Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Security Government Politics

Hard Evidence of Voting Machine Addition Errors 275

Posted by kdawson
from the got-some-splainin'-to-do dept.
goombah99 writes "Princeton Professor, Ed Felton, has posted a series of blog entries in which he shows the printed tapes he obtained from the NJ voting machines don't report the ballots correctly. In response to the first one, Sequoia admitted that the machines had a known software design error that did not correctly record which kind of ballots were cast (republican or democratic primary ballots) but insisted the vote totals were correct. Then, further tapes showed this explanation to be insufficient. In response, State officials insisted that the (poorly printed) tapes were misread by Felton. Again further tapes showed this not to be a sufficient explanation. However all those did not foreclose the optimistic assessment that the errors were benign — that is, the possibility that vote totals might really be correct even though the ballot totals were wrong and the origin of the errors had not been explained. Now he has found (well-printed) tapes that show what appears to be hard proof that it's the vote totals that are wrong, since two different readout methods don't agree. Sequoia has made trade-secret legal threats against those wishing to mount an independent examination of the equipment. One small hat-tip to Sequoia: at least they are reporting enough raw data in different formats that these kinds of errors can come to light — that lesson should be kept in mind when writing future requirements for voting machines."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Hard Evidence of Voting Machine Addition Errors

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @01:57PM (#23241260)
    ...but these are good, solid, Republican errors!

    God bless the American Voting System!

    • Re:That may be... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by wealthychef (584778) * on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @02:04PM (#23241406)
      The fact that the company is using legal threats to suppress investigation into the errors is a good argument for using open source equipment that anyone can inspect. I do NOT trust a proprietary solution.
      • by goombah99 (560566) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @02:17PM (#23241630)

        The fact that the company is using legal threats to suppress investigation into the errors is a good argument for using open source equipment that anyone can inspect. I do NOT trust a proprietary solution.
        Open voting consortium [openvotingconsortium.org] needs volunteers and money. Unlike a normal open source project where all that matters is the quality of the code. This one needs feet on the ground and money to travel in order to get laws changed in 50 states to allow the use of the equipment. (for example many states have laws about how ballots are defined that this protocol requires changing. Many states require certifications which are far from free. But mainly it takes demonstrations and lobbying.)

        Right now they have a matching grant challenge, so nows a good time to offer cash. But think about also being an advocate in your state for getting the laws to allow this system.

        OVC not only has open code but it also has an open bussiness model. They won't require you use it on any hardware they offer. It runs fine on off the shelf equipment. Any company could use the code, states could use the code. OVC would simply maintain it and certify that it is being deployed correctly.

        Open voting solutions is another open source project with a different bussiness model but open code.
      • Re:That may be... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) * on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @02:38PM (#23241922) Homepage Journal
        Look.

        These machines are intended and designed to prop-up the parlour-game of democratic basis for American government. They are not meant to "work". They are meant to reduce the definition of "democracy" to merely "voting" for the general public - and then to manage that vote. If they decrease the confidence of a certain segment of the public in the whole process, then they are also serving their secondary purpose: The devolution of the US to Banana Republic status.

        The coup was completed in 2000. The dramatic operations began 40 years earlier, but it took awhile.

        You don't see this. You think you still live in the same country that you were born in, that you attended Elementary School in, that you call the same name.

        But it just isn't true. Visitors to your country get it in a very short time - but most of them clamp their mouths shut - it is quickly apparent that Americans are uncomprehending.

        This isn't just Republicans. Sure - the Republican leaders are the sharp and shiny spear-tip, slicing the American side. The Democrats are just as on board - the solid wooden shaft, following this through the body. The elite of these - Cheney's and Pelosi's - will keep their mansions and their millions, their holidays in Vail and Sun Valley.

        They will never join the people who "voted". That would be to join Dr. King, or Mel Carnahan.
        • I'm in Michigan, the DNC decided to toss out all primary votes from MI and FL. LA's GOP delegates are under dispute, meaning they may not represented at all. Nevada's GOP convention was supposed to be completed by now but was postponed.

          The primaries are a sham on both sides this year. And that's without even getting into the equipment issues.

      • No, it's a good argument for legislation at the federal level making such threats null and void.
      • You know.. I'm a software developer... and I've never been much of an OSS enthusiast (although I am writing this from Firefox. I'm not a moron).

        But for things like this, I agree with you. The upside potential is just too great. A rogue coder (or rogue CEO) could too easily effect a contest with FAR too great of payoff.

        And for those tin foil hat types, a NSA or CIA could even create an start-up that looks legit just for the purpose of creating the voting machines. Now THAT is one scary f'in scenario.
      • Re:That may be... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Tassach (137772) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @04:35PM (#23243700)
        Forget open source. There is a time and a place to use software, and there is a time and a place to use pen and paper. Elections are not the place to use software. A big metal box with a slot on the top to accept paper ballets, and locked with a big-ass padlock will always be better and more reliable than any electronic system you can come up with.
  • by Brad1138 (590148) * <brad1138@yahoo.com> on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @01:57PM (#23241262)
    Paper Ballots - Paper Ballots - PAPER BALLOTS!
    • by Kingrames (858416)
      This is politics. it's not about paper ballots.
      more like:

      Devil elopers, Devil elopers, Devil elopers!
    • Paper Ballots - Paper Ballots - PAPER BALLOTS!

      Why do you think it is any more difficult to rig an election with paper ballots? They've been doing it for centuries now. I don't think Zimbabwe used electronic voting machines, but I'm willing to bet the election there wasn't on the up and up.

      What we do need is a verifiable paper trail, no matter what kind of voting system we have. This trail can be created many ways, but for electronic machines it boils down to the fact that voters need to look at a printout of what their vote is recorded as and tha

    • Paper ballots got us grief in Florida and in other areas in 2000. Do we really want to go through that tripe again? How many years have passed and people still speak of conspiracy and fraud?

      The fact is we need electronic voting. We need an absolute. Electronic voting can get us this but only if done right. Paper and OCR leave doubt, look at how many ways people of one party or another tried to "interpret what a voter really meant" Come on, how can we justify paper when you have government assigned per
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Votes::Votes()
    {
    count = 0;
    }

    Votes::Votes(Candidate * pcand)
    {
    secretHandle = pcand;
    count = 0;
    }

    Votes::operator ++()
    {
    if(secretHandle){
    if(secretHandle->get_id()==GOOD_CANDIDATE) count +=5;
    }
    else ++count;
    }
  • by Nursie (632944) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @01:59PM (#23241302)
    ... How hard can it be?

    Seriously, how hard?

    Someone presses a button and a counter gets incremented. Big whoop.
    Any error at all in a programming exercise that goddamn simple is evidence enough for me to call for a full on corruption investigation.
    • by aliens (90441)
      Came here to make the same query. Is there some complexity we're over looking?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by SoupGuru (723634)
        Well, hiding all those backdoors has got to be pretty hard, right?
        • by xanadu-xtroot.com (450073) <xanadu.inorbit@com> on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @02:30PM (#23241814) Homepage Journal

          Well, hiding all those backdoors has got to be pretty hard, right?
          With closed-source, it's not hard at all. That's where the problem lies.

          Aside, even if the devs were 100% perfect and typed ALL the code perfect, there's nothing stopping some jerk from slipping something in at final compile time, or even after that with "last minute update" to the "firmware".

          • by gd2shoe (747932)
            For those who don't remember, Diebold got caught doing that a few years back in CA. That brings out the concern: When aren't we catching it? Who aren't we catching?

            I like electronic voting machines in principle, but we really need some public outcry. This is lunacy.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jimicus (737525)

            Aside, even if the devs were 100% perfect and typed ALL the code perfect, there's nothing stopping some jerk from slipping something in at final compile time, or even after that with "last minute update" to the "firmware".
            It would probably relevant to point out here: This could just as easily happen with opensource voting software. You need to change the entire procedure so "last minute updates" don't exist - or if they do, there's an audit trail for them.
          • This really has nothing to do with a voting machine's software being "closed source".

            From the voter's perspective, there's no real solution to this problem but hand-counting of voter verified paper ballots. For me the ultimate solution to this problem is this: Voters walk up to a machine they had no part in preparing and (optionally) use it to prepare a voter-verified paper ballot. That ballot is then stored and counted by hand. This process makes the trustworthiness of the machine completely irrelevant. If any voter doesn't trust the machine to do this job, they should be given the freedom to fill out the ballot by hand (also handy when the computer breaks down or the power runs out). There are substantial benefits to using computers to prepare voter-verified paper ballots and there are substantial benefits to using exclusively free software voting machines [counterpunch.org] but trustworthiness is not one of those benefits. Nobody can trust any computer they don't control and no voter is given the freedom to completely control their voting machine. Even if trusted voting machine software existed nobody would be able to know that their voting machine was running it.

            Contrary to another poster's view [slashdot.org] on this, no audit trail would be sufficient to engender trust in any code because the preparation of the audit trail would always be in question.

            The benefits of a free software voting machine lie in the government and public avoidance of monopoly (thus reducing maintenance cost and possibly increasing machine flexibility), and supporting business opportunities (politicians love it when they can say some project "creates jobs" in their district), and in turn leaving the body that paid for the machines in a position where they can make the machines meet their needs. All proprietary software distributors are monopolists. It is this monopoly that each proprietary software voting machine manufacturer works to protect; this is what's really at stake for those businesses. If any one of them were more user-focused than they are (ES&S is in a great place to be this user-focused since they don't depend on other software for their machines), they would see free software voting machines as a point of sale. They could be the best situated to compete in the maintenance market for their brand of machines because they've known their machines the longest, so ostensibly they know those machines best. Governments will think this way when it comes to purchasing support contracts whether long-term or ad-hoc.

            Alas, competing monopolies is the way of things right now in the US. The voting machine makers have the country carved up like the mafia in The Godfather movies and they exploit county after county in every sale. I ought to know, I helped Champaign County, Illinois recommend a pair of voting machines to the county board. We saw demos from a few vendors (ES&S, Hart Intercivic, and Diebold via their local distributor) and picked the least worst pair of machines (ES&S).

    • A fraud investigation is a good idea but that's not enough. There's a real possibility the companies involved can sleaze out of things because they have kept everything secret all along. Documenting the lack of evidence and lack of transparency is a good exercise on it's own because it will cast doubt on elections that use non free software and other impossible to verify mechanisms. The fact is they can't prove the election results are good or fair and that's unacceptable.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jellomizer (103300)
      You forget one thing... GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION...
      Except for a KISS Aproach to the problem, every factor that they can think of must be resolved.
      Disability for the Blind, Deaf, limited or no movement.
      English and non-english speakers.
      They need to be hack proof but operated by unskilled workers.
      The hardware needs to work in all kinds of crazy conditions.
      Approprate Record Keeping without effecting the privacy of the voter.
      Final output data needs to be easially readable.
      Flexible for write-in votes.
      The list goes
      • by magarity (164372)
        English and non-english speakers
         
        Non-issue. Only citizens can vote and there is an (small but existant) English comprehension test as part of citizenship testing.
        • by jellomizer (103300) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @03:33PM (#23242746)
          Imagrants go to the U.S. have children, in the state, they are full citizens. They move back to the home country grow up and learn their languge and go back to America legally... They speek there languge as a primarly language. Or the other case while less common now, lets take Lewiston ME, say 50+ years ago. That city everyone spoke French as their main language, it is possible for a child to grow up and go to all French School and work and interact all people who speak French, without having to learn to read or speak good English.
        • by Chode2235 (866375)
          Damn, that pesky 14th amendment always seems to get in the way.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by magarity (164372)
            "Pesky" is about the mildest possible word for the 14th amendment. It's tragic how something intended to make the former slaves into citizens became perverted into what it is used for today.
    • by AxemRed (755470)
      That's exactly what I came here to say, and it seems that you already said it. This SEEMS, to me, to be a simple program. How can these guys screw it up so badly? Did they do no testing? Did they just have incompetent programmers? I think that a 100-level college programming class could write the logic involved...
      • by grumling (94709)
        the problem is that voting machines are cheap, since they are only used once every year or so. the manufacturers make 'em cheap by putting third string programmers on the project, using off the shelf operating systems, and lousy hardware.

        The other big problem is that there was no complete list of requirements.
      • by Splab (574204)
        is it that simple?

        Write me a program then that absolutely makes sure that no vote gets lost.

        Adding to a counter isn't that simple - what if it fails, how do you recover? What if the recovery fails? Creating exception safe programs is extremely hard - Oh you want it on a higher level language? How do you PROVE! that said language is safe?

        This is not a simple problem, and thus should default to simplest possible solution - have humans from both/all camps count all votes under supervision from volunteers.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by amRadioHed (463061)

          Adding to a counter isn't that simple - what if it fails, how do you recover? What if the recovery fails?
          At the very least all you need to do is pop up an error message and notify the voter that their vote hasn't been recorded. There is no real excuse for vote errors that fail silently. And they should be incredibly rare also. The fact that errors showed up in a vote with 300 ballots is shameful.
    • by 192939495969798999 (58312) <info AT devinmoore DOT com> on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @02:20PM (#23241682) Homepage Journal
      Based on all this, it must be pretty hard after all. I assume they would have 2 separate counters, a grand total incremented as above, and an individual anonymous vote recorder. Both of these could be compared at a later date on paper vs. the electronic records. I assume it's hard because, well if it were made as easy as it could be, then you probably couldn't patent it or call it a "trade secret" since it's entirely obvious how it would work.
      • by goombah99 (560566) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @02:58PM (#23242202)
        In this case there are almost certainly multiple errors, one of which is the design error sequoia explained that causes the wrong ballot to be recorded.

        Another plausible error mode here is the one the ES&S ivotronics had (and ones with old firmware still have). Certified voting machines are required to redundantly store the votes, usually 3 times, and there may be some effort to have these in different memory modules.

        A while back ES&S had a bug that was triggered by a low battery voltage. The low battery condition would cause the logger to report this in the log. However the log entry was too long and cause a buffer over flow that over wrote the header of one of the redudant vote files. When the votes were read out at the precinct the machine did not notice the corrupt header and a second programming bug caused the malformed headers to cause other problems including mis-reported various things (like the maching ID) which then caused all sorts of downstream problems.

        When the votes were read out by another method the corruption of the primary vote file was detected and it silently failed over to the secondary record. This produced a vote report that did not match up with the first one.

        A reveiew of multiple systems was done by the Florida election supervisor who estimated about 1 in 7 machines reported wrong. He was fired.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Digital Vomit (891734)

      It's really easy actually. I'll get it started:

      private short DemocratVoters;
      private long RepublicanVoters;
      const int ThirdPartyVoters = 0;

      ...
    • by Thelasko (1196535)
      I remember one of my projects freshman year for a class called "Introduction to Engineering Computing" was to make a program that tabulated votes. I am not a computer science major and even I figured out how to make it work.
  • heh. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Kingrames (858416) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @02:00PM (#23241318)
    public boolean IsVoteTallyCorrect()
    {
      return true;
    }
  • by sm62704 (957197) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @02:01PM (#23241330) Journal
    "Princeton Professor, Ed Felton was arrested today for violation of the DMCA..."
    • Re:Next article: (Score:4, Informative)

      by discogravy (455376) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @02:54PM (#23242146) Homepage
      I realize you were going for Funny, and got there, but for those unaware, Prof. Felton is not new to this game [wikipedia.org], has done research (and testified about it) on the MS' "IE can't be removed" antitrust defense, Diebold voting machine bullshit, and Sony's rootkit bullshit among a few other things.

      He's got bona fides as a researcher in the field, and I believe was asked to do this work in TFA -- DMCA notices are going to roll off unnoticed, like ....well, like votes for the democratic party on one of these Sequoia machines, apparently.

  • by zappepcs (820751) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @02:02PM (#23241352) Journal
    see another story about vote machine problems. If it was a NASA rocket motor there would be congressional investigations, news people camped out waiting for news of the investigation at NASA headquarters etc.

    But this gets shoved under the carpet at every turn like a bit of dirt that not even MSM wants to report on.

    It makes me sad to be American, well, sad that such things happen in America. We are supposed to be better than this. We were (I think) and I hope that we are better than this soon. It's disgusting.

    The machines themselves are not complex pieces of equipment that take rocket scientists to develop or maintain. According to someone that should know, they are not even as secure as an ATM machine. How fucking sad is that?

    Why, yes, I do have some suggestions. Where is the forum for me to submit them?
    • If it was a NASA rocket motor there would be congressional investigations, news people camped out waiting for news of the investigation at NASA headquarters etc.

      Only once a manned spacecraft blew up. The actual history of actual problems and treatment of reports of problems at NASA I think demonstrates this rather clearly.

      While rigged, insecure, or simply inaccurate voting machines might also lead to deaths (and even far more of them), the connection isn't as immediate, obvious, visible and dramatic.

  • by damburger (981828) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @02:08PM (#23241466)

    What do you think the chance of this affecting the use of voting machines is? How often is anything of great significance altered due evidence being presented that it is inadequate?

    Rationality is on the defensive. It certainly doesn't have much place in public policy any more. In every aspect of life, people are being convinced that the universe is not subject to laws which can inform our actions by predicting consequences, but that we are at the mercy of outside forces beyond our understanding, let alone control.

    The 'Invisible hand' of the market means we must accept everything capitalism throws at us. The 'Intelligent designer' controls all life and we must not meddle with it. The natural rhythms or the Earth/Sun are responsible for global warming, so environmentalism is futile.

    In the face of such a widespread campaign to render people helpless and reason impotent, no amount of evidence will achieve anything.

  • My Question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Brownstar (139242) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @02:10PM (#23241508)
    While it is a very good thing that we have people actively investigating and reporting on the accuracy of the new voting machines.

    Are there any good reports as to how accurate paper ballot counting really is? And how far off do the two diverge?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by nuzak (959558)
      Fraud was and is rampant in places and times using only paper ballots. One is not the cause of the other, but neither is it a cure. Voting machines could very easily be far more trustworthy, but they're being built for bottom dollar.

      As for how much they diverge, that's exactly the problem: we don't know, and attempts to find out have resulted in stonewalling and threats.
    • by goombah99 (560566) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @02:39PM (#23241946)
      Yes Caltech and MIT have done studies on vote count accuracy. Surprisingly nothing beats hand counting paper ballots. However this sort of assessment is very hard to do because the nature of the error space is so fickle. e.g. machine counting is generally perfect except when it's not. So one has very non gaussian error modes that require huge sampling and unanticipatable conditions to discover.

      Hand counting paper ballots is robust and adaptable. However even here it is hard to test under labratory conditions.

      The most recent study is one happeing right now in Bernalillo county NM, by University of New Mexico and Caltech. Many different ways of counting ballots by hand are being tried (different numbers of observers, different ways of verbalizing, different ways of pre-sorting ballots, and different orders of counting races, etc...) One of the more remarkable findings so far is that teams of counters can have prodigiously different rates of counting (10x variation). This makes logistics of recounting hard to predict and hard to allocate resources for.

      However even that study is flawed in part by the neccessity of time. You cant convince people to count a full election a dozen different ways. So you have to use shorter ballots or only count selected races and this will mask certain error modes.

      Another kind of error mode those studies cant' examine is the one that happened in Washington state during the Governor's race. In king county, various piles of ballots were "misplaced" and later "discovered". It could be malice, but more likely incompetence and lack of procedures causing ballots to be stacked willy nilly in various store rooms or in different containers when gathered from all the precints.

      I'm really please with Bernallilo County Clerk Maggie Toulouse for staging this mock recounts since these will iron out procedural issues and establish a lot of currently anecdotal human factors issues more concretely. Moreover the willingness to be som open about this and invite activists in is quite refreshing. Many clerks have a siege mentality--and of course this is because they have so many activitst making demands and too little money to staff their positions.

      The typical clerks office pays less than $10/hour to new staff and your not going to get IT folks for that rate.

      Send Maggie [bernco.gov] an email telling her she's got your respect: clerk@bernco.gov [mailto]. Clerks really deserve a pat on the back when they do it right.
      • by Intron (870560)
        Take a look at the recent New Hampshire primary [wethepeopl...dation.org] ballot recount. There is a lot of material presented and a lot of room for error. This was with optical mark, which is normally considered fairly reliable. But the lack of control on the paper ballots and memory cards is appalling.
  • Simple solution? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by TheRedSeven (1234758)
    In my mind, electronic tabulation has its advantages: it can aggregate data quickly is the big one, allowing precincts to report quickly. The trouble is when you can't verify that those results are secure and honest to the voters' intent.

    The easy solution would be to have 2 paper print-outs: 1 that the voter tears off (like a receipt) and can examine to verify that they voted the way they intended, and 1 that is automatically ripped off and deposited in the 'lock box' for any audits or recounts that migh

    • Re:Simple solution? (Score:5, Informative)

      by corsec67 (627446) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @02:18PM (#23241652) Homepage Journal
      I can't believe that people STILL don't understand what is wrong with a receipt of how you voted that you remove from the polling place.

      Boss: "Show me your receipt for candidate X tomorrow or don't bother showing up"
      Husband: "Show me your receipt for candidate X tomorrow or it will be painful"
      Creepy Person outside polling place: "Show me your receipt for candidate X and I will give you $10"

      Yes, a paper trail is important, but one that you can refer to outside the polling place has very different problems.
      • by phliar (87116)
        Cryptography to the rescue. There are several crypto methods so a voter can verify that his/her vote was counted accurately, but a third party cannot figure out how you voted. (Googling left as an exercise to the reader.)
      • by MarkusQ (450076)

        I can't believe that people STILL don't understand what is wrong with a receipt of how you voted that you remove from the polling place.

        And I can't believe people are still raising this objection. If the choice came down to:

        A. The system you describe where individuals could be pressed to vote a certain way individually or face consequences from known or knowable others who would be committing a crime which would be easy to prosecute.

        B. The system we have now, where votes can be stolen wholesale and

    • by nuzak (959558)
      > The easy solution would be to have 2 paper print-outs: 1 that the voter tears off (like a receipt) and can examine to verify that they voted the way they intended

      The way they or anyone else manipulating the vote intends. How many times does it need to be said: The whole idea of a secret ballot is that it's secret to everyone, including yourself once you leave the polling booth. No amount of cleverness can get around this.

      The second system is fine, though I think it's not going to be fun in from a ma
      • by jandrese (485)
        I'd much rather have a paper tape under a window that prints out your votes in a clearly legible form (you vote for Candidate X and it prints his name on the tape. At the end of your session, it prints the tape out and lets you watch it go by, then it hides your tape for the next person and prints his votes right on the same spot. The printer should be a generic receipt printer like you see at checkouts, and noisy like one (dot matrix) so it's obvious when it's printing.

        The problem with a system like th
        • I'd much rather have a paper tape under a window that prints out your votes in a clearly legible form (you vote for Candidate X and it prints his name on the tape. At the end of your session, it prints the tape out and lets you watch it go by, then it hides your tape for the next person and prints his votes right on the same spot. The printer should be a generic receipt printer like you see at checkouts, and noisy like one (dot matrix) so it's obvious when it's printing.

          this of course is exactly what the touchsreens do do now.

          one bad thing about it is that it allows you to prove how you voted to a third party: take a camera-phone picture of the printed receipt behind the glass.

          the paper tapes jam. 10% of the tapes in ohio could not be read. Look at the paper print-outs felton has. some are hard to read.

          the paper tape maintains a serial vote order. the early and late voters are at risk of exposure of their vote by malicious officials. (a typical machine may have less

        • by protolith (619345)
          Some good ideas presented, one problem with printing barcodes, The machine could be hacked to print the wrong barcode next to some of the votes cast. "It looked like the right vote when the machine ran the tape by"

          It's easy to make printers print in machine readable characters and use an open OCR platform to count the printed votes for comparison to the electronically cast votes.

          Otherwise, if you can make a machine switch votes electronicaly, it can be made to print the corresponding bar code to make the
          • by jandrese (485)
            Printing the wrong bar code should be pretty easy to check against though. If a name has the wrong bar code next to it (and these could be read by a hand scanner easily), then that's pretty damming proof that there is a problem. Spot checking is all you'd need to keep a high confidence in the bar codes.
    • by querist (97166)
      There is one unfortunate side effect of your plan that may, in fact, render it illegal.

      IANAL! However, it is my understanding that there are no "receipts" that voters keep for elections specifically to prevent coersion of votes. I am not sure if this is a genuine legal requirement or just a very good idea that has become a standard, but either way it is a very good idea.

      Sorry.

      This problem has been addressed by many researchers, and there are quite suitable solutions that can be mathematically demonstrated t
    • In my mind, electronic tabulation has its advantages: it can aggregate data quickly is the big one, allowing precincts to report quickly.

      We use paper ballots counted by hand in Canadian federal elections. After the polls close that same evening, we get a running tally on TV of the votes from the polling stations across the country. The winner is discovered by the end of the night.

      You don't need computers to quickly count votes.

      • Yes.

        A national election in Canada is about the scale of a county election in Los Angeles.
        • A national election in Canada is about the scale of a county election in Los Angeles.

          And...? Are you trying to say the US doesn't scale up it's electoral system with the population?

          • No...

            Jus' sayin' that the national scale of Canada is geographically similar to the US, while population and demographically similar to... I dunno. New Zealand?
          • by jbeaupre (752124)
            Yes, it doesn't scale. Think of it as a RAID 0 system with each voting precinct as a different drive. More chances for one screw up to bring down the entire system. In theory, going to electronic voting was to minimize the chance of screw ups. In theory.
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      Step two is unnecessary. Let the machine tabulate the vote and print the ballot, which the voter can examine before insertion into the ballot box.

      The machines in Illinois aren't Diebold, but it's funny- iirc the election before last, that's exactly the way it was. You could double check your vote on-screen before submission, then was printed a human-readable paper ballot that the election judge pout in the ballot box.

      The primary election this time (my choice, Ron Paul, lost big time) was different. The pape
      • by jbeaupre (752124)
        I'd be fine with it begin unreadable if you could take the paper ballot and scan it on a different system. I want verification. Multiple verification.

        Imagine if voting machines were only connected to a printer. Do your voting, print out the ballot (human readable or not). Next you have the option of getting it read on a different machine to verify. Ideally, the official polling people plus the Democratic and Republican monitors would each have a handy little machine that could read 1 or 1000 ballots.
    • We vote in November, for positions that start in January. If "speed" is the BEST reason for electronic voting, then there aren't any GOOD reasons for it.
    • by RobBebop (947356)

      The easy solution would be to have 2 paper print-outs: 1 that the voter tears off (like a receipt) and can examine to verify that they voted the way they intended, and 1 that is automatically ripped off and deposited in the 'lock box' for any audits or recounts that might need to be done. (I'm thinking a system that automatically tears the receipt paper and drops it within the sealed system--no human hand touches it, though you can see it through glass/plastic.)

      Wrong, wrong, wrong! One print-out that the voter must hold in his hands and then drop into a lock box. There is NO reason for the voter to go home with a receipt of who he voted for. There is only a need for a sealed and secure bin to sit in the polling place.

      And SECURE means that the bin is under the vision of a security camera so that any vote tampering can be tracked and prosecuted. And the lock combo should only be known by a small group of people who know damned well that they will see jail ti

  • John (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jab9990 (1260764)
    It's not the errors, it's the possibility of rigging elections. It's not the errors, it's the possibility of rigging elections.
    • by goombah99 (560566)

      It's not the errors, it's the possibility of rigging elections.

      It's not the errors, it's the possibility of rigging elections.

      Actually the biggest threat is neither. It's the preception that elections might be rigged or have errors without detection. Voting is about convincing the losers they lost so the winners can get on with governing with a mandate. When suspcions persist because the voting system are not transparent or are known to be vulnerable we just don't have effective democracy.

  • by analog_line (465182) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @02:16PM (#23241604)
    I'm glad that my state still uses paper ballots, but as long as it's legal to count a vote without any physical record in any state, no national election in this country should be considered "free and fair." What's good for Zimbabwe, Venezuela, the Russian Federation, and Iran, should be good for the United States of America too, and shame on those who claim otherwise.

    Whether it's Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama, or John McCain elected this year, the rest of the world should bring as much pressure on them to reform our elections process as they have in those other countries. Stuff like this prove that people here are working more and more to push back against it, but if you care about what happens here yourself (and if you don't, I don't blame you) push your leaders to push our leaders harder on this.
  • Who is confused about how god damn hard it is to make a simple secure voting machine? I mean we could fly to the moon and blow the living shit out of the earth, but casting 1 ballot with multiple sections with one selection from each section is like near impossible to do right.

    How fucking dumb are these people working for there companies?

    • by sm62704 (957197)
      How fucking dumb are these people working for there companies?

      Thank you for that typo, I needed a laugh!
  • by bgspence (155914) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @02:21PM (#23241710)
    Sequoia's Explanation, and Why It's Not the Whole Story
    http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/?p=1267 [freedom-to-tinker.com] ...
    "Let's assume the Democrat party is assigned option switch 6 while the Republican Party is assigned options switch 12. If a Democrat voter arrives, the poll worker presses the "6 button followed by the green "Activate" button. The Democrat contests are activated and the voter votes the ballot. " ...

    Then the following comment nails it:

    "Rich Kulawiec Says:
    March 20th, 2008 at 2:59 pm
    I'm working through this explanation with a paper-and-pencil mockup, but meanwhile I'll note Sequoia's use of the right-wing code phrase "Democrat Party" instead of "Democratic Party". It seems to have become fashionable of late among some to use this term as a thinly-veiled insult, then deny that it's intentional. Given how carefully [at least some portions of] this explanation seem to be worded, I don't for a moment believe this is a mistake."
    • by nuzak (959558)
      > "Let's assume the Democrat party is assigned option switch 6 while the Republican Party is assigned options switch 12

      "Option Switch 6" "Option Switch 12"?!?!?!

      What the fuck? Do they not understand that these phantasmagistic gizmotronic contraptulations are programmable these days with fucking WORDS, and not a bank of switches?

      But like RSK says, I have to wonder how much of it is even an accident. These people really do seem to be the counterexample to Hanlon's Razor.
  • I don't think anyone would go to much trouble to tamper with the NJ Presidential primary. There's not enough at stake to justify the risk, and the discrepancies seen involve small numbers of votes. Thus, there are only two possible conclusions.

    Either the voting machines are so unreliable that they introduce random errors, or someone is planning to tamper with the general election, and conducting a test run.

    If done well, voting machine tampering would leave no evidence at all. We were lucky that some discrep
  • HOW BLOODY HARD CAN IT BE TO MAKE A GLORIFIED ADDING MACHINE?!

    Is it really that hard to take X and add 1?!

    I swear, these guys are being deliberately incompetent.

  • Who's with me in gathering together a "coalition of the willing" among democratic nations for the purpose of bringing democracy to the U.S.?
  • by zerofoo (262795) on Tuesday April 29, 2008 @02:39PM (#23241942)
    The guys that develop our voting machines should be held to the same standards that the Nevada Gaming Commission requires for cashless wagering systems:

    http://gaming.nv.gov/documents/pdf/07jan11_techstds_kiosks_proposed.pdf [nv.gov]

    These guys have some ridiculously high standards to ensure the integrity of gaming equipment. Why can't we get similar standards for voting machines?

    -ted
    • by Snowmit (704081)
      No one wants to pay for them.
    • by AchiIIe (974900)
      Just to add to your stot machine comparison:

      > http://media3.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/graphic/2006/03/16/GR2006031600213.gif

      | Vegas slots | Electrocnic voting machines

      Software | State of Nevada has | Software is a trade secret
      | Access to all software |
    • Well, the difference is that with gaming systems there is significant money at risk if someone hacks the machines whereas with voting machines there is significant money at risk if someone cannot rig or hack an election and the 'wrong' candidate, i.e. the popular vote winner, is elected. For example what would Al Gore's global warming policy have done to the profits and tax subsidies of the energy industry Dick Cheney chums with?
  • How come a Coinstar machine can accurately sort and count at least four different coin variations, eliminating the coins that are outside of those tolerances, and a voting machine can't tabulate a simple column of votes?

    Is it just me, or does it (apart from the security aspect) seem like it should be amazingly simple to write the code for a voting machine? If it should be so simple, why oh why are there always these oddball errors that officials and voting machine companies (sorry, Diebold, company) are un
    • For President, Vice President, and Congressional votes, it really should be as simple as counting up columns. For other kinds of races, including local and county offices, you'll often have choices like "choose up to three of the following", or "vote yes or no for each of these". Some are even more-complicated than that.

      You also have to detect "invalid" vote combinations, of course - voting for two presidential candidates, for example. That's correspondingly more complicated for the less-straightforward bal
  • Do I get better or worse house odds using a one armed "voter" on election day than I do playing the slots in Atlantic City?
  • We can't blame the voting-machine companies entirely -- they aren't behaving out of character; they're doing exactly what they've been bred to do by our competitive marketplace. We live in a society in which to admit error is seen as a fatal weakness rather than a mark of strength. In the American corporate world, you only apologize when you've done something greivously wrong, and even then only under extreme duress, and without admitting fault. You never admit fault, because you never make mistakes. Fa
  • This isn't hard evidence of an "error". An "error" is by definition unintentional. When simple counting is done incorrectly by a computer, for numbers that are small enough to fit in 32 bits, it isn't an "error". The computer is just doing what it was programmed to do. I cannot imagine a programmer being so incompetent as to program an increment instruction incorrectly. That cannot possibly be an "error." It has to be intentional.

    The evidence reported by this article is clear, unambiguous, damning

  • .. to have trade secret protection on a voting machine. In fact, any protection that prevents the public understanding exactly how the machine works ought to entirely undermine confidence in the system to such an extent that systems whose design and software is not in the public domain should be banned from use.
  • The winner of a major election will receive large amounts of money and power. Not just the salary for the position; there's a whole gravy train of "perks" that come along with the job. There may be a very few candidates that are actually only interested in making a positive change in our society - but those folks are very, very rare. Politics attracts greed; that's the way it's always been.

    So what would these candidates do to secure a place in this lucrative game? Accuse and defame their opponents? Check.

  • When are we going to give up on these stupid over priced, badly performing, and impossible to trust machines.

    I mean come on, some people have suggested (NAACP) that they even reduce voter intimidation. That is in itself proof that these machines are not to be trusted. There is only one reason any political party that has in the past engaged in voter intimidation would stop - because they no longer need to because another avenue to cheat has opened up.

    That and a dozen other reasons - we should just give up,
  • While there is a whole chorus of people saying "how hard can it be?" Being a very experienced software engineer, I can see some basic issues that need to be handled, but come on now.

    It can't add. Think about that. It can't add. I'm not even talking about 876876 + 98895. I'm talking about N=N+1. I suspect that it is a reliance on Microsoft Access or Foxpro database engines by a software engineer with little real database experience.

    The problem is so easy to solve correctly and cheaply, that I can't see it b
  • For those of you who keep asking why it's so hard to do this, I want you to do a quick little exercise for me. Close your eyes and think about the last time your Mom or your Grandma asked you for "just a little bit" of help with her computer. Got it? Now realize that these are the same people who are going to have to operate and maintain these machines throughout the voting day.

    Hopefully that helped clear it up a bit.

MATH AND ALCOHOL DON'T MIX! Please, don't drink and derive. Mathematicians Against Drunk Deriving

Working...