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NIST Condemns Paperless Electronic Voting 201

Posted by Zonk
from the they're-not-the-only-ones dept.
quizzicus writes "Paperless electronic voting machines 'cannot be made secure' [pdf] according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). In the most sweeping condemnation of voting machines issued by any federal agency, NIST echoes what critics have been saying all along, that due to the lack of verifiability, 'a single programmer could rig a major election.' Rather than adding printers, though, NIST endorses the hand-marked optical-scan system as the most reliable."
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NIST Condemns Paperless Electronic Voting

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  • by holden caufield (111364) on Friday December 01, 2006 @04:27PM (#17072760)
    you can never be certain when duplicate events can occur.
    • I think this was meant to be a joke, because this article is a dup [slashdot.org].

      PS. what happened to the karma bonus? :(

    • by Stellian (673475) on Friday December 01, 2006 @05:08PM (#17073512)
      because without a verifiable paper trail... you can never be certain when duplicate events can occur.
      You are wrong. You can never be certain of anything. Your paper trail can be counterfeited or destroyed. Repressive governments used to steal elections long before e-voting came along. There's nothing inherently secure about paper voting, except that's been around for long, and people are used to it.
      When a single programmer can steal the elections, it's because the electronic voting system is poorly designed.
      • by catchblue22 (1004569) on Friday December 01, 2006 @05:31PM (#17073896) Homepage

        Elections can be stolen with paper ballot elections. However it is far more work to do so than with a fully electronic election. To steal a paper ballot election, especially if it isn't close, you would likely have to create a large number of fake ballots manually, and then selectively replace your victim's ballots. When there are many hundreds of thousands of ballots, this is a huge task, and cannot be done quickly. And to really cover your tracks you might want to shuffle the ballots, so they are not sorted by choice. Scrambling a deck of 52 cards is hard enough. Imagine hundreds of thousands of ballots. And of course all of these changes would have to match with the vote tallies. Any errors will be obvious, and could be considered evidence for voting fraud.

        Contrast this with electronic paperless voting, where a single piece of software can replicate itself through many voting machines, as was shown possible [princeton.edu] by two Princeton professors. This code can then invisibly alter votes, and then eradicate itself after use. The fraud in this case would be undetectable.

  • by koehn (575405) * on Friday December 01, 2006 @04:28PM (#17072772)
    Here in Minnesota we use the hand-marked optical scan system, and it's great. There's a high degree of confidence that your vote actually counts for something. That, coupled with a mandated recount in a random sampling of districts in each county after the election.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      To understand the history of the push for e-voting, we must understand the main event sparking this push. That event is the presidential election of 2000. Several voters who lacked the most basic intelligence in comprehending the shockingly simple instructions on a paper ballot voted in Florida. These voters submitted flawed ballots that, for example, had hanging chads which should have been removed to clearly indicate which candidate should receive the vote.

      Unfortunately, the idiots were too stupid to

      • by Intron (870560)
        The reason for e-voting is simple. It avoids the cost of having to design and print paper ballots. It saves money, period. Any suggestion that it is to improve or simplify the election process ignores how government works.
        • by MollyB (162595)
          In your marvelously concise analysis of cost/benefit for e-voting, you seem to have left out the price and maintenance of the voting machines and the cost of their dismal track record in real life.

          I don't think it costs very much to design a ballot, unless you're Really Padding. In my state of Vermont, we use recycled paper for ballots which are marked by pencil and placed in a slot-top box. If the power goes out, we could count by lantern light.

          Perhaps you've overlooked how government actually does work. W
        • by spisska (796395)

          The reason for e-voting is simple. It avoids the cost of having to design and print paper ballots. It saves money, period. Any suggestion that it is to improve or simplify the election process ignores how government works.

          Ummmm. No.

          Nobody has ever suggested that electronic voting saves money or is even intended to. Costs related to designing and printing ballots are miniscule compared costs associated with electronic machines, including designing the electronic ballot (programmers are significantly more

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by toddhisattva (127032)

        "Why are we doing this at all? is the question people are asking," said Warren Stewart, policy director of VoteTrustUSA, a group critical of electronic voting systems. "We have a perfectly good system -- the paper-ballot optical-scan system."

        The parent answers the question from the end of TFA. It needs to be modded up:

        To understand the history of the push for e-voting, we must understand the main event sparking this push. That event is the presidential election of 2000. Several voters who lacked the most b

      • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Friday December 01, 2006 @04:57PM (#17073310)
        Only one thing though: the 2000 election fiasco was caused by punched card ballots, not mark-sense paper ballots. That's why most voting jurisdictions are using mark-sense ballots nowadays, if only because they can be both hand-read and machine-read.
        • by Rich0 (548339)
          Uh, they can only be hand-read in the sense that the famous "hanging chad" ballots in Florida could.

          What happens when somebody votes for two people for one office by mistake, but leaves the next spot blank. Now you have arguments about which dot was meant for which line.

          What happens when a circle has a little line in it, but not solid fill - was that a stray mark or an intended vote?

          When an election comes down to 50 votes, you'll have endless debates over hundreds of "partial votes".

          The advantage of a comp
          • by number11 (129686)
            they can only be hand-read in the sense that the famous "hanging chad" ballots in Florida could.

            I can see you've never actually used a mark-sense voting machine. I have.

            What happens when somebody votes for two people for one office by mistake, but leaves the next spot blank. Now you have arguments about which dot was meant for which line.

            Wrong. The voter sticks the filled-out paper ballot into the machine, and the machine beeps and spits it back out. Invalid, try again.

            The advantage of a computer-generat
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 01, 2006 @04:58PM (#17073322)
        Several voters who lacked the most basic intelligence in comprehending the shockingly simple instructions on a paper ballot voted in Florida

        Do you actually understand what happened? Do you know how punch ballots work? "Shockingly simple" isn't even funny as a joke. You're given a ballot card with perforations that mark off squares. You're given a round pointy piece of metal. Instructions: Poke out a square hole with a round stick. "Hanging chads" are of course rampant, and for decades, they have been a known problem with a well-established solution for determining whether you voted or not: If the chad is hanging by only one or two corners, you voted whether or not the machine can read your vote. Cue the 2000 election, and Republicans whining about Gore's whining for a hand count for hanging chads. Cue retarded insults like yours that ignores the fact that hanging chads have been around for decades with an established procedure for dealing with them. Cue the supreme court canceling the recount, without any constitutional authority to tell Florida how to run an election or to demand Presidential election results on any particular day prior to the electoral college's ballot.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Let's Kiosk (410813)

        Several voters who lacked the most basic intelligence in comprehending the shockingly simple instructions on a paper ballot voted in Florida. These voters submitted flawed ballots that, for example, had hanging chads which should have been removed to clearly indicate which candidate should receive the vote.

        Speaking as someone who actually voted in Palm Beach County in the 2000 election, as opposed to hearing about it on Fox News, that butterfly ballot was more than a little counterintuitive. The county had never used that design before, with the arrows pointing toward the center holes from both directions and the minor-party candidates' holes interspersed between the Democratic and GOP candidates.

        Also, the way the punchcard and ballot booklet were loaded into the machine, the holes and the arrows didn't ex

      • by mdfst13 (664665)

        More to the point, there is no need to protect a person from his own stupidity. If a person is so stupid that he cannot understand simple instructions, then his vote would likely not have been an informed vote: no vote is certainly better than an idiotic vote.

        You're missing the problem. Consider two groups of people: idiots and non-idiots. .5% are idiots; 99.5% are non-idiots (all numbers made up). In both groups, 48.2% wanted Gore and 47.8% wanted Bush. However, idiots wanting to vote for Gore actually picked Buchanan. Net result, Gore lost .241% off his total, leaving 47.79%. Bush wins.

        The problem wasn't that idiots couldn't figure out how to vote. That would have been fine. It's that Bush's idiots had less trouble voting than Gore's idiots. Either w

    • by vandon (233276) on Friday December 01, 2006 @04:47PM (#17073150) Homepage
      That, coupled with a mandated recount in a random sampling of districts in each county after the election.
      If you ever get a chance to watch HBOs "Hacking Democracy", you should watch it. It's mainly about electronic voting, but not just about electronic voting. It's about the non-transparency of present day voting.
      One of the things they cover is about the manditory 3% or 4% recount to make sure they don't need a full recount. The problem lies in the fact that the ballots selected are not random. The law specifies that the 3% is "randomly self-selected" by the district/state elections clerk. This means that out of 10,000 ballots, they pick and choose 300-400 ballots to have public volunteers recount.
      The public volunteers suspected that the ballots were picked specifically to match the final percentages so there would be no recount. Most of the ballots were grouped together by party lines as if they picked out a certain number of (R) ballots, a certain number of (D) ballots, and a certain number of (I) ballots but forgot to shuffle them together.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by VEGETA_GT (255721)
        I would also like to point out in that same show, they also show a scanner voting style machine being tested and that the thing can also be hacked. they took the memory card and a guy changed the software on the card (note the company swore there was no software on the memory card). the printouts, and everything that was produced by the machine then appeared to be completely valid even if the results where rigged. Only a hand count of the oprigonal scanned ballots would have shown there was a issue. but sin
        • If you haven't noticed Canada and the US are quite different in many regards. Elections are one of them. This is not to say that the US cannot learn from the Canadian system or even the French system, but there are (probably) fundamental differences between elections in each country that don't make for easy comparisons.

          One example is that the US federal system is part of the reason we don't have one unifying body that handles elections at the national level. Even within each state, counties/parishes are the
        • by raehl (609729)
          I do actuality believe that a company could make valid and secure voting machines

          It may be possible to make a secure, paperless electronic voting machine.

          But making a secure machine isn't the whole problem.

          The problem is that even if you made a totally secure machine, there's no way to prove it actually is totally secure. All you'd know is you hadn't found a way to break it yet - a property all insecure machines have as well, until someone finds the vulnerability.
        • by iabervon (1971)
          So you hand count any election that a candidate thinks was close. You've got the actual ballots (and the best thing about optical scan is that all of the ballots it accepts are correct and obvious; otherwise it spits the ballot back out). The main benefit of counting with the scanner is that the results are available immediately, so people can get on with things. If somebody rigs the immediate results, this is revealed the next week, the result is corrected, and they investigate. It doesn't matter to the ou
        • well, you should be able to make a machine that is at least hard to hack. seriously, think about this for a moment, the machine is a counter. it counts. what could be simpler than that? you ought to be able to build the thing from a handful of transistors you got in a grab bag at Radio Shack and seal it up in potting compound. so first of all, don't make anything more complicated than it needs be.

          secondly, the bigger issue is physical security of the voting machines. no matter how simple or complex a
      • "Hacking Democracy" refers to that being the case in Ohio, IIRC. It certainly doesn't make any claim that the same violation of state law of going on in Minnesota.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by CheeseTroll (696413)
        What's an (R) or (D) ballot? If I vote for a republican governor, but a democratic senator, does it meet halfway and become a (K) ballot?
        • by spisska (796395)

          What's an (R) or (D) ballot? If I vote for a republican governor, but a democratic senator, does it meet halfway and become a (K) ballot?

          These are ballots from primary elections. In most states, you can only vote in a primary for one party, hence you tell the election judge whether you want a Republican, Democrat, or Independent ballot. I haven't yet seen Hacking Democracy, but I understand that major parts of it are about the problems in the 2006 Ohio primary.

    • by MtViewGuy (197597)
      Hand-marked ballots are great except in the last election I voted, I had to mark my ballot on two massive-sized sheets printed on both sides! I think it would be easier if they can figure out a way to reduce the size of mark-sense paper ballots, if only to make hand-counting easier.
    • "high degree of confidence"

      I think this really the key. Kind of compares to the idea that the appearance of impropriety is as bad as actual impropriety. A paper trail helps but there are an awful lot of people out there who just don't trust computers at all because they know that computers and their results can be manipulated. Their confidence in their own ability to fill out the ballot manually and drop it in a box certainly increases their confidence that their vote will be counted correctly...especial
  • Punchscan.org (Score:4, Informative)

    by themaddone (180841) on Friday December 01, 2006 @04:29PM (#17072792)
    Now might be a good time to point people in the direction of Punchscan.org [punchscan.org], previously chronicled on Slashdot here [slashdot.org]
    • by lawpoop (604919)
      The 15-second video seems to indicate that I can use punchscan technology to see which way I voted after the election. What's to prevent me from selling my vote, or my boss intimidating me to vote a certain way?
  • Sleight Of Hand (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Spinlock_1977 (777598) <Spinlock_1977.yahoo@com> on Friday December 01, 2006 @04:30PM (#17072808) Journal
    More sleight-of-hand. An election can never be 100% verifiable until and unless the complete list of every vote is published for all to see and verify (privacy protected by numbers and codes of course). Profit Makers and Election Riggers will argue differently, no doubt.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ebyrob (165903)
      Who's to say that Joe, Jim and Jake Schmoe aren't both issued the same "code" while Sally Stockholder's vote is applied to 3 codes?

      Note: I'm not saying secure computer-assisted voted is impossible. Just that nothing remotely close has been invented yet.
    • MOD PARENT DOWN (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Phroggy (441) *
      Vote buying. We've been over this. If you've got some code that will allow you to determine from the published results how your vote was counted, then I can ask you to tell me your code as soon as you've voted (before the results are published), use it to verify your vote the same way you can, and reward/punish you accordingly. Knowing that I have the ability to do this, people without strong convictions will vote how I tell them in exchange for the reward I offer or to avoid the punishment I threaten.

      Ye
      • by MarkusQ (450076) on Friday December 01, 2006 @05:03PM (#17073444) Journal

        MOD PARENT DOWN

        Vote buying. We've been over this. If you've got some code that will allow you to determine from the published results how your vote was counted, then I can ask you to tell me your code as soon as you've voted (before the results are published), use it to verify your vote the same way you can, and reward/punish you accordingly. Knowing that I have the ability to do this, people without strong convictions will vote how I tell them in exchange for the reward I offer or to avoid the punishment I threaten.

        Yes, that would be illegal, and if I'm caught, I'd be in trouble, unless I just got my friends elected to a position where they can get me off the hook.

        "We" may have been over this before, but that doesn't mean you are correct, and it certainly doesn't mean you should be calling for people to be modded down just because you disagree with them.

        Letting the voter verify that their vote was counted as cast, might, as you suggest, make vote buying easier. But it would also, as the GP points out, make stealing an election wholesale much harder. To make a rational choice between the two, you have to consider the relative risks, and doing so does not lead to the conclusion you're advocating. Even with receipts of some sort, vote buying is a very risky proposition, since by its very nature a lot of people would have to know about it before the election. If you want to buy ten thousand votes, at least ten thousand people will have to know about it, including who to vote for and what the payoff or threat is. If even a few of them blab, you're goose is cooked.

        Conversely, without receipts, elections can be stolen by a small group of people with no witnesses except for the machines, and they can steal as many votes as they want--a million isn't that much harder than a dozen.

        --MarkusQ

        • I like the argument this parent makes, for obvious and self-serving reasons.

          And if I may reply here to everyone excluding the parent, why all these "vote buying" and "how do you guarantee..." arguments against my statement? So I'll take you to collectively mean you advocate the root of this thread? Yet another piece of perhaps-slightly-harder-to-corrupt technology?

          Look closely at what the Profit Makers are offering. Why is that better than a publicly verifiable list? Better for whom? Do you hold shares
        • it certainly doesn't mean you should be calling for people to be modded down just because you disagree with them.

          It does perhaps say something about the grandparent poster though.

          The "vote-buying" fear is an odd and irrational one, as you point out. An election is a many-to-few application (well, sort of); are the non-elected or elected going to micro-punish those who didn't vote for them?
        • While you're almost certainly right about buying votes, that's not really the primary fear of voter verifiable records. Rather than the problem being "Candidate buys 10,000 votes", the problem is "My boss says I'm fired unless I vote for his favorite candidate and prove it."

          The legitimacy of the system can be "nickle and dimed" in a significant way from pressures such as that. (Replacing boss with parents, or mobsters, or friends, or whatever is appropriate.) Part of the perk of not allowing any possible
      • There are at least two very credible schemes that allow you to determine whether your vote was counted correctly (although perhaps not from a 'published result'). Two of them are David Chaum's Punchscan [punchscan.org] system, and Ron Rivest's Triple-Ballot System. There are another three or four I could mention, but the authors lack the immediate name recognition of Chaum or Rivest.

        Please do basic research before making statements like this in the future.

        (Why, yes, I am an NSF [nsf.gov]-funded voting security [accurate-voting.org] researcher. Obligat
    • Even then, how do you verify? Go back and ask every single person who they voted for, and compare against the list? How would you know that the recounting process will be more accurate and tamper-proof than the original election?

      Nothing is 100% accurate or 100% verifiable. The best you can hope for is a result where the difference is larger than your estimated margin of error, and then you can feel pretty sure. Even then, you have to just hope that human affairs are not so important or delicate that an

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by evilviper (135110)
      An election can never be 100% verifiable until and unless the complete list of every vote is published
      ...and not even then, either.

      A tiny bit of fuding the numbers, and you have 5% of votes from people who only exist on paper...

      They certainly aren't going to come forward and say that their votes weren't counted correctly...
  • by galego (110613) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (tccarehtosnsj)> on Friday December 01, 2006 @04:31PM (#17072824)
    I *verbally* told them my name and address (I live in MD) ... no photo or other ID required. That has nothing to do with the paper-trail or other verifications that should be built into any voting system. But personally, I think the problem is deeper than paper-vs-electronic.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      I worked as an election judge in MD, and in the district I worked in someone who came in complained to me that the roll-call judges were just asking for name, then telling the voter their address and just asking "is that correct?". This voter said that she had been trained as a challenger and that was one of the first things they were told to verify. So I brought it up with the roll-call judges (I was working as a unit judge) and they said they hadn't received any real directions that they were supposed to
    • Anyone who advocates not having to show ID to vote has another agenda.

      Take a real close look at the types of activist groups who cry out the loudest whenever someone floats the "show an ID" concept.

      • by Orion_ (83461)
        You're incredibly naive if you think the people who are most strongly advocating voter ID requirements don't also have another agenda. They know exactly who will benefit politically from such a law.

        And I think it's just sad that there are so many people like you out there (on either side of the political spectrum) that just dismiss the arguments of those who disagree with you as the biased ramblings of "activist groups" without considering that they might actually have a point. Or do you think it's okay to
    • So what piece of ID would you present? I don't recall there being a National Voters ID card.

      Oh, right you're probably thinking "any form of government issued photo ID". Well I'm thinking bullshit. Your driver's license is to operate a motor vehicle, your health card (in Canada) is for presentation at a hospital when receiving medical services, and your Passport is required by foreign governments, not your own. Therefore, either you have to be a licensed driver, have a state run medical plan, or interest
  • I agree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bobo_The_Boinger (306158) on Friday December 01, 2006 @04:32PM (#17072842)
    Having worked as an election judge in Maryland, which is now using Diebold machines, I just don't trust them. I have seen the printed tape shown at the beginning and end of each election, so I know the machine told me that it took X number of votes, and that that total matched my hand tabulated total from who went to each machine, but how do I know that when the button for candidate X was pressed, the machine actually recored it for X. I don't know. No one knows. And furthermore, there is no possible WAY to know after the voter leaves the machine.

    It is a stupid system, and I am proud that someone with more authority than me is saying so. I believe all the politicians who decided that touch screen voting was a "great idea" should be voted out of office ASAP.

    • In the last election in California. The last step in voting was for the voter to verify that what was printed on the tape is what the voter wanted did they do it differently in Maryland?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Detritus (11846)
        I voted via the Diebold machine in Maryland. It didn't have a paper tape that could be examined by the voter. The election official gave me a smart card that I inserted into the machine. After casting my ballot, it ejected the smart card, which I then returned to the election official. The whole process relied on blind trust that all of this technology was working properly.
    • by larien (5608)
      Touchscreen voting isn't a bad idea in itself - computerised voting where the entire voting trail is in volatile computer storage is a bad idea as it's trivial to forge.

      There's multiple ways to get it "right" - these include paper "receipts" that the voter can check & put in a ballot box (available for recount) or optical scanned ballot papers printed by the computer, but ultimately, it gives a physical check in the voter's hands to confirm that they are voting for who they believe they are voting for

  • Direct Democracy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by conn3x (989931) on Friday December 01, 2006 @04:34PM (#17072890) Homepage
    I remember learning that an effective method of democracy was this, a representative democracy, because of the issue of people not being able to get to a poll to vote, and because people didn't necessarily have the time to learn all of the issues. Certainly information has grown leaps and bounds, and now a lot of us do have the ability to directly represent ourselves. After seeing a special on this very issue about people waiting in line for 5 hours to vote, seeing the corruption of representatives over and over again, and watching the corporations cheat and run america in their best interests, isn't it time that we, as the information community, try to implement a secure, more direct democracy? Just a thought
    • Instead of majority rules, we could each hire a representative (or serve as our own if we so chose) so that if we thought our representatvie was corrupt we could just fire them. This would end the two party monopoly on representative government and hopefully people could still manage to elect only a couple thousand unique representatives (with weighted votes depending on how many people they represented.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Telvin_3d (855514)
      At one time I strongly agreed with this position. That time was for about 2 weeks in high school before I paid much attention to the actual process of government. The reason we ahve representitive government instead of direct democracy is because keeping up with issues and bills is a full time job for an entire staff of people. I am sure you feel qualified to vote on a handful of issues that are close to your heart, but what about the other 99.9% of thing going on? What about the really boring stuff tha
      • by Bryansix (761547)
        You sound like a shill for career politicians. The reason many people don't know about H.R. 2862 is because it is called H.R. 2862. It took me two seconds to look it up and find out it is an appropriations bill. Further the text of the bill and any amendments is online. While it is true that each person could not know about every bill and every topic that government has to deal with a lot of Senators and Representatives don't know jack squat either. I think the idea where each vote counts in that each repre
    • by repvik (96666)
      Nope. It won't work. People can't be bothered to vote on all issues. Remember that the politicians work _full time_ as politicians. Even then, they suck at what they do. Do you think joe blow spending a couple of minutes to vote on stuff once in a while would work?
    • by Random Utinni (208410) on Friday December 01, 2006 @06:12PM (#17074570)
      The problem with direct democracy is one of time. The more detailed and complicated the world becomes, the more complex the problems and the solutions. It's why people specialize in tiny little areas of knowledge instead of knowing everything about everything... there's simply too much to know.

      Politics and governance is no different. Specializing is a good thing, and representative democracy allows people to specialize in governance. We don't even let generalist physicians do surgery, let alone the average layperson. It's too complicated, and too important... so we give the job to a specialist. Same with government. We could let the average person make decisions about long term taxes, economic growth, foreign policy, and the like, but I think it's too complicated.

      I'm in California, and we've got more direct democracy than pretty much any other state in the union. And every election we're bombarded with propositions. No one really bothers to read the text of the summaries, let alone the actual text of the proposed legislation. So people vote based on their instincts, the television ads, and what their friends tell them. These aren't well-considered or thought out reasons... just the reasons that people have time for. I try my best to wade through them, but I've got a job and a family, and there often just isn't the time.

      If you've got the time to keep up with all the information that *should* go into making these decisions, more power to you. But I think that the vast majority of the population doesn't have the time, interest, or education to do the same.
    • No. Many people still don't vote because they are lazy, and a direct democracy likely won't change that. In addition, take a look at popular culture--most Americans are at least as uninformed about the important issues as they were decades or even centuries or so. The philosopher Mortimer Adler argued that Americans today are nowhere near as informed or knowledgable as the colonists at the time of the American Revolution.
  • by jafac (1449)
    Okay - this article's a dupe - but really, we can't talk enough about this subject. Blackbox voting really needs to go. It doesn't take a NIST scientist to see that.
  • Paperless electronic voting machines 'cannot be made secure' [pdf] according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

    Oh, they can be made secure. They can be made to secure the election for whomever you want. That's the whole idea.
  • We used the optical scan system in my county in Maryland until 2002, and then for some bizarre reason we switched to diebold. And we've been having a hell of a time getting rid of them because the Governor of MD was against them and the woman in charge of the elections had a personal grudge against him. Anyway, he was just voted out, so maybe we'll have a better shot now.
  • Why does the National Institute of Standards and Technology hate trees?
    • Why does the National Institute of Standards and Technology hate trees?

      Because trees don't believe in democratic elections.
  • I don't understand why optical scanning is any more trustworthy.

    If the scanner is hooked up to a crooked counting algorithm, how will you know unless you actually count the paper? If you have to count the paper to ensure that the scanner is honest, why bother with the scanner at all?
    • I don't understand why optical scanning is any more trustworthy.

      Because the human-marked and machine-scanned ballots go into a ballot box for potential counting later.

      If the scanner is hooked up to a crooked counting algorithm, how will you know unless you actually count the paper?

      If there is a question you actually DO count the ballots. And you count ballots in a few randomly-selected precincts even if there ISN'T a question, just to keep watch.

      If you have to count the paper to ensure that the scanner is
  • by VidEdit (703021) on Friday December 01, 2006 @04:48PM (#17073182)
    The headline of the post makes it seem like the NIST thinks that paper trails are the answer. That is not their conclusion, in fact they say the current paper-trail systems don't work.

    "The NIST is also going to recommend changes to the design of machines equipped with paper rolls that provide audit trails.
    Currently, the paper rolls produce records that are illegible or otherwise unusable, and NIST is recommending that "paper rolls should not be used in new voting systems."

    via http://www.bradblog.com/?p=3860#more-3860 [bradblog.com]

    We really should just use optical scan ballots. That is a paper trail voters have to verify, and the ballots can be meaningfully recounted. Then Diebold and the other vendors should be sued for knowingly selling defective products--possibly fraudulently.
    • by spisska (796395) on Saturday December 02, 2006 @12:51AM (#17078164)
      I posted this elsewhere in this thread but I'll repeat it. NIST is onto something that no one else has seemed to pick up on yet. Federal law requires that states keep election materials, including paper trails from DREs, for 22 months. But most DRE paper trails are recorded on thermal paper, which degrades after a few months.

      If found quickly enough, a faded thermal paper can still be read accurately with specialized equipment, but it is not a simple matter and is completely ineffective after an extended period.

      I know this because of a horse race -- I left the track before a race, had a winning ticket (printed on thermal paper), and had it fade on me either because it sat in direct sunlight or because it was in my pocket, either of which exposed it to enough heat to render it unreadable to a person. I wasn't too hopeful about redeeming it, but I explained the situation the next time I was at the track, two weeks later. They managed to read the ticket (and pay me my $8 on a $2 bet) but needed a special reader to do so. They also explained that given another month or two they wouldn't be able to read it.

      The point is that any given election official who next summer checks the DRE paper trails from the November election may just find a cabinet full of blank rolls. Unreadable in less that half the time that Federal law requires the records be kept. This is a big problem.

  • I keep reading about "verifiability", but what *exactly* do they mean? *Who* is verifying *what*? In my opinion, if it is possible for me to go to some office somewhere and ask them, "Here's my ID. Tell me what you have that computer for my vote." Then, I can verify my vote. I have no right to verify anyone else's vote and nobody should be allowed to verify my vote without my permission. Are the critics claiming that there should be special people who get to look over everyone's shoulders and see who
  • by dcollins (135727) on Friday December 01, 2006 @05:00PM (#17073362) Homepage
    Goddam funny that the federal government gets concerned with this just as Democrats are poised to take power in Washington, after several election cycles where it apparently didn't give a damn.

    Whatever, it's the right thing to do, finally.
  • You think "Congress" back in 2001, when they passed the "Help America Vote Act", might have commissioned some study of the topic, instead of just passing the bill as written by the voting machine lobbyists. But, no. It seems very much like that bunch of idiots and corporate mouthpieces cared very little about the actual effect of their so-called law. God forbid they ask someone with any sense to look into the topic, particularly a useless public servant at NIST who just needs to be downsized anyway.

    What a c
  • I Knew It! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Quantam (870027)
    NIST echoes what critics have been saying all along, that due to the lack of verifiability, 'a single programmer could rig a major election.'

    I knew there had to be a reason the Democrats won congress! Hopefully they'll have this fixed by 2008!
  • by hmbcarol (937668) on Friday December 01, 2006 @05:04PM (#17073448)
    1 - Fail-safe. The machine can break, power can go out, etc. The paper ballot still exists and can be easily hand counted.

    2 - Inexpensive scaling. Since you mark on paper the polling station can have 20 booths for people which are not much more than a table, curtain, and a pen; yet they can share one or two optical scanners. Touch screen systems require one expensive machine per booth.

    Do the math. 20 expensive touch screen machines per polling station, versus 2 less expensive optical scanners.

    This cost savings could be used in urban areas where there traditionally have not been enough resources for the election.

    3 - Trustable. Any dispute can be settled by the actual piece of paper I wrote on. Optical scanners are based on technology used by schools to grade for decades and require little more than a motor, light sensor, and a very low end CPU. There is little to go wrong and very little which can hide tricks.

    4 - Easy to use. I take a pen and fill in a box. Touch screen systems appear to suffer serious "alignment" issues which can cause votes to be mis-registered and which require frequent realignment in the field.

    5 - Robust. There is no screen to be scratched, or broken. The voter never interacts with the scanner except to slide a piece of paper into it. There is no printer to jam, or foul, or have other issues.
    • Devil's advocate time, just to spark discussion.

      1 - Fail-safe. The machine can break, power can go out, etc. The paper ballot still exists and can be easily hand counted.

      The paper can tear, the marks can be incomplete, the building could burn down. A properly engineered mature design will not "break." Think about 5-function calculators... do they crash? Do they give incorrect answers? No. All they need is power, and they work flawlessly, cheap-o stamped-out-of-plastic-in-China-for-three-cents-a- unit issues

  • What I'd ideally like is a terminal that you could either use as a touch screen to cast your votes, or feed an optical scan ballot into.

    Why use it with an optical scan ballot? There's always part of me that nags at me, wondering if "they" are going to correctly interpret my vote when they scan it in. This way, when the terminal scans it, it can show me what it gleaned from my markings, and if it comes up wrong, I can either issue corrections there (which are specially marked as such on the ballot), or

  • http://vote.nist.gov/DraftWhitePaperOnSIinVVSG2007 -20061120.pdf

    Election's over, gents. This would have been much, much more helpful more than 12 months before the election...

    One does wonder if the report was held until after the election on purpose- possibly to avoid cuts in funding and such under the then-Republican-majority Congress?

  • Paper is no more verifyable than anything else. The best system would be a multi teir receipt system. An informal electronic count and a read only storage mechanism to record raw votes; a recording media which is physically slow to produce.

    Second an electronic paper reciept given out to a voter that kind of looks like the bar codes on a lotto ticket. Second an optional electric reciept, with both a physical or wireless connection to record another kind of coded data.

    The one major requirement of the syste
  • Paperless electronic voting machines 'cannot be made secure' [pdf] according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

    This conclusion brought to you by the same people who commissioned and instituted the AES encryption standard.

    If they say paperless electronic voting can't be made secure, I'd believe 'em!

  • i think the electronic machines should update a public database in near-real-time. we should see how each county/district is going across the day. if it seems slow or low-turnout, local news can prod people a little harder. participation needs a kick in the butt. plus, this is the first step to online voting anyway.

    the 1st trail is to take home. the 2nd, duplicate receipt is to drop in a manual recount box. the receipts say plainly who you voted for, so you can protest if you like (and a key
  • The machine I voted on in NC this year had a paper tape to the left of the screen that scrolled with each vote. I could verify my vote as I went. Simple and effective.
    • by oldstrat (87076)
      Not so effective if the machine doesn't do the final tally correctly, and no one checks because the margin wasn't within 1%.

      I'd suggest you look at the Hacking the Vote movie that was on HBO.
  • When the election turnout is such a small proportion of the electorate and there is no physical, human readable, and verifiable record of a person's vote, it's pure and simple fantasy to imagine that the US is ruled by the will of the people for the people.

    In my country, New Zealand, the turnout usually approaches 80 to 90 percent and every ballot has an obscured serial number and a counter-foil with the voter's roll number written on it by the poll clerk. OK, it's not a completely secret poll, but revealin
  • by AlpineR (32307) <wagnerr@umich.edu> on Friday December 01, 2006 @09:21PM (#17076854) Homepage

    What ballot system would support instant runoff voting? That's the method in which the voter ranks candidates and then, if no candidate attains a majority, the least popular candidates are eliminated and the voters' second choices counted [1 [instantrunoff.com],2 [wikipedia.org]]. It prevents third parties from spoiling elections, like Ralph Nader was accused of taking votes from Al Gore in 2000 or Ross Perot from George Bush in 1992.

    With instant runoff voting, it's safe to vote for third parties since you can choose a major party as your second choice. I think the emergence of viable third parties would really improve politics and governance.

    But how do you actually collect appropriate ballots? I don't know of a simple way that "connect the arrow" paper ballots would work. One of the advantages of electronic ballots is that they could theoretical handle instant runoff voting elegantly. However, I doubt that the electronic voting system manufacturers are designing for that ability, especially since they seem to be funded by the two major parties.

    AlpineR

  • So, where are all of the cries of voting machine election fraud that caused the Democrats to win Congress?

    Anyone?

    Anyone?

    [crickets]

An inclined plane is a slope up. -- Willard Espy, "An Almanac of Words at Play"

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