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E-voting to be a 'Train Wreck'? 501

An anonymous reader writes "The Seattle PI has published an AP story about the problems with E-Voting. Her conclusion is that there will be so many problems with the more than 100,000 paperless voting terminals to be used in the November presidential election that the fiasco will dwarf Florida's hanging chad debacle of 2000."
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E-voting to be a 'Train Wreck'?

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  • First vote! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Zorilla ( 791636 ) on Monday July 05, 2004 @02:43PM (#9614746)
    First vote! Oh, crap! I pressed the Buchannon button!
  • Politics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Manip ( 656104 ) on Monday July 05, 2004 @02:47PM (#9614774)
    This is what happens when politics get in the way of good technology. No doubt you have people at the bottom of this mess saying how wrong it all is and non-technical people at the top saying how it will all work without any clue.

    Personally I would like to see qualified people certifying that the solution is valid and actually has the power and willingness to throw out the solution.

    This could also be achieved by, instead of hiring someone to build it, make it an open contract and let the companies compete to win the contract.

    They have also talked about a paper-trail but personally I would prefer to see a PGP trail, that shows conclusively it was sent from X machine and not created in the database.
    • Agreed (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      This is magnified even more when one party has the majority in all chambers of the government. Plus, when your brother is govenor of the state that was in question, it looks ... really bad.

      I say go back to good ol paper based methods. And if there is a dispute, keep the supreme court and congressmans' underlings away from the recount area. /weeps for my country
    • Re:Politics (Score:5, Insightful)

      by essreenim ( 647659 ) on Monday July 05, 2004 @03:09PM (#9614953)
      I would prefer to see a PGP trail, that shows conclusively it was sent from X machine and not created in the database.
      Yep, as I understand it, this was the fumble with our proposed system (Ireland) and it wasn't the engineers that were at fault. It was the same thing that is always at fault. Non technicaly educated / uncapable people want to dictate the engineering of something they cannot conceive. When it finally dawns on them, it is too late. The system is ready and the "requirements" have changed.
      I imagine a whole new Software Engineering model is needed for E-voting. - The same model as before, only with a million extra iterations of "Are you sure about this? The system will not provide this. We need this.."
      • by zogger ( 617870 )
        where have non technical people been involved in adopting e voting? Where I live in Georgia, "technical" people designed and built the diebold e voting machine. "Technical" people in state government "approved" it, based on "technical audits". Based on the recommendations of these "technical" people, non technical peoples concerns were laughed at, ridiculed, they were assured "it just worked".

        Big fat hairy lie. A complete falsehood, a fabrication. Technical people foisted this abomination on us. Bad people
        • by gsfprez ( 27403 ) * on Monday July 05, 2004 @11:04PM (#9617938)
          >Technical people foisted this abomination on us. Bad people with a big brother political agenda, IMO.

          Here in California... the Democrat party and the ACLU FOISTED this up our collective asses. There was not a single Republican in charge of even the smallest dog pound out here when not 5 minutes after the 2000 vote, every Democrat went screaming into the streets - "We must have e-voting or else the poor minorities will get disenfranchised!"

          and thus it happened - and they bought Diebold.

          It is NOT a Republican conspiracy - as much as some would like to believe it.

          and don't even get me on how useless your vote is in California. []
    • That presents another problem: if people sign their votes crypographically, they can be compelled to reveal how they voted. With the current system, if you were forced to say how you voted, you could lie and there'd be no way to tell if you were telling the truth. Having the machines sign the votes would do no good since they could change the vote cast.
    • Re:Politics (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Monday July 05, 2004 @03:22PM (#9615054) Journal
      They have also talked about a paper-trail but personally I would prefer to see a PGP trail, that shows conclusively it was sent from X machine and not created in the database.

      How are you going to ensure that the PGP key on the machine isn't known to the central office, who is probably who created it in the first place?

      I have a hard time imagining who has access to the database but not the PGP keys the machines have.

      Remember, there are three basic threats here: Tampering by voters at the machines, tampering of the data en route to the final tally, and tampering of the data by the final counters, which always includes the manufacturors of the system. The third is the most dangerous, as it is the hardest to prevent and too many politicians have mere blind trust in the accountants. Your system seems to stop the second... or at least make a good try at it... but neither the first nor the third.

      Moral of the story: Securing E-voting is hard work; if your solution is one sentence long, it probably isn't a solution.
      • Re:Politics (Score:5, Insightful)

        by swillden ( 191260 ) * <> on Monday July 05, 2004 @06:40PM (#9616418) Homepage Journal

        Remember, there are three basic threats here: Tampering by voters at the machines, tampering of the data en route to the final tally, and tampering of the data by the final counters

        You forgot an important fourth threat (which may be the same as your second threat, but is worth pointing out separately): Alteration of the data by the machines.

        This is why the paper trail is so crucial: We need something that the voter can look at to make sure that his/her vote was cast the way he/she wanted it.

        And, really, given paper ballots, we *know* how to secure the transport and counting processes. You put the ballots in locked steel boxes, with representatives of all the major parties standing around watching whenever the boxes are transported or opened. Whenever the boxes are stored, they're guarded, again with oversight by the major political parties. Done!

        Paper ballots too slow to count? Count 'em with machines! OCRable fonts can be used and/or a machine-readable barcode. If someone thinks the machines aren't counting right, let 'em recount by hand.

        Moral of the story: Securing E-voting is hard work

        Depending on your definitions, secure e-voting is either really easy or impossibly hard, because purely electronic voting is just a bad idea. Pretty, easy-to-use touchscreen voting machines make sense, high-speed automated vote counters make sense. But paper, human-readable paper, is what we know how to secure and manage, and what the voters will trust.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 05, 2004 @02:47PM (#9614776)
    Seriously, what is wrong with a pencil and a piece of paper? I'm Canadian, and we just finished going through a federal election using this method across all ridings.

    You get a slip of paper with the candidates for your riding listed in alphabetical order. You write an X in pencil in the circle next to your chosen candidate's name. You fold the paper and slip it into the ballot box. Done. Never have had any issues with this system.

    Is this somehow too complex for the US to use? I don't see the reason behind the technological fetish and all the issues it causes there.
    • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 )
      The paper/pencil tool isn't too complex for the USA, it's *too simple*.

      Canada has 1/10th the number of people as the USA. Not only is the scale of votes greater, but consequently the complexity of relationships among the people, therefore the political groupings and representations. As well as the laws in proposition ballots. Part of the American complexity is the difference in ballot styles and subjects in different jurisdictions, like different states, as well as the deeper hierarchy for intergovernance.
    • I can give you a few reasons.

      1) Accuracy. I secure evoting system should be 100% accurate. Unless you happen to have more than 2^32-1 voters in your district all voting for the same person. Now look at Canada. Count the votes 5 times. Do you think you'll get one result, or five? I'm betting on the five. Humans make mistakes. Granted, they will probably be close, but there have been elections in the US (not presidential, but the point stands) decided by literally 12 votes in a large populated area. A couple states in the US in 2000 were, IIRC, decided by under 100 votes.

      2) Along with that idea: judgement calls. Maybe the person made a stray mark and didn't notice; was it intended as a vote? You have to decide. With electronic voting, the system says "ok, here's who you voted for" and you can rest assured that the machine recorded it correctly. (We're talking a good system here, not a Diebold system.)

      3) Speed. We're an impatient country. If we can be told the vote totals right after elections close, we're happier.
      • 3) Speed. We're an impatient country. If we can be told the vote totals right after elections close, we're happier.

        What, a few hours is too long to wait? Impatience is not a virtue; elections are one case where you want to do things right the first time, even if it takes a little longer.

        Hey, why not have the vote totals before the election! That would save everybody the trouble of taking time to vote!

      • "1) Accuracy. I secure evoting system should be 100% accurate. "

        It is not realistic to expect to achieve 100% accuracy when counting millions of votes, regardless of the method used. Random factors will *always* decrease the accuracy, even with 'e-voting.'

        For example, some fraction of the machines will fail on election day due to hardware failure, power failure, software failure, operator error, or something else. Some percentage of the ballots will be incorrectly entered into the machines due to operat
      • Speed. We're an impatient country. If we can be told the vote totals right after elections close, we're happier.

        In the recent Canadian election, vote counts started appearing almost immediately after the close of polls on the east coast. With the exception of a few extremely close rates, the winner in each district was decided within an hour. How impatient do you want to be?

        Now look at Canada. Count the votes 5 times. Do you think you'll get one result, or five? I'm betting on the five.

        On the other

    • The problem with pencil and paper is that it makes it too difficult for DEMO(N)cRATS to perpetrate election fraud.

      Paper trails tend to do that.
    • Nothing is wrong with it. There are plenty of area in the US (including where I vote) that use paper ballots you write on. I actually think that the local one is ideal: you use a black marker to connect two parts of an arrow which points to the name you want to vote for. You then put the ballot into a machine which scans it and retains it for record-keeping. I suspect that the machine will tell you if the ballot was invalid, and have you try again. It's very clear visually what is a vote and what isn't (how
  • Confidence (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bunburyist ( 664958 ) on Monday July 05, 2004 @02:48PM (#9614778)
    The problem with E-voting is that there's no trail as the article suggests, how can we be sure that a vote cast for someone hasn't been tampered with. Given the importance of the decisions being made, I think it is unwise to trust a method that has been proven unreliable. It leaves too much room for uncertainty. In this particular instance I don't think that the benefits outweigh the risks.
    • Or perhaps more satirically (sp?):

      Votes were not changed. The past was changed.
      Once the vote is altered there is no record of the vote being altered. It is as if the vote always had been altered.


      If all else fails we can just blame Emanual Goldstien
  • by u-238 ( 515248 ) on Monday July 05, 2004 @02:49PM (#9614789) Homepage
    Train Wreck, relative to whom?

    Not the media, that's for damn sure...

    They'll be pressed to find a more enthralling debacle than what happend with Bush and Floridia last election - maybe this foreseen disaster will give them just what they need to keep everyone hooked.
  • by frostman ( 302143 ) * on Monday July 05, 2004 @02:49PM (#9614791) Homepage Journal
    Over on the Democrat political site they are also pushing for voting with a paper trail. []

    They have a petition to sign... it would be nice to see a corresponding Republican site do their own petition, since I doubt any Republicans would sign a petition on but at the same time I imagine there are plenty of Republicans who also see the dangers of closed-source, paperless e-voting.

    There are a lot of conflict of interest issues here (as mentioned in the article) but I think these would actually be lessened if there were grassroots pressure from both major parties to use more secure and auditable voting systems.
  • More Problems (Score:5, Informative)

    by SolidCore ( 250574 ) on Monday July 05, 2004 @02:50PM (#9614795) Homepage
    Advocates of electronic voting say paperless ballots save money and eliminate problems common to old systems. But the technology brings a new breed of security concerns, including software errors and hackers, that critics say could render the results unreliable.

    "Somehow, some way, people have always found a way to get into computer systems," said Kim Parrish, a 46-year-old insurance company worker who voted in Brooklyn Park, Md.

    In California, new security measures range from random tests of touch-screen machines by independent experts to a recommendation that poll workers prevent voters from carrying cell phones or other wireless devices into booths.

    The problems reported in California, though, were more basic.

    When some San Diego poll workers plugged in machines, a screen for the Windows operating system and not the voting program appeared. Officials spent more than two hours getting all machines operating.

    The problem, which apparently was triggered by a power fluctuation, affected between 10 percent and 15 percent of the county's 1,611 precincts, said Mike Workman, a San Diego County spokesman.

    Officials said they were unsure how many voters had to leave for work before the problem was fixed.

    In Maryland and Georgia, voters were able to use paper ballots on the spot while the machine encoders were fixed. Early voters in an Atlanta precinct also were given paper ballots because of machine malfunctions.
    • Officials said they were unsure how many voters had to leave for work before the problem was fixed.

      For example, how many of those people were middle-class workers who really had only two hours to go vote and get back to work, and how many of those people were white-collar workers who could pretty much take the whole day off and do the work later?

      This is potentially a huge side-effect of technology in voting. 15% downtime for voting machines really can effectively disenfranchise people, but in very subtl
  • by sirdude ( 578412 ) on Monday July 05, 2004 @02:50PM (#9614797)
    if it can work in a country with a billion people (India), it can work in a country with 200+ million people.. :S I don't see what all the hullabaloo is all about.. We are talking about unconnected electronic voting machines with a battery back up... not thought-readers..
    • Did the Indian method keep a paper trail? Receipts? Any method to verify the results? I think that's the big issue with a lot of the systems being implemented over here. They don't have those kinds of safeguards.
    • if it can work in a country with a billion people (India), it can work in a country with 200+ million people..

      Talk to just about any Indian, and they'll confess that their government is corrupt.

      If more Americans didn't have a knee-jerk reaction to the mere suggestion that some of their elected officials were corrupt; if such suggestions weren't met by derisive comments about "conspiracy theories", I would be inclined to agree.

      But as long as the naive and/or the corrupt design a system, you can't expect it

  • Voting has been screwed up since the very beginning. You have to trust the people working at the election districts who handle the ballots. I don't. Do you?

    That said, the fraud usually cancels itself out, and a winner is clearly chosen. It was godawful close in 2000, which was the source of the problem then. There is very little chance that is going to happen again. After 52 presidential elections, we finally had one that was within 1000 votes - the closest before that was Nixon in 1960, I believe.

    • Wrong. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by brunes69 ( 86786 ) <slashdot.keirstead@org> on Monday July 05, 2004 @03:03PM (#9614901) Homepage

      You have to trust the people working at the election districts who handle the ballots. I don't. Do you?

      No you don't. By law any citizen can watch the count - including you - if they so wish. And in any swing district you can be sure there is both a republican party official and democrat party official there to make sure it is "fair" (read: they contest every vote they can).

      Now, how are you as an independant citizen going to audit the voting machines? The only relevant way would be independant auditing of the source code. However, since it is closed source this is not possible, thus you get some machine counting god knows what. And most of the time you don't even have a paper trail.

      • Do you visit every election district? It's physically impossible.

        Is there an observer at every district? Even MOST? No.

        The dead vote every time we have an election. Be realistic, please.
    • Exit polls(if done accurately) are a great way to back up election results(esp. if the election isn't close), if the exit polls reveal a result very different from the vote, then a lot of people will suspect something. The problem is, what power do they actually have when they do suspect something?
    • Of course the party machines of Nixon and Kennedy were obviously guilty of ballot stuffing []. Kennedy had the better stuffers though -- "Thanks, Mayor Daley!". Frankly, I don't think we've ever had 100% honest national elections, but we've only had the technology and information structure to demonstrate it, in a timely manner, in the last 30 years. Landslides are the only things that have kept the vote roughly correct (which you are right, occur more often... though with an electronic system, larger numbers o
  • Does anyone else find it a bit odd that all of these stories involve her? I don't mean to deny the importance of the issues, but it's a bit off to see that she represents an apparent common thread.

    After all, this article is more about her running around with a tinfoil hat than it is about problems with voting software.
    • How did this get modded interesting? This is a profile of Bev Harris. Of course it's primarily about her! Granted, the summary is a bit misleading.
    • What's "odd" is that there are so few American journalists following her lead in covering the gory (pun intended ;) details of rigged voting. That does make it odd that Ms. Harris is so dedicated to her job - why shouldn't she just accept the privileges that the winners in rigged voting would hand her, along with the rest of the educated white professionals in America? Because she's smart enough to value her freedom, unlike the rest of the media, which would print fascist press releases anytime, as long as
  • Link to book site (Score:5, Informative)

    by frostman ( 302143 ) * on Monday July 05, 2004 @02:52PM (#9614816) Homepage Journal

    The book discussed in the article has its own site, which might as well get its own slashdotting: []

    There is a free online edition, which is cool. But it would probably be considered a political act to link directly to the PDF's ;-)

    In case you want to buy the dead-tree edition, the site's "Order Now" link didn't work for me. There's always Amazon [] which should also stay up in case the main site goes down.
  • by addie ( 470476 ) on Monday July 05, 2004 @02:55PM (#9614839)
    That Canada had its federal election last week. I voted by putting a big X on a paper ballot, using a plain old pencil. By the time I woke up the next morning, all results were finalized and we had our government. A few ridings will be recounted, but it won't affect the overall result.

    While it's true that the USA has 10 times our population, I still don't understand why so much money, time, and stress is being spent on electronic voting machines. Technology is NOT a solution to every problem, and in many cases it overcomplicates a classic, tried and tested method.

    How would you feel if you spent hundreds of dollars on a robot that buttered your toast, only to find that it took more time to fill up the butter reservoir and clean the machine than it did to butter your toast in the first place?
    • I googled for a sample Canadian ballot, but I could not find one. How many items do you typically vote on? In the US, a ballot is frequently (but not always) several pages long with national, state, and local issues. Are Canadian ballots similar?
    • by upsidedown_duck ( 788782 ) on Monday July 05, 2004 @03:49PM (#9615326)
      How would you feel if you spent hundreds of dollars on a robot that buttered your toast, only to find that it took more time to fill up the butter reservoir and clean the machine than it did to butter your toast in the first place?

      Product development and marketing is designed to make potential customers not think about this. For example, those self-contained iced tea making machines are actually no faster than simply boiling the water in a microwave, brewing the tea, and dumping it over ice, but that doesn't stop millions of people from spending $20 on the machine. Effectively, electronic voting is riding on the tremendous marketing behind technology over the last two decades, and it appears tons of people got hooked and are now being reeled in.
  • by Agent Green ( 231202 ) * on Monday July 05, 2004 @02:59PM (#9614876)
    I know i've mentioned this before, but when I was a Massachusetts resident, we got these huge legal-sized sheets for our election ballots. To vote for the candidate/question of our choice, there was a black magic marker at the voting booth which we were supposed to use to complete the line between the arrows of who we wanted to vote for. This provides the paper trail that democracy needs.

    Also, because we voted by drawing the black line, the ballots could very easily be scanned in and accurately tallied.

    Nothing for nothing...this touchscreen stuff is a solution looking for a problem.
    • Arizona has used the same type of system, probably the same system, in fact.

      When you're done making your selection, you take the ballot over to the machine that is similar to a bubblesheet reader, put it in, and it scans it and drops it into a sealed bin. If there's an error it doesn't make it that far, and it spits it back out, if I remember correctly.

      They get the precincts' tabulation machines together and get the data off of them, and occasionally spot-check the paper ballots for accuracy, and you
  • by Qrlx ( 258924 ) on Monday July 05, 2004 @03:02PM (#9614893) Homepage Journal
    Apologies for flying off-topic here, but what does it matter if we have paper ballots or electronic ballots if we aren't going to have elections in the first place?

    The "precedent" is already set for suspension of elections. The bombing in Madrid, days before the pro-Iraq-war Anzar government got a swift kick out of office, shows how "Terror Sways Elections."

    Nevermind that 90% of the Spanish people opposed Spain's entry into the Iraq war, or that the Nationalists suppressed evidence and blamed the bombing on ETA.

    But that "liberal" New York Times bravely parroted the party line that Terror Sways Elections, so when ours are suspended, Cheney can say "Look, it's not just me, it's in the New York Times!"

    Regardless of how you feel about the "Black Tuesday" scenario outlined above, the important point is this:

    If you're going with the opinion that Terror Sways Elections, you're basically stating that terror is an effective political tool. Is that the precedent you want to set?
  • by Theovon ( 109752 ) on Monday July 05, 2004 @03:03PM (#9614900)
    The US independence on July 4, 1776. That was 228 years ago. Plus, at that time, there were simply fewer people. While I don't know what difficulties the US might have had with vote counting back then, the fact is that we've had over 200 years to get the paper-and-pencil method right.

    Why? Humans are slow, and they don't think ahead. It takes a long time for people to figure out what's wrong with their methods, and they're slow to adopt changes to correct their problems.

    Taking this into consideration, why should we be surprised that electronic voting doesn't work yet? OF COURSE they're going to screw it up! Even Diebold and their unethical behavior is par for the course.

    You know how a lot of different kinds of software don't become "feature complete" until they've been around for about 10 years? I once read that in an article linked by slashdot (so it must be true *g*). Voting software isn't going to be any exception.

    But feature completeness is only one part of the problem, especially when you have a system that (nearly) EVERYONE wants to hack. Computer security has been a problem for a very long time, and it doesn't look like it's going to get solved any time soon. We probably need another 50 years before things get figured out. Buffer overflows are only the focus of THIS decade -- once that's dealt with, who knows what's next.

    So don't sweat it. The simple fact is that we'll be lucky if our grand children (if we're in our 20's) see reasonably good electronic voting machines. That's just the result of the way technology moves when humans are involved.
    • You sound like Diebold spokesman David Bear when he wrote "While security is an important issue ... improvements can and will be made." But common sense tells us that things don't get fixed unless people see the need to fix them. The saying 'Don't fix it if it ain't broke' reflects the human tendancy to not spend time and money on something that no one is compaining about. Saying 'don't sweat it' is a most counter productive strategy toward getting every citizens vote counted correctly.
  • As one post before me suggest, there can have a PGP trail to each vote that was casted. I whole heartedly agree to that suggestion. The underlying issues is not technology along. It is the fact that the technology makes it so cut-and dry. Never will there be any guess as who gets the vote from a ballot (or whether the vote is a legitimate vote). We will also never see again a vote with multiple selection of one position should the voter only choose one candidate. This leaves no more discussion room.
  • Especially after Florida, I'm amazed and sadenned that election fairness is not a larger issue.

    It falls to the party in power when this is all put together to take the greatest risk. If they are sure this is going to work they should be inviting criticism and showing how they are addressing problems.

    I may be wrong but I don't see much time devoted to reassurances with pro-active action.

    Someone should ask Bush now if he will accept a 'tainted' victory should one occur. Get a clear point at which recount
  • Maybe its time to outsource voting to India
  • Where's the right? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by identity0 ( 77976 ) on Monday July 05, 2004 @03:10PM (#9614965) Journal
    I see a lot of anti-Diebold stuff lately, like from Ruckus [] Society [], Why war [] or indymedia [], but they're all left-wing groups.

    Isn't anyone on the right concerned about e-voting and what it could mean for election integrity? Is it just that the left is more concious of bad elections because of the 2000 elections? Or are conservatives just automatically pro-corporate? I would think that anyone who calls themselves 'conservative' would be against meddling with the voting process without good reason...
    • by crovira ( 10242 )
      They are __sponsoring__ the Diebolds to ensure that their side wins.

      They know that out-sourcing and the redistribution of poverty, not to mention the federalization of protection, not for me and thee, but for some 'influential' people, is a sell; so hard that they aren't even trying.

      That would be like trying to rally people around a battle cry of "Rape Nuns!"

      Nobody's going to go for it any more than they went for the almost total absence of safety features in the Corvair.
    • by x4A6D74 ( 614651 )
      Er, I am.

      Perhaps I don't count for much in the grand scheme of things, but I'm of the breed of conservative that believes the word implies smaller government. My philosophy is that the government should get the hell out of my life as much as possible, and let me live it for myself. So, I disagree with Medicare, Social security, etc -- but am a very strong advocate of individual rights and the inalienability of said rights. That includes the right to my (and *every* citizen's) say in the running of the c
      • by Teancum ( 67324 )
        Thank you for saying this.

        I am adding my voice from the "Right" that feels that e-voting machines as currently designed (by Diebold and the few others) are a fraud of collasial proportions.

        I also think that Democrats, as well as Republicans, are just as guilty of trying to cause this train wreck, and any voter fraud will be an equal opportunity exersize done by both parties.

        While I don't think we can resonably expect to reduce the size of the American government to pre-Hoover Administration levels, it wo
    • by demachina ( 71715 ) on Monday July 05, 2004 @04:37PM (#9615697)
      There is a bill sitting in the House with 140 co-sponsers to require a paper trail for evoting this November. Its apparently being held up in the House Administration committee by Robert Ney (R-Ohio). He's from Diebold's home state though not sure they are in his district. He is one of the principal authors of the bill that funded the evoting mess in the first place, HAVA.

      Here [] is his contact info especially if he is your congressman and you want to adjust his attitude.

      Here [] is his statement on why he opposes the bill and is apparently going to be able to kill it. Its signed by Mitch McConnell, another Republican I wouldn't trust democracy to, but there are two Dem's as well Christopher Dodd and Steny Hoyer.

      It contains some disturbing statements, this one in particular:

      "Most importantly, the proposals requiring a voter-verified paper record would force voters with disabilities to go back to using ballots that provide neither privacy nor independence, thereby subverting a hallmark of the HAVA legislation. There must be voter confidence in the accuracy of an electronic tally. However, the current proposals would do nothing to ensure greater trust in vote tabulations"

      Not sure how they can claim a recountable paper trail, "would do nothing to ensure greater trust in vote tabulations".

      They also want the same agency that is apparently responsible for the current mess to have plenty of time to create a new one so they want no audit trail in time for this election:

      "Questions regarding voting systems security, as well as many others, need to be examined by the entity responsible for doing so under existing law, the Election Assistance Commission, before Congress begins imposing new requirements, just months before the 2004 presidential and congressional elections, that have not been fully considered. The security of voting technology is a non-partisan issue. We encourage you to allow HAVA to be implemented as enacted and provide those who are charged with ensuring the security of voting systems the time and flexibility needed to get the job done effectively. "
      • by laird ( 2705 )
        Just to address one misleading claim: "voter-verified paper record would force voters with disabilities to go back to using ballots that provide neither privacy nor independence, thereby subverting a hallmark of the HAVA legislation." This is not true of any well designed Voter Verified Paper Ballot system. There are several commercial voting systems from smaller companies that produce printed ballots without losing voter privacy or independence. And of course the Open Voting Consortium [] has implemented an o
  • by streak ( 23336 ) on Monday July 05, 2004 @03:20PM (#9615028) Journal
    What a lot of people don't realize is that there are already immense problems with current voting technologies especially punchcard and optical scanning ballots. This is mostly due to the fact that very antiquated machines are used to process the ballots. Think of it this way:
    Say you have some number of feeders into 1 machine that reads punchcard ballots. The feeders end up feeding faster than the machine can handle so after some period of time, the machine gets jammed. Voter personnel then remove all ballots that were in the machine to be counted and some that "might have been counted" (since they don't know exactly on which ballot the machine jammed), and then they insert a control card which essentially tells the machine "don't count ballots who's numbers you've already seen, etc.."
    And then they start feeding the ballots again.
    Now imagine that this happens every 15 minutes on average. The amount of error that accumulates is phenominal.

    They continue this process until they get some number of runs that agree, and then publish the result.

    A friend of mine who has done extensive research into this at grad school, once requested the datapoints for all ballots tabulated in prior elections.

    In a sample of 150,000 ballots, she received around 760,000 data points, which equates to 5 runs of the ballots though the machine....but where did the extra 10,000 come from?

    I believe in her research she determined that there already was a 5-10% error in current voting tabulations.
  • Fraud (Score:5, Interesting)

    by deanj ( 519759 ) on Monday July 05, 2004 @03:24PM (#9615070)
    This should scare everyone, no matter what their political affiliation.

    There's going to be voter fraud BIG TIME this election, and paperless voting will only help that happening.

    I seriously think we're going to end up with precincts that people not eligible to vote voting anyway, people voting multiple times, people buying votes, polls being left open HOURS longer than they were supposed to (judge in the pocket, get him to rule for you... Hey! Throw an election your way!)

    OK, that's not much of a stretch. Those things happened in Florida, Missouri and Wisconsin last national election.

    How many convictions did you hear about because those things? None.

    This is gonna get a lot worse before it gets better, and there had better be some serious jail time for the people who are doing this stuff or it'll be impossible to hold an election.

    I seriously think we're going to hear about precincts that end up with more votes than actual registered voters.
  • Couldn't resist the quote:

    It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.
    -Joseph Stalin
  • We need a Governor to declare that, in determining whom it recognizes as its next President, his state will not count the electoral college votes of any state in which paperless verifiable electronic voting machines were used.

    Hey, Arnold!

  • To have a fiasco, you first you have to detect a fiasco.

    Also, fiasco to whom? We know the either Bush or Kerry will win, and it doesn't matter which one. The election of 2004 will be about ballot access for 2008 -- which minor parties will get at least 5%, and which minor parties, if any, will get a large enough percentage to create a psychological mandate to snowball to displace one of the two major parties in the future. Remember, Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican, was a minor party candidate.


  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Monday July 05, 2004 @03:36PM (#9615184) Homepage
    Best quote in the article:
    "You take away oversight - someone will steal. I guarantee it."

    That makes sense to me. It seems to me that it ought to make sense to anyone, at any wavelength on the political spectrum.

  • Is it too early to predict that Dubya will be announced winner by the media and questioning this "fact" will be labeled "unpatriotic"?

    Yeah, I'm a troll. Use your mod points to punish me accordingly.
  • by MichaelCrawford ( 610140 ) on Monday July 05, 2004 @03:39PM (#9615225) Homepage Journal
    My wife, who is from Newfoundland, is sponsoring my immigration to Canada.

    I feel very fortunate not to be living in the US anymore. I didn't feel safe. For example, I've received some threatening email from people who didn't like what I wrote on this page [].

    You can immigrate to Canada too. The most permanent way is to marry a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

    You can live and work here for a year if you get a TN-1 visa, which you can qualify for if you have a bachelor's degree and a written job offer, for a job that's on a certain list specified by the NAFTA agreement. Any qualifying citizen of the U.S., Mexico or Canada can work in either of the other NAFTA countries with a TN-1. The procedure for getting a TN-1 is very simple and inexpensive, and can be renewed each year if you continue to qualify.

    During the dot-com boom, Canada established a special visa just for computer programmers. There was a shortage here, because all the Canadian programmers were going to the US to work. You'll need to find a Canadian company to hire you as a programmer and sponsor you for the visa.

    Programmers don't make as much in Canada as they do in the US, but then the cost of living is much lower here (in Nova Scotia anyway) than anywhere I've lived in the US.

  • Best of both worlds (Score:5, Informative)

    by hotspotbloc ( 767418 ) on Monday July 05, 2004 @04:02PM (#9615439) Homepage Journal
    What is so wrong with "bubble sheets"? As I see it:


    Quick ballots counts. Since every vote is in a machine readable format every vote is electronically scanned and tallied.

    Paper trail of every ballot. Since every ballot starts out on paper ...

    Lower cost per seat than proposed evoting systems. One or two bubble sheet scanners would be enough to handle even the largest voting sites and for a fraction of the cost of proposed touch screen systems. Assuming that bubble sheet systems are of equal price as touch screen systems (IMO a scanner/counter might cost less than a touch screen system) compare buying two scanner/counters or 20 to 30 touch screen systems. The bubble sheet readers win that one hands down.

    Easier to setup. Bubble sheet scanners can be previously setup so that on site workers only have to plug it in to an electrical outlet and go. Add in a cell phone connection for remote monitoring. I guess you could even build in a DC power unit with a battery. IMO overkill but in case AC power is not readily available. The setup per unit should be equal or a bit less than touch screen systems, but since many more touch screen systems need to be set up per site the bubble sheet wins. It's a minor win over touch screen systems but is compounded since much fewer bubble sheet scanners need setting up.

    More durable than proposed evoting systems. Touch screens can get ruined very quickly. Also the average user tends to be rougher on touch screens when they are starting to fail. Harder screen faces are more durable but can crack from abuse, like poor shipping or dropped during setup.

    Easier to train poll workers than proposed evoting systems. The only thing the poll worker needs to know is how to tell the voter how to insert to ballot. No navigation questions or use issues. Most everyone here has had the misfortune of working with the most clueless user that would easily get confused on the simplest touch screen system. Considering that most poll workers are of an age where computer use is not second nature and this problem is compound.


    It's electronic and is bound to fail sometime. While IMO bubble sheet readers are more durable than mechanical voting booths the scanner/counter is bound to fail. The ballots would need to be rescanned. A serial number (tied to the ballot and not the voter) could check for incomplete electronic counts.

    No instant native language support. The touch screen wins here. The bubble sheet method requires a poll worker to help the voter choose a ballot from ballots in different languages. IMO a minor issue.

    Think of it like a paperback book. It's a format that's been around for hundreds of years because it's the best thing we have. While electronic books have been around for a few years and have some advantages, paperbooks are still better and, in turn, will still rule until something better comes along. As Chris Rock would say: "Just because you can do something doesn't make it a good idea." Just because we can vote on touch screens w/o a paper trail doesn't make it a good idea.

    I'll go back to my cave now. =)

  • by SQLz ( 564901 ) on Monday July 05, 2004 @05:56PM (#9616188) Homepage Journal
    How hard can it be to write voting software that increments a number by 1. I mean, a damn computer can increment a number pretty fucking well, don't you think? I'm a programmer and it boggles my mind the Linux kernel could be written in a distributed manner by developers around the world but DieBold can write a program to increment a fucking number by 1.

  • Screwed either way (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Brandybuck ( 704397 ) on Monday July 05, 2004 @07:04PM (#9616565) Homepage Journal
    If Bush wins, he is going to be accused to rigging the vote no matter what. He can't avoid this accusation, no matter how silly it might be at the time. Don't upgrade the voting machines, and he obviously won only because punch ballots were used. But if electronic voting is used, then he obviously won because of the untested ballots.

    There is no voting technology that can be used that would prevent such accusations if he won.
  • by tjstork ( 137384 ) <todd.bandrowsky@gma i l .com> on Monday July 05, 2004 @11:20PM (#9618040) Homepage Journal
    Paper voting has been the subject of infamous handling since voting began. Counting the votes, letting the people count the votes, etc, has been an art form since the birth of American democracy.

    Both political parties have been playing games with the vote, there's been an understood rule that some cheating was expected ever since the end of a very bloody civil war.

    Today, any decent political machine will put its partisans into the counting of paper votes. You don't even have to tell your partisans to cheat to swing an election. You can just tell them how to do it fairly and evenly and there will be enough with a desire to win that they will figure out how to cheat to manufacture ballots.

    For example you could say, be careful holding the vote this way or your thumb might cause a chad to get knocked out, disqualifying the vote. But, the election workers, partisan, would start doing exactly that if they were counting a vote that went against their man.

    Or, you might have accidently ripped ballots, a stray pen market that accidently blots a second vote, invalidating the ballot (ala the chad), a different mark, an extra hole, a rip, a tear, a piece of dirt. In close elections, a staf that counts 100,000 ballots and invalidates 1% of them just bought you 1000 votes.

    "Letting the people count the votes" is really American slang for "let my partisans have a whack at them." It sounds good on the surface, but in reality it just means a brilliant machine is just working the votes, touching the paper, working it, changing it. That's not to say that Democrats are the only party that cheats just because things didn't work out for them in 2000. After all, Republicans used to do there sneaky things like have voters have to take tests to vote. To pass, white people know that 2+2=4 to white people, and black people to produce PI to 100 digits. Every now and then you get elections where it turned out that dead people voted.

    The issue with electronic voting, thus, is not the "real" argument of security or ownership of the voting company, it's that, Democrats have for some reason has decided that the loss of their ability to work the paper ballot is not worth the gain. With a Republican owning the voting machine company, this is understandable. There's things he could do to swing a few votes his way, nothing really illegal, either. For example, he might say that screens with one font might wind up with 0.1% more republican votes, and that's enough to swing a close election.

Forty two.