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Voting Machines Banned by Dutch Minister 155

5heep writes "Dutch Government Renewal Minister Atzo Nicolai has banned the use of one type of computer voting machine in national elections next month. The turnabout came after a group called We Don't Trust Voting Computers protested the vulnerability of electronic voting to fraud or manipulation. The reason for this ban is the radio signals emitted by the machines which can be used to peek at a voters' choice from several dozen meters away."
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Voting Machines Banned by Dutch Minister

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  • Hey Slashdot (Score:3, Insightful)

    by isaacklinger ( 966649 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @10:24AM (#16657037)
    How about writing to the people responsible [] to show some support?
  • by Phantom of the Opera ( 1867 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @10:35AM (#16657193) Homepage

    The FCC has banned computerized trading

    And the FDIC has banned computerized banking

    And the FAA has banned computerized flight control

    What next? Seriously, why is voting any different from these other very important uses of computers? Doesn't it make more sense to fix the problem rather than ban the machines?

    Think about it. Your examples revolve around money or human life. The manufacturers of those machines __must__ get them right, or there is immediate finantial fallout.

    Those examples do not produce hidden results; if your atm gobbles up your deposit without crediting it, you find out. If a plane crashes, you hear about it.

    The average voter has no way of knowing if a voting machine is doing it's job. What is the penalty if the manufacturer 'unwittingly' messes up? There is not as much incentive for accuracy in this case.
  • by ben there... ( 946946 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @10:36AM (#16657199) Journal
    If the paper were inside, it would be just as useless. All you'd need to do is hack the system to display a different vote than it prints.

    Any electronic voting machine should print a ballot that you stuff in a box. Electronic tabulation of votes could be used for preliminary results, but the printed ballot that the voter can read and verify should be the final word.
  • WHY? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Virgil Tibbs ( 999791 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @10:43AM (#16657299) Homepage
    exactly what is it that the dutch and the americans find so hard about putting an x on a piece of paper is beyond me next they will be telling us that only 99.9% of them are illiterate!
  • by esme ( 17526 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @10:43AM (#16657313) Homepage
    Seriously, why is voting any different from these other very important uses of computers?
    Voting is different for a number of reasons:
    • Voting is done in secret, with the only way of knowing the results being the voting machines. And the makers of electronic voting machines are against the only decent way of double-checking them (voter-verifiable paper trail).
    • Voting is only done a few times a year, rather than continuously, year-round.
    • Voting is administered by the people who have the largest incentive and opportunity to cheat.
    • And most importantly, unlike the other examples you list (banking, trading, flight control), electronic voting machines have not been shown to be more reliable and accurate than humans.

    This last point is a little fuzzy, because I'm sure electronic voting machines are better than poorly-designed punch-card ballots, and maybe some other flawed mechanisms. But the best system available right now is optical-scan paper ballots that can easily be hand-audited and hand-recounted. They are easy to use, require only a very circumscribed use of technology, and can easily be verified by people if there are any problems or a very close result.

    Doesn't it make more sense to fix the problem rather than ban the machines?

    Sure -- I don't think anyone is saying we should never use computers for voting. Fix the problems, and then use them for voting. Advocates of electronic voting seem to be saying we should do it the other way around, which is insane.

    The current round of voting machines are insultingly under-engineered, considering the problems I listed above. There are many types of threats to the integrity of voting machines, and Diebold et. al. aren't interested in addressing them. They're more interested in shutting down debate and research about them, in fact, which is very worrying to me.


  • by quigonn ( 80360 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @11:04AM (#16657659) Homepage
    The only justification (at least in the Netherlands and Germany) for voting computers is cost reduction - adding a voter-verifiable paper trail would completely totally destroy this "advantage" (which is very questionable, anyway).

    But, in fact, there is no reason to reduce cost in this process. Cost shouldn't matter here, since secret, equal, free elections are a crucial process within democratic systems. Besides that, the pen and paper method is the most simple method you have, everybody understands it. In fact it's so simple, everyone can audit the whole process. Contrary to that, audits of computer-based systems can only be done by a few experts (and a complete audit goes from a security audit of the software down to as far as checking the hardware for possible modifications).
  • Re:And once again (Score:3, Insightful)

    by quigonn ( 80360 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @11:29AM (#16658139) Homepage
    Actually, banning _is_ the solution. Voting computers make voting less verifiable, less auditable, more expensive (although the Voting machine producers claim otherwise), so why use them? What reason justifies switching from a proven, working, easy-to-use, easy-to-audit system (pen and paper) to a new technology of questionable quality?
  • by quigonn ( 80360 ) on Tuesday October 31, 2006 @11:44AM (#16658389) Homepage
    How can this save costs? Do you know how expensive those machines are? Compared to simple pen and paper, they amortize after about 20 years of operation. And that's the _maximum_ operation period (for XP-based machines like the SDU voting computers probably even shorter). Faster counting? How relevant is that whether the election officials can go home one or two hours earlier? You shouldn't sacrifice something as crucial as _voting_ to getting home earlier. And regarding your "changing your vote" argument: how is that supposed to work? That would only work if the vote was associated with some kind of unique user ID, and that would be totally against the provision of secrecy. So I see no advantages for voting computers, but a lot of bugs in so far _all_ existing implementations, versus a well-known system that just works.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson