hard copies of the votes as a backup is imperative - you never know when the power could go out.
  • There was a map in USA Today yesterday of which voting systems are used all counties in the USA.
  • I believe in paper ballots for one simple reason, it makes it possible for any citizen to participate in and verify the count. Electronic voting disenfranchises the citizen from scrutinising the election.

    I speak from experience as a Labour Party candidate for the Scottish Parliament. In our elections a scrutineer for every party is expected to manually examine every single spoiled paper about which there is any doubt. Even with my 4,000 votes running short of the eventual winners 12,000 my agent and I had to sit there and go through the reject pile.

    The problem with the US election is not that it is taking a long time to count and recount but that the procedures for deciding to do the recounts are straight out of the 19th century. If every district was electronic (and different) and all still had different and unagreed rules about how and when to conduct a recount there would still be chaos at the moment. This is not a machine fixable problem.

    There are long established conventions in the UK, as well as a considerable corpus of electoral law and precedent for judicial review which deal with this. There was a seat in the Westminster Parliament in '97 that was tied and 2 weeks for recounts and legal action which ended up in a rerun.

    PS for any smug Brits out there - I wish we were like the Yanks with a proper constitution. Do you know, fact fans, that we do not have a secret ballot in the UK? When you are issued with a ballot paper it has a number both on it and the stub. Because we don't have a constitution the teller writes your poll number on the stub and your vote can be reconcilled with the tally. The ostensible purpose of this is to address issues of voter fraud, but in practice it has been used to monitor 'anti-social' political activity - ie communists or fascists which kind of negates the principle of the secret ballot.
  • by Mike_K ( 138858 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @03:46PM (#624050)

    According to CNN, on presidential elections:

    Under New Mexico law, if the candidates end up tied, the winner could be determined by having the two men sit for a hand of poker -- with the state going to the winner.

    New Mexico statute requires that in case of a tie, "the determination as to which of the candidates shall be declared to have been nominated or elected shall be decided by lot." In practice, the usual method for this rare event has been to play one hand of five-card poker.

    This was last done in December 1999, in a local judge's race. Republican Jim Blanq and Democrat Lena Milligan played one hand of poker in a courthouse with dozens of people watching, and Blanq won.

    I'd like to be the dealer for that game!

    m votes.elsewhere/index.html
  • by Thalia ( 42305 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @03:51PM (#624076)
    New Mexico had problems because their ballot includes a single punch which indicates that the person wishes to vote the "straight party ticket" for whichever party they select. This means that they do not wish to individually indicate their selections.

    The problem develops when "voters chose to vote a straight party ticket, but also chose at least one candidate from another party, election officials said. "

    In other words, if I select that I want to vote "straight Democratic Party ticket" and then also punch a vote for Bush for President, the machine would get confused. That was the problem.

    In any case, I think we've had as much Election coverage as anyone can stomach... so, let's just wait it out.

  • by stu72 ( 96650 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @03:52PM (#624083)
    BUT... I would really still like a hard copy of each vote, right after each vote. God forbid that we wind up with an election such as the one in Florida, with nothing but bits vanished from the ether as a record of people's votes.

    Is there any way to do this securely w/o a physical record of the vote?


    In Applied Cryptography [], Bruce Schnieir [] describes several possible protocols for secure elections.

    None are perfect though, something we should remember before we go installing MicroSoft Vote v2.04 everywhere and end up with more problems than we started with.

    The most interesting variant is "Voting without a Central Tabulating Facility" where each voter does some cryptographic gymnastics on their vote, and passes the result around so everything is counted in the open, no secret counting agency necessary. No one can tell who voted for who, it will tell you if someone tries to vote twice, or if you try to change someone else's vote. Incredible!

    In another example, each voter encrypts their vote with a random serial number such that when the vote is over, each voters # is published and individual voters can confirm who they voted for, but who anybody else did, and the Central Counting Agency cannot identify voters from their vote.

    Again, the protocols are not perfect, but they're an excellent starting point if you're interested in secure voting.

  • by jafac ( 1449 ) on Tuesday November 14, 2000 @04:10PM (#624087) Homepage
    shut UP or you'll jinx us, asshole!

Disraeli was pretty close: actually, there are Lies, Damn lies, Statistics, Benchmarks, and Delivery dates.