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The Internet

Caltech & MIT Urge Wait On Net Voting 156

Booker writes "According to this article, a study by the Voting Technology Project (a joint venture of the California Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) is recommending that Internet voting be significantly delayed for further study. "The teams expressed even less enthusiasm for Internet voting, which `has all the problems of absentee voting and adds problems of security,' said MIT computer scientist Ron Rivest. `At least a decade of further research on the security of home computers is needed before Internet voting can come in.'" They do recommend better use of technology in voting, just not on the net - yet. They also report that between 4 million and 6 million votes were lost last November due to faulty equipment or other snafus. Read the report for yourself for all the info."
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Caltech & MIT Urge Wait On Net Voting

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Us over here in the UK cannot understand how the US system can be so broken.

    Here we write crosses on pieces of paper using pencils, and the votes are then counted by hand. Every vote is properly counted, and when a recount is necessary it takes from minutes to hours (depending on whether it's a full recount or just a bundle check).

  • by Anonymous Coward
    This is utterly wrong. There is no need to prove your identity what-so-ever. I've voted in every local/general/european election in the last 10 years and have moved a number of times. I have never been asked for anything.
  • There are quite a few limitations to the simplistic approaches of crossing x's in boxes,
    filling in circles, marking lines and trying to determine if ballots are valid.

    Despite the musings by some /. posters above, it's naive to say there are no problems with
    these systems vs the punch card style systems.

    The precinct that I did poll observer for did the X in a box with a pencil, and read by an
    election official (observed by poll watchers from various political parties).

    You'd be alarmed by the number of partially marked, overmarked, write-in lines not to
    mention how heated arguments get to as to how to interpret these type of ballots.

    Top problems (in no particular order)
    1. two boxes marked
    2. partial marks outside, but near, a box (like the box being circled).
    3. partial erased boxes (the instructions in 4 languages say don't erase
    and no eraser is provided at the polling place)
    4. using the pencil to punch holes in the box
    5. marked box with a write-in that might be the same name
    6. marked box with a write-in that isn't the same name
    7. writing numbers in multiple boxes (possibly ranking choices often with no legend)
    8. asking for a ballot to take home for a friend/relative to drop off later

    In the class we were taught that the law states we must throw out all of these ballots.
    Fortunatly, these are usually less than 1% of the ballots (but there are a lot of them).

    Note that in precincts with punch cards and optical cards, they reported the same problems!
    All ballots allow write-ins and thus a pencil can be used to despoil any ballot even with these
    systems. Poll workers (watched by poll observers) must extract any ballots with marks
    in the write-in area for manual inspection in all precincts regardless of voting technology.

    After taking the class and observing a poll, I'm determined never to do that again.
    It's so sad, people are so stupid!

    This doesn't even start to address the people who come in and beligerently want to vote when
    they are not registered. Or people who take an hour to vote stealing the time from people
    standing in line...

    I guess what they say about sausage and politics is true...
  • The fiasco was perfectly timed for my statistics class, if nothing else :) So each day, I brought in th ebetter of the humor I found, and more were sent to me.


    Anyway, I believe it was one of the interactive versions that would respond, "You're not voting for Al Gore. Are you sure?" After a couple of rounds of this, it informed you that since you were confused, it would record your vote for Al Gore . . .


    hawk

  • I agree that net voting is a highly questionable thing, and there's still too many barriers to it.

    What I would like to see before 2004 is the following:

    • Make the November election day a national holiday: employers must give workers at least 4 hrs off during the day as to help improve voter turnout.
    • Standardize on one voting method across the nation. Since this potentially can be very expensive, I propose using the punchcard/butterfly ballot method (!) which is inexpensive.
    • However, along with that, strict rules on how the butterfly ballow can be presented should be determined. E.g. nothing with the potental confusion as with the Florida ballot. All names must be on the same side, and everything should be larger to avoid poor eyesight errors.
    • In addition to the cheap punchcards, each voting site would have a 'ballot check' machine, which electronically scans the punched card and reports any no-votes or duplicated votes, and allows the voter to either redo their card, or to sign off on the ballet to state that that was their intent (Probably more important in the non-vote catagory). Note that this box does NOT count votes; it only knows that, say, presidental candidates are in boxes 1-8, a senator race in 12-15, etc...
    • In conjunction with that, each butterfly ballot book would have a DIFFERENT ORDERING of the names within each race. So one might have "Bush/Gore/Nader", another might be "Nader/Bush/Gore", etc. You'd still be making your mark in boxes 1-8, but a Bush vote on one card might be box 1, while the vote on another card would be box 3. The specific butterfly book that you vote from would be marked by the voting official that is there to avoid an error here (since this is significant!); basically when they tell you to go to a specific machine, they know which book is there, so they'll punch out the right slot before that time.
    • Votes are still counted off the voting site at some central facility. Again, those little boxes can only check for "X of N choices" in a range of boxes, nothing else.

    I think this is a nice cheap method, and would help reduce much of errors and problems that we had in the last election. There's other, less technical things that I'd love to see changed (like removing the winner-take-all) provision, but that's less likely to happen.

  • The problem with any technological solution is that it will be expensive relative to any mechanical solution; in addition, in the fallout from the election when a national standard for voting was suggested, it was well decided that there would be very little finacial help from the federal government, putting the most of the cost of the new machines on taxpayers.

    Sure, my idea still requires a 'computer' at each site, but this is only one per site as opposed to 10 voting booths per site. I would presume that this is much more reasonable and less of a load on cash-strapped districts than getting lots of expensive voting machines.

    Plus, I feel that if we went totally computerized, there would be a significant portion of the population that would have resistence to it, whether being ludites, conspiracy theory nuts, or for some other reason.

  • Smart cards don't help you much if the PC you plug them into has been compromised. Unless the smart card has its own display which can show you what it's being asked to sign, and a button to allow/deny this - and I've never seen any arrangement like that - then the software on the PC could use it to sign a completely different message from the one you wanted to send.
  • In the UK, and presumably also in Australia, representatives of all candidates in the election can be present as observers during counting.
  • Are you seriously claiming that having a bunch of guys look at paper ballots is accurate and fair? Maybe Australians are simply more honest then other folk (I will ignore the obvious joke about the ancestry of Australians), but it seems that manual counting is far worse than even the primitive machines that the US uses -- you can't bribe machines, but you can certainly bribe people.
  • Throw in:

    3) The fact that it's the single most powerful political post an individual can hold, and that losers very rarely get a second shot at it, is a pretty powerful incentive to hang on and fight.

    4) The fact that the people directly in charge of the vote counts were deeply involved in the campaign for one side.

    5) The politicised nature of both the state and federal judiciary (I'm not so naive to imagine that judges in other countries don't have political views, but it is not so nearly as blatantly and publically political as in the US) made any decision they made contentious.

    6) And, overall, the vote was really, really close - if a parliamentary election was that close in Britain or Australia the result would take almost as long to occur and perhaps result in a hung parliament and long periods of negotiations with the one or two whacked-out independents that get elected each time around.

    Go you big red fire engine!

  • Look it up sometime, I'll make a wager your country of 5 million people regularly loses 100,000+ votes or whatever it is you may do with 5 million people.

    That's a 2% margin of error. Which is a really good margin of error. If the US has 250 million people then losing 5 million votes is also 2% (I have no idea how many people are in the US, but I'm pretty sure 250 million is close)

    So if you think 5 million is ABSOLUTELY killer, let me ask you this... when was the last time you scored a 98% on a very long, very repetitive, very dull test?
  • You're absolutely right ... that does drop them from an A+ rating down to an A. Perhaps an A-, just to be a cynical embittered tenure.

    My point still stands, in my opinion, people are wanting perfection from the government!?

    I agree it sucks to think that out of 100 of your closest voting friends (do any of us have that many friends) 6.5 of them didn't count. But if you randomly sampled from your friends, and randomly chose six of them, would it matter if you lost those 6?
  • I won't argue that net voting is ready yet, but I don't think it really aggravates any of the problems you outline. Husbands can already intimidate their wives; employers can intimidate their employees; and the poor already vote less than the wealthy, despite efforts of candidates to bus low-income voters to the polls.

    Don't confuse technology issues with existing voting problems.

  • Just as long as they're not using MS SQL Server 6.5 [slashdot.org]...

  • but it seems that manual counting is far worse than even the primitive machines that the US uses

    The paper clearly says that human tabulation is among the most accurate methods of counting.

    Its not like one person counts the ballots and then burns them all -- usually several people count them, and any discrepancies can be resolved by even more people.

    For all the hyperbole in Florida, people are very responsible about this sort of thing. Especially when cheating will be noticed quickly and the penalties are high (VERY high).

    ---------------------------------------------
  • by mlc ( 16290 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @11:49PM (#77998) Homepage
    The problems with net voting do not just extend to the "obvious" (to the /. crowd, anyway) authentication, security, and other technical challenges. The real problems, IMHO, are much much bigger. I see two key problems: [my comments apply specifically to US but may have parallels in other places.]
    • In current society, access to computers is not evenly spread throughout all socioeconomic and racial classes. Poorer people are less likely to own home PCs than richer people. Even ignoring this effect, white people and asians of any given income level are more likely to own PCs than black and latino/a people of the same income. For statistics and pointers to sources, google turned up this [ncrel.org]; plenty more info exists on the 'net.

      It's no brilliant observation to note that people of different classes and races tend to vote for different candidates. So, any voting mechanism that makes it easier for some given type of people, who are likely to vote in a certain way, will have an "unfair" bias on the election's results.

    • With Net voting, the anonymity and "sanctity" of the ballot box can be entirely lost. Imagine either of the following scenarios:
      • Since many of its workers are low-income and do not own home PCs, Company X sets up terminals for its workers to use to vote when they come to work. However, there are posters around for the favorite candidate of X's CEO and managers. The bosses clearly make it known who their favorite is. Do we have a fair election here? (What we have is, in effect, the privitization of the polling place. This frightens me.)
      • [blatent gender stereotypes ensue. switch the genders or make the people the same gender if you like in this example.] Mr. & Mrs. Y have been married for n years; however, recently there has been some trouble in the relationship and Mr. Y has been beating Mrs. Y. Mr. Y favors some kind of conservative, "traditional values" candidate. Mrs. Y would really rather vote for a candidate more supportive of women's rights. However, Mr. and Mrs. Y sit down to vote together, perhaps because Mr. Y thinks he has to show Mrs. Y how to use the computer or whatever. As Mr. Y stands over Mrs. Y's shoulder, perhaps after having had a drink or two on his way home from work, who do you think Mrs. Y is going to vote for?

    Now, I love technology. I'm working [americorps.gov] this summer to bring technology [netday.org] to people [k12.ca.us] who might not otherwise have access. But the problems with Net voting extend far beyond the ones that technology alone can solve, and my desire to see a fair election far outweighs my desire to avoid trekking over to the polling place. Net voting is not a good solution. The study refernced in the article makes some better ones, as does the Center for Voting and Democracy [fairvote.org].


    --
    // mlc, user 16290
  • If we were to have a single voting system across the country, first think of the massive bribery, I mean campaign contributions, as Congress gets to pick the winner in the marketplace

    Not that I advocate such a national standard, but Congress could simply put forward a standard specification, and any vendor meeting those specs could provide the solution to each city/county/state/whatever.

    --

  • For all the hyperbole in Florida, people are very responsible about this sort of thing.

    The problem in Florida was that they were not only dealing with the issue of what constituted an actual "punch", but also the simple fact that the more times the cards were handled, the more errors would be introduced by potentially loosening other "chads". Optical scan ballots would not (and indeed, in those Florida counties using them did not during the mandatory recount in the first week) have any problems in that area.

    --

  • by Overt Coward ( 19347 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2001 @07:21AM (#78001) Homepage
    If legislation gets bound tighter to these poll-results we have the purest form of direct democracy, in which political leaders are forced to react.

    Which may work well for broad issues, but would be an unmitigated disaster for the details. What percentage of the population is truly politically active? Even among them, how many follow the issues closely enough to cast an informed vote on every issue?

    The vast majority would simply vote the way their media source of choice would tell them to (though of course, not be "told" in so many words), because they don't have the time or experience to folow the legislative minutia.

    Direct democracy is dangerous in that regard, especially as we continue to complicate our everyday lives more and more through technology. The reason representative governments were created in the first place may have been for simplicity, but the fact is that given the amount and level of detail of modern legislation, very few except those whose full-time jobs are to deal with it can keep up with it all. And probably not even then -- that's one of the main reasons why Congressmen have staffers: to help them understand what they're voting on.

    To illustrate, go to Thomas [loc.gov] and look up 10 random bills and see how long it takes you to not only be able to summarize them, but to be able to answer any question about them.

    --

  • Actually, computerizing the voting process (be it in a polling place or over the internet) would actually help people who can't punch a hole in a card, because you could give them immediate feedback that they had spoiled their ballot. In my mind, the major problem with the Florida system was the lack of user feedback.

    --
  • Just to point you to a project which attempts to give to any community a tool better suited to its needs. Basically it's a collaborative writing web site. But the principles are based on a mix of participative and representative democracies. It's very very simple, every participant can "propose/choose/delegate(his choices)". Choices and delegations can be changed at any time.

    As far as I'm concerned, it's the best way to let a community express itself through writing any sort of texts: constitution, book of laws, newspaper, weblog, novel, poem... Those texts being assembled in a library which can be browsed using a filter (to filter the elements which have a lower acceptation level, thus to have a high signal/noise ratio).

    It's called VeniVidiVoti [sf.net], and is about 80% complete. I'm looking for a community willing to test drive it, or for server space where to install the project's library.

  • It's not just voting, it's in fact a political system based on voting and proposing what you vote for and delegating your votes -> VeniVidiVoti [sf.net]

    It's functional, but there is no server actually hosting it, so you are limited to browsing a static copy of it, and reading its specifications.

    It't not really secure either, it's a tool designed for communities, not for whole countries (not yet anyway). It could even replace a tool like Slashdot or K5H (conceptually at least)!

  • by mpe ( 36238 )
    just have paper ballots, they work fine.

    Another low tech solution, used in the world outside the US. Is to have physically separate documents for separate election.
  • The article points out that complex equipment increases the failure rate of voting,

    Not just errors but systematic distortion, without transparancy or accountability.
    Having a stack of ballot papers makes such things a recounts easier (at least it does it the ballot papers are sensibly designed.)

    and thus decreases the credibility of US democracy.

    How much credibility do you think it has right now. (Probably about the same as Zimbabwe...)

    The simplest and most fail-safe voting system I've heard of is almost completely fail-safe: You use a pen to write a number inside a circle in the ballot. Pens and candidate lists are in the polling-booth.

    You only need to use numbers for STV, on a simple first past the post system any kind of mark will do. (It is also perfectly possible to design such a ballot paper which can be machine sorted.)
    But it's actually an advantage for ballots to be counted by hand, with representatives for all candidates watching.
    The other thing to do is one election one ballot paper, multiple elections on the same ballot paper make counting (and recounts) far more complex.

    The weak point of this is that in poorer countries the voters do not know how to read/write, but this shouldn't be a problem in the US.

    There is a trivial solution here, that is to print the ballot papers with names and photographs. Even someone who cannot read or write can make a mark in a box.
  • And in Australia (probably elsewhere too) there are always a couple of scrutineers watching over the shoulder of the counter.

    Everywhere except the US. Since it's rather hard from scrutineers to check a machine... Also IIRC they did some of the Florida recounts in secret.
  • I'm not sure, but I suspect that the pencil is used to mark the paper so that if someone does mess up they can easily alter it (it's difficult to un-punch a hole).

    Except that it's trivial to get a replacement ballot paper. Pencils most likely a combination of tradition and less risk of their failing to work or ink ending up anywhere it shouldn't.

    Also, we only have to vote for one thing at a time (Parliment, European Parliment, etc.) - I understand that you USians were voting for a whole bunch of stuff all at the same time (Party, Judges etc.), or was that just FL?

    It's not uncommon for several elections to be held together, the usual way of doing this is to use multiple distinctive ballot papers.
    Rather than the US method which appears to have each polling district make up their own design, including composite ballots.
  • However, in US there are a lot of things that are voted about, and not just dictated by the bureaucracy. In many 'democratic' countries of Western Europe there are very few votes expect the elections (parliament, president, local).

    But AFAIK no European country has the situation of 2 political parties dominating things to the exclusion of everything else. Including other political parties, let alone idependant candidates.
  • You can get secure OSs. Trusted Xenix is B2, though apparently unobtainable nowadays, and Trusted Solaris [sun.com] is B1. However, for this I'd probably want B3, where you want something like the XTS-300 [getronicsgov.com].
  • Tell that to my local council, thay wanted my passport and council tax documents before I could vote in the last election

    This would be an addition to the electoral roll. As this is a new thing then what is happening is that they are screwing it up.

    As for the others the only time that you could register was in (usually) September, when the forms went out. And I have been on lots of electoral rolls (probably still am on several - I was called to jury duty about a year after I had moved because of the broken deletion process) and I have never had to provide a single piece of id for any of them (I have even had the canvessers at the door filling in the forms and they just want the details).

    For details see Waveney DC [waveney.gov.uk] and Exeter [exeter.gov.uk]. For a copy of the form you have to fill in then try here [rollingreg...tion.co.uk]. All you have to do is print this out, fill it in and send it to your local council. Absolutely no mention whatsoever of the requirement for any identification.

  • by pmc ( 40532 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2001 @01:54AM (#78012) Homepage
    When you register to vote in the UK, you are required to prove your identity using a passport/photo-id drivers license[1], and to prove your address by means of utility bills or tax documents

    Wrong. The system in the UK is that once per year a form is delivered to each household which you are legally required to fill in and return. This is used to compile the electoral register. Electoral registers are compiled and maintained by the local council.

    The electoral register is "rolled forward", which means that an entry for a household stays until a different one is received. Needless to say this is a bit of a flaw.

    From February 2001 (after an amendment to the "Representation of the People Act") you can request a form at any time and you will be added within 7 weeks. This is slightly different in that it is a personal form as opposed to a household form.

    The main difference between the UK and the US is that registering to vote is automatic/compulsory in the UK, and voluntary in the US.

  • However, along with that, strict rules on how the butterfly ballow can be presented should be determined. E.g. nothing with the potental confusion as with the Florida ballot.

    The only way to avoid potential confusion is a ballot with the names clearly written on it. This could be automated to an extent (have the voter select using a keypad and have the machine print the corresponding name on the ballot).

    Done properly, it wouldn't really be all that expensive, especially with machine-printed ballots designed to be both human and machine readable (OCR is quite straighforward when it has to deal with only one font specifically designed for clarity).

    In addition to the cheap punchcards, each voting site would have a 'ballot check' machine, which electronically scans the punched card and reports any no-votes or duplicated votes, and allows the voter to either redo their card, or to sign off on the ballet to state that that was their intent

    Again, I'd lose the punchcards and use ballot forms printed by machine in response to voter selection. For verification, have the printed form drop behind a window so that the voter can read it (but not tamper with it), and either cast it or void it and start over.

    Also, there's a human element to address: the rules need to be quite clear that, given that the system has made it as easy as reasonably possible to cast an unambiguous vote, you have a responsibility to do so -- and if you still screw it up YOUR VOTE WILL NOT COUNT, PERIOD!

    In conjunction with that, each butterfly ballot book would have a DIFFERENT ORDERING of the names within each race.

    This is a snafu waiting to happen if implemented with punch cards. However, with the above described system, there's no reason why the keypads couldn't have all different orders of the names, since what appears on the final ballot form (the printed name) wouldn't vary.


    /.

  • These printers spit out square pieces of paper, with what appear to be random clouds of dots. But these are actually a form of "barcode" that indicate what choices were made.

    Any marking on the ballot which is not human-readable is an open invitation to spoofing -- a machine could be fixed to print the "random cloud of dots" for a favored candidate no matter what selection the voter made, with nobody the wiser.

    The idea of a printer to produce the final ballot form is a good one, as long as the printout can be read and verified by the voter before casting the vote.
    /.

  • by cr0sh ( 43134 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2001 @10:25AM (#78015) Homepage
    The reasoning behind needing polling booths is a simple one:

    It blocks vote/voter coercion!!!

    That is, by having booths in a central, guarded, public area - such that one, and only one, person may enter the booth - no one can put a gun to your head (literally or figuratively) and tell you how to vote, to further their (or the group they represent) agenda.

    This is the current problem with absentee ballots - there is no real way of knowing that the vote on an absentee ballot wasn't coerced in some manner. Currently, we have a low percentage of absentee ballots, so we just shrug our shoulders and move on. However, with internet voting from the home or elsewhere, we would have, in effect, a HUGE percentage of "absentee ballots" that could be coerced ("Want your check/job this week, Johnson? Go into that room and vote - ahem - properly...").

    It isn't about security, it is about voter coercion.

    However, I do believe that the kiosks should contain computers running voting software - such software could show the candidate, a synopsis of what they are about (maybe with links to outside info - allowing the user to come up to speed on the candidate), and other info - with a set of buttons on the side (like an ATM) that say "Vote", "Next Candidate", "Previous Candidate" - maybe some arrow keys. Have synthesized audio with headphones (or make the booth soundproof) to aid the blind (along with braille on the buttons).

    Such software would need to be simple and robust, so as not to crash - don't use touch screens, because they aren't as intuitive, and are useless (or near useless, I would suppose) to the blind. The software could report the votes back to a tabulating center for final count, etc via the internet - using a highly secure encrypted system - or maybe they should just all go back to the center over a leased line system, or maybe back to an armoured truck that uplinks the data via satellite.

    Finally, allow a week or so for voting - so everyone can vote, and have the voting booth hours be flexible - heck, make the voting booths mobile or something, like they have mobile ATMS, etc.

    All of this could be done today, and relatively cheaply. It isn't that hard...

    Worldcom [worldcom.com] - Generation Duh!
  • Don't confuse technology issues with existing voting problems

    I think his worry is that it would exacerbate those problems.

  • In Utah each polling place has voting judges from each (major) party. This does tend to reduce fraud. It should be noted that Iron County Utah uses punch card ballots, and they had no trouble with them in the last election.
  • What is rather clear is that you cannot deploy a voting system, nor any paiement or security system for that matter, in the current environment. To deploy such systems, you need secure platforms. I mean really secure. So, naturally, Windows won't do. And even the Unices, will are probably much better security wise, are most likely not secure enough in practice.

    What could be done nowadays, however, is a system using smartcard, or a similar hardware system.

    In some European countries (and most notably France), smartcards are already being used, and smartcard readers that you can plug in your PC are starting to be available.

    A generalisation of such a system could allow, among other things, a rather secure voting system. Of course, if would make it a bit easier to buy votes and control what people do, but there is not so much that can be done about this...
  • Where do you suppose the federal govt. gets it's money? Taxpayers. The only difference is which line of the W2 (for example) the money comes out of.
  • by wumingzi ( 67100 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2001 @05:41AM (#78020) Homepage Journal
    Us over here in the UK cannot understand how the US system can be so broken.

    I should point out that much of the perceived bizarreness in the US was related to:

    1) A somewhat loopy state which did not have good hand-count procedures in place.

    2) The teams of two utterly ruthless, completely unscrupulous human beings (OK. I'm not sure if Gore REALLY passes the human test, but I have to give him the benefit of the doubt) fanning the flames of this system.

    Here in Washington State, we had an extremely close Senate race which forced a full recount (by law, not by lawsuit). Washington has all the issues Florida has: poor districts with lousy voting equipment, military personell sending in absentee ballots, etc. (admittedly, we don't go out much for vote-buying, and there aren't enough blacks outside Seattle to make it worthwhile to intimidate people in to not voting).

    There was also a well-established procedure in place to handle all of these cases.

    It took two weeks for all the absentee ballots to be considered "in", and a few days to handle a full recount of votes.

    It was as boring as watching paint dry. The process merited less than two column-inches in the newspaper every day and a total of 40 seconds of coverage of the entire process on NPR.

    j.
  • I live in Finland, a country whose entire population is about 5 million people. The US lost more votes than there are voters in my country. And noboy thinks there is anything wrong with that?

    Maybe you receive an abridged version of the world news over there in Finland, but there are a whole helluva lot of people who think there's something wrong with it. And, frankly, comparing anything to its Finnish equivalent is unlikely to make much of an impression. :)

  • I go to all the trouble of voting, and there is a chance, however small it is, that for one reason or another my vote simply didn't count. [...] I'm scared to vote again til they get this shit worked out.

    I'm afraid someone's going to steal my money, so I'm going to throw it all out the window.

  • It's not just the act of voting, it's those around the voter. Some employers have video cameras to watch the workers and could conceivibly see their employees votes. More needs to be done in the voter privacy area beyond sending things encrytped. This is for two reasons - one, people who don't want their vote linked to them and two, people could create proof of a vote and have a greater ability to sell their vote.

    Then again, I'm probably just a paranoid freak...
  • As more or less everyone is saying here, it should be a foregone conclusion, that having people vote in their homes, workplaces or cafes is counterproductive. To say the least.

    However, if we (as the people) want to have a easy channel to voice our opinions more or less constantly about the various policy proposals, then we could use the internet voting systems as described here. These would act as official opinion polls, not binding decision making mechanisms. Advisory, that is, so the vote buying/tampering/whatever would not be that tempting.

    In this scheme the sample would be very large, and calculations to neutralize the effects of various usage patterns could be easily made. Oh why? Well, this kind of system would have to be connected to the official identity database which in turn could be connected to the tax agency's databases. So the information would be as accurate as it can be.

    So how's that - the perfect poll democracy?

    -miKa-

  • And in Australia (probably elsewhere too) there are always a couple of scrutineers watching over the shoulder of the counter.

    bakes
    --
  • Here in the UK, trials of phone voting have been carried out in local elections. All properly secure (as far as phone voting can be made secure) and well protected against rigging by use of unique identifying numbers (which aren't recorded, paranoid types). More importantly though, it used technology that the vast majority of the electorate has access to and is familiar with.

    Such a system makes much more sense to me as it would unboubtedly be far cheaper to implement than somehow trying to get people through the process of voting on a computer. It's more inclusive, too, because it's a simple matter of listening to a prompt and pressing a button, so even the densest of the populace are likely to be able to handle it - I'm sure there's people who don't vote because they're too embarrassed to admit they can't read the ballot paper (I could make a wisecrack about American literacy rates here, but I won't). They even set up the trial here so that you could choose to hear instructions in minority languages such as Urdu and Punjabi.

    Seems like a far better solution to me.

  • The CalTech-MIT report lays out a generic "modular voting architecture" called AMVA. In the description of it, the report's authors refer to it as "a new framework". After reading the AMVA section of the report, I realized that the AMVA is almost an exact duplicate of a voting system design I posted online three and a half months ago. I wrote out more details on this here [advogato.com].
  • nobody knows whether you blinked. :P
  • First and least, these orgs are not without their conflicts of interest. They are saying 'companies should not develop the technology to do e-voting, we need to study the probelm more. send money'.

    More importantly, there is more than one way of doing things. Just because you throw 'network' into the equation doesn't mean it has to be a connection to a IIS 3.0 box w/ 56bit free for b*tt-wiping certs. It could just as easily be used to create a more decentralized voting system. Instead of picking one school in the district and making everyone go there, they can set several places to vote: schools, libraries, courthouses, whatever..


    I would also suggest that it would be best in the long run (that is to make the long run shorter) if these systems were tested in the real world. These trials don't need to be binding and they don't even have to be done on elections of widespread importance. Even better, you can set some up in malls (or where ever kids hang out these days) and invite everyone to try to beat the system.

    I wish I hadn't started to read that report. I don't have the time to read it all before going to work and there are so many maddening things about it. They try to poke holes in 'net voting' while pointing out that we can't even get the physical world right, but the method they used to get at these numbers make you wonder. For example, to talk about uncounted votes, they say that 2% of votes in 2000 did not count towards a presidential vote. Then they estimate that only 25% of that total did not intend to vote.. ? Then they mention that 5% did not record a senate or gubernatorial vote and try to blame most of this on disenfranchisement. Wouldn't you think that if there were problems w/ the voting machines, that these numbers would be more equal? Or maybe it just means we don't give a sh!t.
    Hey anarchists, here is a way to screw w/ em.. Vote, but don't vote for anyone!!!
  • Florida

    Millions of votes are 'lost' across the country, and some monkeys actually think that a couple hunderd screwed up votes in Flordia was the difference in who became president.

    We have NO FUCKING CLUE who actually won, without manually recounting every single freaking vote in the country.

  • So that you don't have people moaning and bitching about a government when they haven't exercised their right/lived up to their obligation, to have a bit of a say.

    When I riot, I like to know that I warned them!

    Buckets,

    pompomtom
  • While you can go on at length about having a network that's electronic, private, and secure, there is still some potential influence that a disgruntled employee (for example) could offer.

    While there would obviously be a higher cost, having more than one network that you'd swipe your card through would be a fairly simple validation; have democrats run one and republicans run another. On the other hand, you'd perhaps need an odd number in case of ties, so have independents run a third.

    Would this be too expensive?

  • <RANT>
    Seriously, if you don't have the ambition to go out and vote, then you don't get a vote. There seems to be a huge push on Slashdot (and everywhere else) to increase voter turnout. Why? Because your high school civics teacher clicked his tongue at low voter turnout and told you it was a "moral obligation" to do your "civic duty"?

    I'm all for increasing accuracy, but everybody here is really gung-ho on voting over the Internet someday. Do we really want our president selected by people who can't be troubled to go get off the couch? By people who don't know any more about the candidates than what they saw on a couple TV ads? By people who are just "too busy" to muster up more than a few clicks of their index finger? If casting your vote is not a high enough priority to squeeze in a 30-minute errand on Election Day, then so be it.

    I'm not trying to be elitist, it just seems like there's very little stopping people who want to vote from voting under the current system. Heck, I don't even like the idea of encouraging people to vote because they're "supposed to." I tend to think somebody voting based on peer pressure is worse than not voting, especially if they haven't educated themselves about the candidates and issues. A lot of people went to a lot of trouble (oh, and died) so you could vote. I have no patience for people who think our current system is too much effort.

    I don't see low voter turnout as a problem. In fact, in a certain selfish sense, I like it because it makes my vote that much more valuable. Voting is a right that everyone should be more than welcome to not exercise.
    </RANT>

  • Yup; pencils. The papers are then put in a sealed box (which the people at the polling station can't open and which is watched very carefully) before being sent to a central counting area in each constituency. They're very carefully guarded.

    I agree that maybe a more permanent mark might be a good idea, but it seems to work anyway. The benefit is that it's so simple (put an X in a box next to the name/party that you want to vote for) that you'd have to be stupendously stupid to get it wrong and it thus eliminates any of the problems seem in Florida except voter apathy (turn-out was very low in our last election too). I'm not sure, but I suspect that the pencil is used to mark the paper so that if someone does mess up they can easily alter it (it's difficult to un-punch a hole).

    Also, we only have to vote for one thing at a time (Parliment, European Parliment, etc.) - I understand that you USians were voting for a whole bunch of stuff all at the same time (Party, Judges etc.), or was that just FL?

  • Aaargh! Just had a terrible thought - they could introduce Windows-style idiot checks:

    Are you sure you want to vote for [candidate name]?

    You chose to vote for [candidate name]. Are you sure you want to cast this vote?

    Your vote is about to be cast for [candidate name]. Please click OK to continue.

    etc.

  • Let's ignore the Slashdot community for a sec - there's a vast amount of people out there *cough* AOL *cough* who have trouble doing the simplest things on their PCs (otherwise IDG wouldn't be making so much money off the Dummies series). If people really can't punch a hole in a piece of paper properly, then are they going to manage to vote over the net? Right now, I doubt it. But I think that if internet voting is publicised widely then they're likely to try for the same reasons that so many people without a clue (and only a slim chance of getting one) get on the net in the first place.

    The process of voting needs to be made much much simpler and clearer, people need to be able to review their choice before they cast it, and they need to have an equally simple alternative in the real world. Try beta testing any new system on a bunch five-year-olds and you'll see just how many ways something you thought was simple can be done wrong.

    And then there's all the arguments about security, skewed distribution of PC access, etc. etc.

  • Actually in the last presidential election approximately 15 thousand votes of 3.2 million were rejected, making the rejection rate 0.47%. Votes are hand counted, and the results are generally out a few hours after the polls close.

    Of course hand counting each vote costs tax money that, some might argue, would be better spent on other projects such as national defense or subsidies to their favorite industry.

  • The main attraction about voting using computers is that it provides a very quick way to count votes. So why don't they just use custom made computers with custom made software which are only network locally in the voting stations? This way each voting station knows the total number of votes at any point in time and can send it up the line by whatever means seems necessary.

    And since electronics can be so unreliable, just print a voting slip which can be processed later in the same way as they are these days in the eventuallity in which there are doubts about the validity of the vote.
  • It's relative. The US losing a small country is like a small country losing a medium sized city. In this case, 4% of 5 million is 200,000. I wouldn't be surprised if Finland lost that many votes. If they lost *significantly* less than perhaps there is a model to which we should look. OTOH, perhaps we should do a world-wide survey and see who is doing best in that regard, and emulate them if possible.

    As for nobody thinking it's wrong, that's simply not true. It was all you heard about until the matter was finally settled. We just didn't have any riots or anything like that. That, I believe, is one of the great strengths of this country. People are too busy working to take time off and riot. "Hey, are you going to the demonstration? No. I have to double-check the Smith account."

  • by BiggestPOS ( 139071 ) on Tuesday July 17, 2001 @11:45PM (#78041) Homepage
    I go to all the trouble of voting, and there is a chance, however small it is, that for one reason or another my vote simply didn't count. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH COUNTRY?? To steal something from last Sundays Simpsons episode "We can build a ladder to put a man of the roof but we can't count something as intergral to our society as votes correctly?" I'm scared to vote again til they get this shit worked out. A voter registration card should be like an ATM card with a magnetic stripe, and voting machines would scan them, and tally all votes on an electronic, private network with heavy security. I'm sick of all the bullshit, and after the Florida affair, I hope you are too.

  • by nomadic ( 141991 )
    just have paper ballots, they work fine. Or mechanical voting machines (we have them in New York, and maybe they haven't been manufactured in 50 years, but the plans have to be around). Then make it standard for the whole country. I swear, some people seem to experience something akin to physical pain when they contemplate NOT linking something in our society to the internet.
    --
  • Several states had higher rates of disregarded votes than Florida. In particular, New York and Illinois had about twice as much, percentage-wise. What happened in Florida was indicative of what happened many other places in the country; it just got the publicity because it was the pivotal state in that close election.
  • So remove people from the equation. Machines and computers don't have political affiliations.
  • From the fast facts in post #15, there are 150 million voter registrations in the US. Secondly, only half of those people voted, so suddenly that 5 million comes out of 75 million. That's 6.67%.
  • Well, you're always allowed to write in whoever you want if they don't appear on the ballot. Every year, thousands of people vote for Scoobie-Do, Donald Duck and Bugs Bunny. Why not CowboyNeal? On the other hand, I don't know what the rules about nicknames and handles are. Maybe there really is a person named Neal Cowboy somewhere.

    --

  • by The Gline ( 173269 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2001 @05:42AM (#78048) Homepage
    1. Get everyone in the United States into a BIIIIIIG room.

    2. Everyone who wants to vote for one guy, they get on THIS side.

    3. Everyone who wants to vote for the other guy, they get on THAT side.

    4. A trap door opens up and drops everyone who voted for the other guy into a big-ass pit fulla scorpions 'n tigers 'n lizards 'n crocodiles.

    5. Now everyone in the USA votes exactly the same. Yay!

    Problem solved.
  • Ah yes, and we can finally have a political system free of the friction of individual voters. Let's look forward to the day when everyone is coerced into signing over their voting rights in exchange for a job, debt relief, an education, or a year's supply of big macs.

    The Libertarians would say any contract between willing parties in a free market is fair, but in the US the market isn't all that free - banks, insurance companies, etc. all hold far more cards than you and I do, and they all dictate pretty much the same terms. And we all have to swallow their terms or else go live in a shack in the woods and type a manifesto.

    So I don't have much hope that a country where our votes are for sale will preserve the few shreds of democracy it has left.

  • 1. people write numbers next to names

    UK's even simpler - tick or cross in a box next to a name. Of course that's because we have First Past the Post rather than Proportional Representation. Which may be a worse or better system depending on your point of view.

  • by jesterzog ( 189797 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2001 @02:23AM (#78052) Homepage Journal

    There are lots of arguments against using computers, or other technology for that matter, for voting. I agree with pretty much all of it, but I also think that a lot of people overlook one of the very important reasons that ticking a ballot is better than using computers.

    To put it simply, everyone can understand the process - barring the very challenged. The process of indicating a candidate on paper, putting it in a box and having it counted by people reading it is an almost 100% manual process. Virtually anyone can understand it, and therefore trust it based on their own judgement.

    Compare this with a computer voting system, or even a mechanical voting system. Show even a simple computer program to the masses and 99%+ of the general population won't understand it. Up this exponentially for something based on a distributed system.

    Nearly everyone has to rely on and trust a minority of the population to verify that their vote is actually being recorded correctly. Even for those who understand it, actually formerly proving that it works is one total bastard of a job. Then there's verifying the proof over and over, verifying the compilers, making sure the hardware is 100% accurate, and there's always room for lawsuits when there's big corporate money sponsoring government involved.

    Alongside arguments of people having guns stuck to their heads in secret and so on, this is one of the big reasons that I think I'll always support cumpulsory anonymous polling booths run in a very manual, and very understandable way.

    In my experience to date, a lot of the people who want net voting are people who don't have a clue about the risks or problems involved with the software development process, and are simply more interested in convenience. It makes sense for things like internal corporation votes, but general public elections shouldn't change, IMHO.


    ===
  • And a hard copy for you and for the voting office gets printed out, if validation is needed for later...

    A hardcopy for the voting office is a good idea, but you really don't want one for yourself. If there's a way you can prove who you voted for, then there's a way someone can coerce your vote. It's a non-obvious but very important requirement of any good voting system that the voters not be able to prove who they voted for. Maybe some cryptographic verification that requires the assistance of a public voting official would be okay... as long as that official isn't crooked.

  • A voter registration card should be like an ATM card with a magnetic stripe, and voting machines would scan them, and tally all votes on an electronic, private network with heavy security

    Do what you like with the voter registration cards, the actual ballot needs to be

    • Physical
    • Human-readable
    • Impossible to connect to a specific voter

    In order for people to trust that their ballots are cast correctly, their ballot needs to be something they can see, touch, smell (hell, taste if they want), and they need to be able to verify what it says themselves with no technological tools that could confuse or lie.

    Machine-readability is important for some localities, but it's a bonus -- the important part is that the people believe their vote is cast correctly (arguably, the belief is more important than it being true!).

    Personally, I like the idea of an easy-to-use touch screen system that prints a paper ballot with all of the offices and names in large, clear type that is designed for OCR. Voters could make their selections, look at the printed ballot to ensure it's correct, and drop it in the big, locked metal box, behind which sit representatives of the major parties and a burly security guard.

  • > Husbands can already intimidate their wives;
    > employers can intimidate their employees; and
    > the poor already vote less than the wealthy,

    Well, yes, but they can only be intimidated into
    not voting, a problem to which I can see no ready
    fix-all solution. But with voting at home,
    the husband/employer/etc can watch *how* the
    voter votes, making it possible to intimidate
    him into voting in a desired way, which makes the
    problem worse. This problem is also why absentee
    ballots should be issued only on an absolutely
    necessary basis (which was another recommendation
    of the report, by the way).

    Chris Mattern
  • What do you mean by "lost"? Are you talking about votes that the machines couldn't count?
  • My thoughts exactly. Instead, why don't we just set up computers at the voting booths. Everyone gets an ATM-type card used for identification, and then they vote on a closed network of high-security computers found at the same places we used to vote. Instant results. No arguments (assuming the network is running right [knock on wood]). No cheating (ok, less cheating).
  • Some states don't allow you to write in. Or at least they make it as difficult as possible. For instance my home state of PA, where you don't write in the candidates name, you write in the name of the Candidates ELECTORS, all of them, in order to vote for someone who isn't on the list. Which really seems to be a great way to discourage voting for third party candidates.
  • Yes kids, remember in America you can only sell your vote if you are already an elected representative, preferably in Congress.
  • by rabtech ( 223758 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2001 @03:46AM (#78065) Homepage
    Here is my idea:

    Each voting booth has a LCD touch-screen in it. There is a list of names for the specific office (also listed on the screen in bold letters.)
    When you touch the name, it highlights in large red letters. There are only two other buttons on the page, back and forward. Thus making it very simple to use.

    Each of these booths are connected to a printer, or series of printers. These printers spit out square pieces of paper, with what appear to be random clouds of dots. But these are actually a form of "barcode" that indicate what choices were made. These papers can be fed into reading machines for the final vote.

    This system preserves anonymity, and yet makes it much harder to counterfeit votes, at least in any new ways.

    The problem with Internet voting is that how could you tell if someone hacked the system and were entering invalid votes? How would you do a recount? It adds a very large element where corporate or government interests can really screw over the numbers.... or even a disgruntled programmer or system operator.
    -- russ
  • It's now illegal to ask for identification when someone votes. Seriously. Plus, you get people who are too damned lazy to send in a little form on their own, then registering to vote when the register their car, and you have gobs and gobs of registered voters that have no intention of voting. Can you say VOTER FRAUD? I knew you could, boys and girls.
  • I think that net voting, with the current levels of technology, is a bad thing. Look at how easy it is to compromise 80% of the computers in the world! They can be either a)knocked off the net, b) hacked and forced to send back bad data, or c) hacked and used for an attack, all easily enough that it's simply a bad idea. If these researchers think that it's a bad idea, I'm all for their recommendation of not doing it.

    I can just see it now...

    US Government: "We need an online voting system"

    Microsoft hands government a shrink-wrapped copy of Windows XP Server and IIS, Government hands Microsoft a huge check

    Microsoft: "Here you go, if there are any bugs or exploits, look for the next release..."


    IBM had PL/1, with syntax worse than JOSS,
  • I suppose there won't be an option to vote for CowboyNeal :-)

    cmclean

  • No-one knows who you are, and therein for me lies the problem.
    When you register to vote in the UK, you are required to prove your identity using a passport/photo-id drivers license[1], and to prove your address by means of utility bills or tax documents.

    Although PKI online is a step toward proof of ownership, and although electronic signatures are now considered legal in the UK (and EU??), I can still create a PGP key for an email address that I made up on @yahoo, @aol etc. etc.

    I can then get my communist friends to sign my fake key, making it look as if I am really who I say I am. It's a question of trust.

    So, what should we do to ensure that PKI is as trustable as Real Life(TM)?

    Maybe we should ask the governement to get an encryption key, and we can get them to sign ours, after we have gone through the standard ID check, then votes could be accepted only from those who have signed with a key which is counter-signed by the government?, maybe the electoral roll could include an e-mail address to which the government sends an e-mail, and only accepts resposes from registered addresses (but how easy is it to fake email headers ;-).

    That's just my immediate thoughts, any ideas?

    cmclean

    [1] Note to non UKians, photo's on drivers licenses are a new thing over here[2]
    [2] And they suck IMNSHO

  • Rebecca Mercuri is an authory on electronic voting [brynmawr.edu], and her site is an excellent source of information on the subject.

    The usual good source of thoughful and insightful comments, is RISKS [ncl.ac.uk] / comp.risks [comp.risks], and in particular Vol 21 Issue 14 [ncl.ac.uk].

  • Nice to have a proof of vote. - That means you can get busted for selling your vote. - Which I do hope is very illegal, even in the US.

    So why should it be illegal to sell your vote?

    It's just the difference between voting for someone who only _promises_ to give you more money and voting for someone who _does_ give you money.

  • WTF?!?! I live in __________ (non-US country), where the voting is ALL done by _____________ (either "PAPER" or "PAPYRUS"), where we put ___________ (a mark, usually an "X") beside a ___________ (a shape). It's __________ (adjective), and way better than ANY method you ___________ (adjective) capitalists could come up with!! Oh yeah, we count all the ballots by ___________ (part of the human anatomy) with a ___________ (magnifying device). And we always recount our ballots _____ (integer, from 3 to 50) times. Our population is ONLY _____ (integer, from 2 to 10) times smaller than yours, and we ALWAYS elect our __________ (head of something) without any confusion!!!!
    geez.
  • As a Brazilian citizen, I don't feel very comfortable to tell you how votings should be conducted in your own country, but I'd like to mention that electronic voting is already a reality here. Votes are collected by means of dedicated microcomputers.

    There is a simulation available here [tse.gov.br]. You can get more information on Brazilian voting system at TSE [tse.gov.br] (pages are in Portuguese).

  • Unless I'm totally off base, Australia's population is pushing 20 million. The United States population is pushing 300 million. That's 15X larger, not 3-5 as this poster states. So I'm afraid I can't accept this person's advice on the subject of counting.
  • The fundamental problem with net voting is even worse than the things you brought up. It's campaign workers going out with bags of $100 bills to buy votes and watching while people vote on their home computers. Of course, absentee voting has the same problem, but in most elections there aren't enough absentee ballots to change the results, so the chance that buying votes will make a difference isn't worth the risk of getting caught.

    Back in the 1800's there _was_ rampant vote buying. Prosecuting the vote buyers did not suffice to stop it. Secret ballots did. If you mistakenly approach an honest citizen to buy votes, you've lost that vote for sure -- but a less honest citizen is probably going to take your money and vote the other way too. So if you've got a better way of keeping ballots secret than to let only one person at a time into the voting booth, please let me know.

  • Actually, there is one even simpler voting system: You get several piggy-banks with good locks, and chain them down inside the voting booth. You put a picture of a candidate on each piggy-bank. You give each voter one token.
  • IIRC they did some of the Florida recounts in secret. Not that I heard of. In one place (Miami?) they were recounting in a glass room where anyone could look in from outside, but very few were allowed inside -- until this was stopped by a near-riot by Republicans who claimed they weren't getting a good enough view... (Maybe true, but the Republicans have been too damned good at the "big lie" technique ever since George I's "read my lips...")
  • Yes, in the US we have a whole bunch of stuff on the ballot. At a minimum, there's the President, Congressman, and Senator (if it's a senatorial election year). But the states are allowed to add other things. In Michigan, we also had state senators and representatives, various state executive branch officials that ought to be appointed by the governor instead, MI supreme court judges, the boards of state-run colleges, various ballot initiatives (that's a direct vote on a proposed law), and I think there were even county officials. It was a very crowded 11x17 scanner form. About the only offices that don't go on that ballot are the township and village officers and the governor. (The governor has 4 year terms, with elections at the presidential mid-terms so presidential politics don't get mixed up with that election. That's one of the two best provisions of the 1963 MI constitution, the other one being the balanced budget requirement. It should be extended to other offices.)
  • You get a choice:

    1. Go into a booth with a computer, printer, and paper shredder. On the computer, you make your choices, it verifies that you didn't vote too many times for one office, then it prints out a Scantron form. Check it, fill in any write-in names, and turn it in. Scanning is over 99% accurate under these circumstances -- and if the election comes in within the error margin of the scanners, they can hand-count scanner forms as easily as other paper ballots, and much better than punch cards. The computers will have earphones for use by the blind. If it's considered desirable, they could have pictures of the candidates for the illiterate.

    2. For the techno-phobic, there are fill-in-the-box scanner forms and #2 pencils. They may have more spoiled ballots due to voting for two presidents, etc., but I don't see anywhere in the Constitution that guarantees equal rights to morons who can't count to two. (Of course, I would like to see far fewer things on the ballot like "Trustees of Michigan State University. Pick 5 out of 14" Who are these people and why in heck are we voting for them anyhow?)

    Let's definitely NOT have federally-specified voting systems. If we were to have a single voting system across the country, first think of the massive bribery, I mean campaign contributions, as Congress gets to pick the winner in the marketplace, and then think of the possibilities for cracking... Set some minimum standards for accuracy and security, resolving voter registration problems, getting everyone who's standing in line through before you close, and let the states and localities pick a system that meets the requirements. E.g., there's no reason to make a village with 500 people buy a fancy system designed for cities of millions, hand-counting will do quite well. I would consider federally mandated opening and closing times, the same across the nation, and a ban on news media trying to guess the winner before the polls close.

    And finally, Americans should GROW UP. You don't have a right to know who the winner is before going to bed on election day. If it takes a few of weeks for a sufficiently accurate count, quit whining and be glad you don't live in 1820 when the results had to come in by horseback!

  • The thing is, the congresscritters are already skilled at writing tax breaks so that they turn out to apply to just one corporation. So if you don't watch them really closely on something like this, they'll construct the specs so that only one company currently has a product that qualifies, and maybe they've got patents that ensure nobody else can design anything to meet those specs. Not that in this case it is hard to write performance-oriented specs that are simple, attainable, and don't favor any one company, but how does a congress-critter repay his, er, contributors that way?

    The specs I'd use for the machines:

    --Leaves a hard-copy trail, so it is practical to manually spot-check machine counts, and to hand-count in a disputed election.

    --Proven error rate in recording votes as marked: 0.5%

    --Proven error rate of a random sample of people in marking ballots as intended: 1.5%

    --Secret ballot.

    That's all required for the mechanics of voting, and hand-counting would qualify. I would also require some procedural safeguards:

    --Minimal use of absentee ballots. You can't pre-vote everyone who asks for an absentee ballot (e.g. someone serving overseas in the military), but do pre-vote whenever possible.

    --Use the best systems available to check registration lists before elections and to ID the voters on election day. Like, have a computer cross-reference the registration list to the death certificates, for crissakes.

    --Provisional voting procedure in place to deal with disputed voters (missing from registration list, questions about ID, etc.): You put the ballot inside a plain envelope, put that inside another envelope with the voters alleged name, etc., and after election day you figure out which ballots are valid and count them with the absentee ballots.

    --Uniform hours, long enough that everyone gets through. Never shut out people who were standing in line an hour before closing.

    --Manually spot-check the machine counts

    --Full hand re-count required if the election is within the error bars in recording votes as marked, or if machine problems are discovered. This is not something the candidates have to ask for. You owe it to the _voters_ to count the votes right.

  • Four to six million votes were lost due to faulty equipment and other snafus

    4-6 million votes lost! This means something like 3 percent (I guess) of the votes. I'm worried about this. Narrow-margin elections might be influenced by any bias in the losing votes, and in some cases, results are not representing the majority of the voters. Technical solutions make a bias in the voting system, making voting and registration easier for the more techical people. So, people with less techological skills (some racial minorities, the old and the disabled) are having even less say in the vote. The article points out that complex equipment increases the failure rate of voting, i.e. the bias, and thus decreases the credibility of US democracy.

    Now, if the equipment gets more complicated, (adding internet voting) does this decrease the bias or the failure rate? I doubt it. Why do you have to use a machine for voting? The simplest and most fail-safe voting system I've heard of is almost completely fail-safe: You use a pen to write a number inside a circle in the ballot. Pens and candidate lists are in the polling-booth. If you make a mistake, you rip the ballot and return the pieces, and get a new one.

    The weak point of this is that in poorer countries the voters do not know how to read/write, but this shouldn't be a problem in the US. A machine can't read all ballots if this is applied, but considering the problems in Florida, machines should not read the vote.

  • How much credibility do you think it has right now. (Probably about the same as Zimbabwe...)

    Zimbabwe (Adolf-style 'democracy') would be rather extreme. I think GWB would not be able to govern in Mugabe style. I think US is somewhere around Russia and Venezuela (semi-democracy with a 'president' having limited dictatorship).

    However, in US there are a lot of things that are voted about, and not just dictated by the bureaucracy. In many 'democratic' countries of Western Europe there are very few votes expect the elections (parliament, president, local).

  • So, any voting mechanism that makes it easier for some given type of people, who are likely to vote in a certain way, will have an "unfair" bias on the election's results

    By that mode of thinking, what about people (like myself) who don't have a car, yet are forced to vote at a location well off of any major public transit route? What about disabled people? It's certainly no harder to hit the local internet cafe.

    However, there are posters around for the favorite candidate of X's CEO and managers. The bosses clearly make it known who their favorite is. Do we have a fair election here?

    I don't see how this would influence voters any more than our current system of 24 hour lies (err.. I mean endorsements and ads for candidates), or the incredible media bias on TV, in newspapers, on the radio....

    Another common knock against electronic voting is that someone could radically alter the outcome of an election. I guess some people don't realize that votes that are counted by hand tend to be counted by people, people who tend to have opinions, just like all the evil l33t h4x0rz our there :) (Yes, I'm aware that there are strict controls on a hand count, but when professional athletes making millions are still tempted to throw matches for money, I can't imagine some civil servants making $20,000 a year being all that hard to persuade en masse).

  • " So you think majority rule over a minority is great? I think it blows ass thank god I live in a republic.

    Yeah, living in China must be a real treat. Must be even better to be in the 'minority'.

  • Say 75% of the rich vote (conservative I'm guessing) since the ballot box is in their computer room. The poor still has a ~50% turnout (liberal I'm guessing) since it requires going to the local school or whatever and waiting in line. Before it was pretty much ~50% turnout overall. See it yet?
  • Our Electoral commision is independent, and shockingly for accurate for its simplicity:

    1. people write numbers next to names

    2. people read all votes by hand

    3. the result is accurate, and all formal votes are counted....

    why is it neccessary for automation? theres only 3-5 times the population, so why not have 3-5 times the vote counters?

    Can anyone tell me why the US voting results is partisan?

    it only creates problems (see Florida, Nov2000) ;p

  • have democrats run one and republicans run another.

    While I like the idea of a duplicate network, I DON'T like the idea of either of the two major political parties running the networks. We'd have "Florida in every state" if the results tallied on the two networks were not the same. If it were possible, it would be best if all election officials were not affiliated with any party. (Yes, I know it's not possible.)

    GreyPoopon
    --

  • It's going to be expensive to hook up all the cemetaries ...
  • by burke3gd ( 461876 ) on Wednesday July 18, 2001 @12:02AM (#78134) Homepage
    Hey stop the press for a second, ok.

    I live in Finland, a country whose entire population is about 5 million people. The US lost more votes than there are voters in my country. And noboy thinks there is anything wrong with that?

    The USA, a country where about 50% of the people vote and they loose 4-6 million votes, a small countrys worth.

    And nobody even blinks. You just talk about the security in voting via the net. Now how fucked up is that?
  • Mr Y can try to force Mrs Y to vote for W, but once she gets into the poll, she can just vote for Z and lie thru her teeth to hubby. I also know several people who don't have computers, don't want computers, can't stand computers, and still vote regularly.

I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best. -- Oscar Wilde

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