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Security United States Hardware

Voting Machines Vs. Slot Machines 299

dmh20002 writes "Being a Nevada resident and knowing people who write code for slot machines, I was aware of the stringent measures the state of Nevada uses to vet the security of slot machines. The Nevada Gaming Control Board audits everything about them, both physical and soft, for unintentional and intentional security holes. Hearing the hoopla on voting machines, the contrast was obvious. Slot machines are about money, which is more important than votes, apparently. Now the state of Nevada is looking at electronic voting machines and plan to apply some of the same safeguards. Just applying the Nevada technical standards for gaming machines and vendors to voting machines would be a start, since there don't seem to be any standards for voting machines. A funny/sad sideline is that in Nevada, every year or two a programmer or engineer goes to jail for exploiting slot machines."
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Voting Machines Vs. Slot Machines

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  • by Transient0 ( 175617 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @12:51PM (#7629602) Homepage
    We can just put slot machines in voting booths and rather than running on a "Republican" or "Democrat" ticket, candidates can run as "Cherry," "Gold Bar," etc.

    Hey, you might even get to vote for three different candidates, or WIN a triple vote.
  • by elfuq ( 89094 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @12:52PM (#7629610) Homepage
    Now that was a fun contract. However, yeah, the security restrictions were remarkable.
  • Heh... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @12:53PM (#7629623) Homepage Journal
    Ever heard of 'the magic wand'? Or the 'coin whip'? The minute a slot machine with 'new security measures' is released, there are people that break it the very next minute. The way they keep things going? Good surveilence and good guards.

    Good luck putting cameras in every voting booth. People won't mind, right??
    • Apparently Google hasn't heard of these devices... Can you post some links?
      • Re:Heh... (Score:3, Informative)

        by FortKnox ( 169099 )
        Look for articles on Tommy Carmichael.
        Here's a quick bio []. From that link:
        he devised a device that would shine a light down into the slot machine, tripping a switch that would empty the buckets that held the coins
        That's Carmichael's "Light Wand" trick.

        Ack! I just figured out why you couldn't find it. Its a "Light Wand" not "Magic Wand" (my bad). Google has lotsa results (ie usa today article on Carmichael [].)
    • Re:Heh... (Score:5, Funny)

      by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:07PM (#7629793)
      "Ever heard of 'the magic wand'? Or the 'coin whip'?"

      No, but I'll check the sex shop next time I'm in the area, they sound fun.

    • Re:Heh... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TheCarp ( 96830 ) * < minus pi> on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:08PM (#7629806) Homepage
      And hence... diebold.

      If someone has enough interest they will break it. I supose thats really the morla of the story. And if you do come up with a way to make the voting booth secure... well then they will just run candidates in the two most major parties that are each kind of non-offensive in their own ways but when you boiul them down are basically exactly the same....

      Oh wait... they have been doing that for years.

      Anyone else tired of haviong to choose between the idiot sons of the rich?

      • Re:Heh... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by iocat ( 572367 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:29PM (#7630047) Homepage Journal
        Check out the economic theory called The Hotelling Effect -- if there are only two options, each will become more similar to the other in order to grab the people who are in the middle ground.

        A good example is a beach, X units long, with two snack carts on it. Assume one is at .25X and one is at .75X -- they each have access to .5X and will get half the consumers on the beach who want snacks (assuming people walk to the nearst carts, prices, selection and service are the same, etc.). Now say the first guy moves to .33X. He still gets everyone from 0 - .33X coming to him, but now gets half the people from .33X - .75X, stealing business from guy 2, who promptly moves to .66X to make up for it. Eventually they end up at .49X and .51X (or both at .50X if you want), glaring at each other, each still getting 50% of the business, any intermediate gains lost.

        And of course, the people at the ends of the beach get screwed. Now think of the snack shops as Republicans and Democrats. There ya go.

        • Re:Heh... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by shreak ( 248275 )
          And then they have to compete on price alone, not convenience. If they collude, they can agree on regions to cover and keep the prices inflated (artificially).

          Now substitue the above with Republican and Democrat...

    • Re:Heh... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by johnjay ( 230559 )
      After reading your replies to other posters, it doesn't seem like the 'coin whip' or the 'light wand' would apply to voting machines. Regardless, those sound like exploits of the hardware and mechanics. There may be similar vulnurabilities with current (non-computerized) voting machines. I don't think this invalidates dmh20002's point that voting machines should at least be subject to the same scrutiny and review as slot machines.
  • A "DUH!" moment (Score:5, Insightful)

    by grasshoppa ( 657393 ) * <skennedy&tpno-co,org> on Thursday December 04, 2003 @12:53PM (#7629626) Homepage
    This is, what I call, a "DUH!" moment.

    We should have thought of this a LONG time ago.

    What is possibly even more disturbing is the fact that our paid officials, you know, the ones that are supposed to be looking out for our best interests, didn't think of this either. Or, and this is something that must be considered, they did and didn't do anything about it.

    Book quote that I think applies here: "If god had wanted me to vote, he would have given me candidates"
    • Re:A "DUH!" moment (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Smallpond ( 221300 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:16PM (#7629913) Homepage Journal

      Nevada can afford to spend the money needed to check the software because they get a ton of money from the casinos in taxes. How much money does your state spend on elections?

      But anyway, think what the voter turnout would be if random voters occasionally won a cash jackpot. I'm guessing over 100%.

      • Re:A "DUH!" moment (Score:3, Insightful)

        by TheLink ( 130905 )
        How much is the US spending on choosing the Iraqi government?

        Funny eh? And still the US picks crappy systems from Diebold.

        Despite all the brilliant crypto and security people with decent proposals, the US picks voting machines that can actually produce results of negative votes or far more than the number of total voters. Which is far worse than paper ballots. Or even just a show of hands (or just saying Aye/Nay).

        Pity that unlike 3rd world countries, getting UN observers to observe the US elections won't
        • Re:A "DUH!" moment (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Zeinfeld ( 263942 )
          Pity that unlike 3rd world countries, getting UN observers to observe the US elections won't even help coz the machines don't have audit trails, by design.

          Counting the votes is not the biggest fix in the system, choosing who gets a vote is. Back in the 1950s the southern seggregationist states had 'litteracy tests' which in practice were tests of skin color. A white guy no matter how illiterate always passed, A black guy could be a school teacher and would still be failled.

          In Florida the fix was in long

    • Many of the great politicians in history made it big by rigging elections. Lyndon Johnson and FDR are two recent examples that come to mind.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 04, 2003 @12:54PM (#7629634)
    Isn't it one of the Nevada rules that convicted criminals can't have anything to do with the gambling industry?

    Which would remove nearly half the politicians & lobbyists :)
  • Audit trail (Score:5, Insightful)

    by So Called Expert ( 670571 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @12:54PM (#7629638)
    When I'm in Vegas, I want to know the odds aren't cheated by the house. I have to trust that some government oversight ensures that the slots haven't been rigged to make me lose more than the odds claim I should.

    Similarly, I should know that some standards and enforcement is in place when I vote. Otherwise, I'm putting my trust in someone I don't know and who has interests that are probably different than mine.

    Voting should not be about trust, it should be about results. Any third party should be able to verify results, regardless of their interest.

    • Re:Audit trail (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:02PM (#7629730)
      And think about this. Every time you interact with the government, they want to see your ID, from a routine traffic stop, to buying a fishing license. The only time they don't ask is when I go vote in Maryland. What's up with that? They just ask for the name of whatever dead person your are pretending to be.
      • Re:Audit trail (Score:3, Interesting)

        by extra88 ( 1003 )
        In New York your polling place has a book with a copy of your signature from when you registered to vote. When you vote you sign your name next to the signature copy (they cover it while you're signing). You'd have to have a copy of the dead guy's signature and be able to replicate it, assuming the poll volunteers are diligent.
    • Re:Audit trail (Score:5, Interesting)

      by segment ( 695309 ) <sil@ p o l i t r> on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:28PM (#7630035) Homepage Journal
      Actually there are a shitload of rules in place to ensure the odds are high but the casino doesn't cheat you. Its pretty much regulated. As for the voting machines, they too have methods of making things secure, and a lot of research is done on the subject e.g:

      A public key cryptosystem and a signature scheme based on di.. (context) - ElGamal - 1985
      Receipt-free secret-ballot elections (context) - Benaloh, Tuinstra - 1994
      A practical secret voting scheme for large scale election (context) - Fujioka, Okamoto et al. - 1992
      Multi-authority secret ballot elections with linear work - Cramer, Franklin et al. - 1996
      Verifiable secret-ballot elections (context) - Benaloh - 1987
      Universally verifiable mix-net with verification work indepe.. (context) - Abe - 1998
      Designated verifier proofs and their applications - Jakobsson, Sako et al. - 1996
      Elections with unconditionally- secret ballots and disruptio.. (context) - Chaum - 1988
      How to prevent buying of votes in computer elections (context) - Niemi, Rendall - 1994
      Public-key cryptosystems based on discrete logarithms residu.. (context) - Paillier - 1999
      Some remarks on a receipt-free and universally verifiable mi.. - Michels, Horster - 1996
      Receipt-free electronic voting schemes for large scale elect.. - Okamoto - 1997
      A secure an optimally efficient multi-authority election sch.. (context) - Cramer, Gennaro et al. - 1997
      Receipt-freeness in largescale elections without untappable .. - Magkos, Burmester et al. - 2001
      An Improvement on a practical secret voting scheme (context) - Ohkubo, Miura et al. - 1999
    • Re:Audit trail (Score:5, Insightful)

      by laird ( 2705 ) <> on Thursday December 04, 2003 @02:09PM (#7630530) Journal
      "Voting should not be about trust, it should be about results. Any third party should be able to verify results, regardless of their interest."

      In a voting system you don't need to trust the participants, you need to trust the process. That's why when you count ballots you have representatives of both parties present so that they can all witness what's going on rather than having to trust a ballot counter. So each ballot counter may have an agenda, but the process prevents abuse by any one participant, so that you can still trust the outcome.
  • no matter how valuable your point, and believe me, the parallel you have drawn is striking and insightful, i just can't help myself:

    you've permanently fixed in my mind an image of going into the voting booth, pulling the big lever, and seeing three bars with the faces of gw bush, howard dean, al sharpton, etc. spinning before my eyes
    • offtopic (Score:2, Funny)

      C:\>tracert life.liberty.pursuit-of-happiness

      Unable to resolve life.liberty.pursuit-of-happiness

      No wonder with Larry, Moe, and Currly running for office next year...
  • by dwm ( 151474 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @12:56PM (#7629667)
    You know, this is a really neat example of the kind of thing folks who develop new products should look for -- useful precedents and knowledge from a seemingly tangential field.

    Of course, the item about slot machine fraud shows that -- no matter how stringent your precautions are -- if the stakes are high enough, people will try to defraud your system. Some will succeed.

    The important thing to keep in mind is that this is just as true for our current voting technologies as it will be for electronic voting.
  • by Pavan_Gupta ( 624567 ) <`pg8p' `at' `'> on Thursday December 04, 2003 @12:57PM (#7629671)
    Honestly, I felt pretty bad after reading about that computer programmer who had two daughters and stole $50,000 dollars. Yes, it seems crazy, but the guy admitted to everything and he had never been convicted of anything, and then all of a sudden he's in jail for at least 28 months. Poor guy, and his daughters -- I'm sure they were quite shocked.

    Sometimes, I think justice in the US may be too harsh. It's a bit out of place when you repent, and obviously don't have a record to show you'll continue with crime, but are still left to rot in a prison where raw grunts rape people. Oh well.

    Well, at least he made the casino industry quite rich. They must've been happy.

  • Hmm... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Steve 'Rim' Jobs ( 728708 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @12:58PM (#7629681) Journal
    Gambling... The voting system in the US...

    They have a lot in common.
  • by MonkeyCookie ( 657433 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @12:58PM (#7629686)

    A funny/sad sideline is that in Nevada, every year or two a programmer or engineer goes to jail for exploiting slot machines

    Engineers tend not to be highly political, but they certainly are greedy. I think the likelyhood of engineers trying to exploit voting machines is a lot lower than engineers trying to exploit what are essentially money-dispensing machines.

    It is true that engineers can be used as tools by those who are more interested in rigging elections, but that's also true with slot-machines. The engineer greed factor is still missing.

    • If engineers can't figure out how to make money from rigging elections, the world is in a lot of trouble.
    • How about bribes? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by enosys ( 705759 )
      How about bribes? That certainly involves the greed factor!
    • The engineer greed factor is still missing.

      Slip 10% of the votes to X party or X candidate and I'll ensure that you get a multi-million dollar contract to do whatever the hell you want to.

      How's that for greed incentive?

      Now, it takes someone with even less ethics to take advantage of that than to beat a slot machine. It's pretty damn obvious that people are going to be affected by screwing with the voting system, while with a slot machine you can rationalize it to only affect some big gambling conglomera
  • by Passacaglia ( 3824 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @12:59PM (#7629690)
    How about state lottery systems and machines? Almost nationwide, these outfits are audited & controlled to a degree which shows where our real priorities are.
    • I always questioned the legitimacy of state lotteries. How can it be that jackpots rollover to such huge amounts with the amount of people playing? In Florida, when i was young, i remember atleast one "rich" person who bought a ticket for every possible combination, just so he could say he won. Nowadays it seems most people have the machines automatically pick numbers. How do we know that these machines have equal odds at selecting every sequence? I doubt they do, which leads to these balloned jackpots of 6
  • by The_Rippa ( 181699 ) * on Thursday December 04, 2003 @12:59PM (#7629693)
    Let's just hope that gambling addicts don't sit at the booths pulling the lever for 24 hours straight...Bush could win again!
    • I know this is a joke and all, but as someone who is a gambles on sports online and would like to continue doing so, I can assure you that gamblers would rather have someone in the white house who doens't have a christian right stick up his ass about issues of vice.

      Barney Frank is the only elected official I've found who talks reasonably about the future of gambling. (Namely, let people do what the hell they want with thier own money) (Funny, you'd think that should be a Republican stance... but it isn't.)
  • by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @12:59PM (#7629698)
    A funny/sad sideline is that in Nevada, every year or two a programmer or engineer goes to jail for exploiting slot machines."

    While it's worth noting because it shows the potential to cheat even in a closely watched industry (which the voting machine racket clearly isn't), one should note that programmer or engineer (who) goes to jail for exploiting slot machines is trying to cheat the casino. When the casino uses the software to cheat the player ist's a completely different issue.

  • by the_mad_poster ( 640772 ) <> on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:00PM (#7629704) Homepage Journal

    From the article:

    That study also found the system had a "high risk of compromise."

    The state [Maryland] decided to buy the system anyway and Diebold is working on fixes for the security problems identified in that report.

    Yea! Way to go Maryland! You know, if I went to buy a new car, and the windshield was broken, the locks didn't work, the engine was hanging by two mounts, and it stalled every 100 miles, I don't think I'd say "oh what the heck" and buy it just because it looked real snazzy and drive it around while the company worked on the problems after the fact.

    How idiotically negligent do you have to be to look at a MACHINE THAT WILL HELP IN THE PROCESS OF DECIDING OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT POSITIONS and say "well, it's broken, but we'll buy it anyway"!? People like this need to be jailed immediately. That's absolutely innexcusable.

    • by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:11PM (#7629840)
      People like this need to be jailed immediately. That's absolutely innexcusable.

      True, but instead people like that have come up with a system where they use our money to buy machines that they can rig and stay in office with. You do understand there's a reason why they knowingly buy defective voting machines, don't you?

      • You do understand there's a reason why they knowingly buy defective voting machines, don't you?

        Yea, they're gubment officials and, therefore, totally incapable of making an intelligent purchase decision, no matter how obvious the decision is.

        I guess it's easier to just throw away the taxpayers' money and claim another completed project and this snazzy new upgrade. Most of the voters will say "hey - a computer! Yay!" and think (because they're, technologically speaking, complete slobbering morons) that

  • by spidergoat2 ( 715962 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:01PM (#7629711) Journal
    Then, we'd only be paying off one set of crooks.
  • by Mrs. Grundy ( 680212 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:02PM (#7629722) Homepage
    Consider this:Silicon Crackers Tackle Casinos [] or Revenge On the One-Armed Bandit [] The fact is, in nevada there is a cottage criminal industry which revolves around ripping off slot machines. These are just individuals. Imagine if they were an organization with the resources of a modern political party trying to game the system. Now imagine if the people making the slot machines were contributing to and had a vested interest in that organization.
  • "Slot machines are about money, which is more important than votes, apparently"

    Votes are money. They cost lots of money to get, and they generate lots of money for the winner; therefore, they are just as important of the slot machine.

    The real difference is, people put more hope in getting something from a slot machine than they do a vote.

  • Now the state of Nevada is looking at electronic voting machines Isn't Nevada second to Florida for retirees? I get it now, confuse the elderly people they won't understand a word, get their votes, and another (p)residential term is won.

    Well I too will exploit this with the introduction of the Ronald Reagan Super Simon [] now taking orders at the price of... I forgot.

  • Building Security (Score:5, Informative)

    by ChicoLance ( 318143 ) * <> on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:08PM (#7629813)
    I work as a programmer in the gaming industry, and there is a lot of security in place, but it all makes since. Before I can work, I need to get a state "gaming card" which says that I've had my background check, and I'm generally not a menice to society. The machines have security in place to know if something is wrong (eprom signatures, various locks). Everything we develop also goes through two or three other independent verification agencies make sure it's all legit.

    We're proud of making a secure device (at least as secure as we can make it), and it's in ours and our customer's interest to do so. Most of the security built in isn't necessarily hard to do, but it does take planning, foresight, and desire to integrate it all with the final product.

    I hope that a voting machine company can say the same.
  • by handy_vandal ( 606174 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:10PM (#7629835) Homepage Journal
    The poster notes:

    The Nevada Gaming Control Board audits everything about them, both physical and soft, for unintentional and intentional security holes.

    And further:

    A funny/sad sideline is that in Nevada, every year or two a programmer or engineer goes to jail for exploiting slot machines."

    The sideline article [] notes that convicted slot-hacker Ron Harris was a gaming board official for several years, and that he provided "more than nine hours of videotaped statements concerning questionable activities in the control board and the gaming industry."

    Maybe Harris is covering his tracks by spreading dirt. Then again, maybe the Gaming Control Board is dirty. In any case, comparing voting with gambling makes me fear for my country.


    • In any case, comparing voting with gambling makes me fear for my country.

      The comparing disturbs me less than the fact that gambling comes out looking better.

      -- this is not a .sig
    • by elton ( 5651 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @03:34PM (#7631602) Homepage
      maybe the Gaming Control Board is dirty

      The Ron Harris case was not one of the board being dirty, it was of an individual being dirty. The other side of the coin is that there were few checks for Ron and he had a lot of trust. Shortly after this happened, Sandia National Labs came in and audited the Gamining Control Board for free. Turns out they were interested in the gaming industry since they are the only other place where EPROM use is so critical and they had interest in finding out how the board handled it.

      At any rate, Sandia produced a huge report that showed the Board's short comings including being understaffed in the Electronic Services Division. The Board took the report to the legislature and got a budget approved that allowed them to hire more engineers to work in the lab. They also implemented all of the procedural changes that Sandia recommended. So this actually improved the proceedures of the board. Similar to a new exploit found in the kernel, right.

      I got a job there shortly after the approval of hiring more engineers. The people that work for the Nevada Gaming Control Board are all honest, hard-working people. I don't work there any more, but I keep in touch with some of them. The consensus of those that knew Ron was that he had worked hard to build cases against slot cheats only to have their wrists slapped. He knew he could do a better job of it than they did. The only problem of course was that he abused the trust of the people because of the position he held. The judge made an example out of him. And rightly so, I think.

  • by RexDevious ( 321791 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:11PM (#7629854) Homepage Journal
    This is a solution from, and it's both clever and simple. Absentee ballots ARE a paper trail. So if you're worried that voting machines aren't going to count your vote, and won't leave a paper trail which would let election officials catch them at it, vote via absentee ballot and leave your OWN paper trail.
    • I'm more worried that election officials will throw out my absentee ballot when it is challenged (not to mention, if I'm around my polling place on the day of the election, I CANNOT vote with an absentee ballot.

      See t ion1115p1.asp [] for an example. While there may have been a legal basis for throwing out these votes, I've seen it happen for less savory reasons.
    • What's to stop the State from taking your received paper ballot, and paying some data entry grunt $5/hour to re-enter your paper ballot as an electronic vote? If the rest of the system is electronic, election officials won't want to have a dual system in place. Perhaps absentee ballots in these new electronic systems will switch to some sort of secure website, telephone voting, etc to even cut out the data entry.

      Either way, once part of the system is electronic, the whole process can be questioned.
  • by gallen1234 ( 565989 ) <{gallen} {at} {}> on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:11PM (#7629859)
    I think the big difference is timing. If the state finds a problem with a type of slot machine then it doesn't go into service. The only person hurt is the machine's developer. If, on the other hand, there's a problem with a type of voting machine then what do you do? You can't just put off an election. The timing of those is usually mandated by law.
    • "If, on the other hand, there's a problem with a type of voting machine then what do you do?"

      Have a proper election? You know, with votes, and people counting them...
    • If, on the other hand, there's a problem with a type of voting machine then what do you do? You can't just put off an election. The timing of those is usually mandated by law.

      This is to me the scary side of the recent voting shennanigans.

      First, implement flawed voting scheme, but do it slowly so as to keep it under the radar. Once enough people accept it, use it for the next BIG election. A short while later (ie: while still in office), notify the public that the vote didn't work, and the system is broke
  • Sign the petition! (Score:4, Informative)

    by Eraserhd ( 21298 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:12PM (#7629869) Homepage

    Sign the online petition [] to support HR 2239 [].

    A voter-verified paper trail is the only way to verify that the system is working. Under this system, the machine would produce a paper ballot, which the voter checks then deposits into a locked box. The paper receipts are counted in the event of a recount (unlike our current requirements, where totals from an end-of-night printout can be used, assuming the machines total the votes accurately). The bill also requires a recount in 0.5% of districts chosen at random to verify that the machines are totalling accurately.

    • by Carnildo ( 712617 )
      Bugger the electronic petition, and send a paper letter. That way, there is a verifiable paper trail of your request, and you know your representative (or at least his office) got it.
    • by Kludge ( 13653 )
      Here's something I was just wondering when I took cash out: Why can Diebold manufacture reliable cash machines that create a verifiable paper trails, but can't make voting machines to do the same? The machine gives me a receipt, and even when I ask it not to give me one, I can hear it printing something inside, related to the transaction.
  • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:14PM (#7629892)
    The Nevada Gaming Control Board audits everything about them, both physical and soft, for unintentional and intentional security holes.

    Slot machine integrity is not verified solely by government oversight. Individual members of the community also make an invaluable contribution. People like William Bennett, who selflessly use their own funds to check, recheck and check yet again the accuracy of these machines' odds. Here is someone who has a real passion for testing these machines, who has the guts to trust his own resources to the integrity of the system, who is willing to invest the time it takes to make huge random samples, and who has the clout to make sure that any irregularities would be duly addressed.

    Without people like this who provide major resources to help the gaming industry and the Nevada economy in general, we would all be worse off. The next time you walk down the Las Vegas strip enjoying the stunning display of neon lights, take a moment to think about the dedicated people that provide the funds to pay for them, and be thankful.

  • by Minna Kirai ( 624281 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:15PM (#7629895)
    If you look at things statistically, a little money is much more valuable to an individual than his one vote.

    Consider first the probability that one vote will actually change the outcome of an election: it's nearly impossible. Odds of 1/10e7 are typical. Mathmatically, a vote is just as bad an investment as a lottery ticket. (Which are, as they say, a "Tax on people who can't do math")

    Then consider the real difference choosing a different president or governor will make to your life: not much, really. The two dominant political parties have grown very similar to each other. They'll rarely try to make a significant change (and most changes they attempt will be cancelled out by the other party in the next election). So not only is a vote unlikely to pay off, but that payoff isn't likely to change very much.

    Thus, looking at all the possibilities, a rationally self-interested person will not waste his time voting. The hour+ it takes out of your day is actually much more valuable than the tiny chance that the vote you cast actually has a benefit to your life.

    This is why explicit selling of votes was criminalized: because if it were legal, the free-market would reveal how cheap each vote really is!

    PS. Having computed that voting is a waste of time, why do people still vote? Altruism. They vote not only for themselves, but also to share their wisdom with the rest of the country. And for more selfish reasons- like the feeling of success when your guy wins.

    PPS. Several mathmaticians have created alternative voting schemes (different from simple majority) which boost the chance that any single vote will change the outcome of an election. But the public, so far, has rarely been interested.
    • by Capt_Troy ( 60831 ) <tfandango AT yahoo DOT com> on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:35PM (#7630119) Homepage Journal
      Less than half the people in the US utilize their right to vote (38% voted in our last local election). Maybe they all think their votes are insignificant, maybe they did the math like you did? But the thing is, those people could change the course of any election in this country if they decided to vote.

      It's not about a single vote, but about the millions of potential votes that don't get cast.

      But you're right, this is a "pie in the sky" perspective. From an individual point of view, one or two votes does not make a difference in any election. But what about millions of millions of people ignoring their rights as Americans to vote? Imagine what history would be like if those people voted? I bet, historically, the world would be a different place all together.

      • But the thing is, those people could change the course of any election in this country if they decided to vote.

        [Freakin' Preview]

        Only if they all voted the same way. If 40% of the people who voted, voted for one candidate, then chances are, 40% of the people who didn't vote also would have voted for that candidate. What I'm trying to say is, if you could get all those non-voters to vote, their votes would likely be split almost identically to the proportions of those who already vote. The end result w
        • Ahh, if only math were so easy!

          You have no proof that what you claim is true. How do you know that the non-voters today would be split 50/50 on all issues? That depends on many factors, not the least of which is the economic and financial conditions of most non-voters.

          I would guess (and this is a guess so it's not worth much more than your blind conjecture) that many non-voters are low income to poor. Thus they might be more inclined to vote for democrats. If this were the case, not that many votes wo
    • I know all sorts of bizarre people, from hardcore geeks who sit and play Starcraft all day (for the last 5 years) to religous fanatics and people who are just plain dumb.

      I don't want their single votes to made a difference. And nobody wants runoff or "curved" elections.

      I've voted in a number of local elections where 10 votes made a huge difference.
    • Consider first the probability that one vote will actually change the outcome of an election: it's nearly impossible.

      Consider second: the most powerful political position in the world was decided by a margin [] that is substantially smaller than the number of /. lurkers currently nodding and saying "Yeah, Voting SUXX0RS".

      A single vote isn't much, but a handful of moderately motivated people rounding up their non-voting friends could have changed history.

  • vice versa (Score:5, Funny)

    by Boing ( 111813 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:15PM (#7629903)
    So government oversight of casino machines is a good thing. Obviously, the solution to our diebold problems is casino oversight of our voting system. You know, ilke some 80-year-old lady can't read the text, so she's escorted to the back room to get some "assistance" by a guy named Tiny... and George Clooney will organize a team of eleven or twelve guys to steal 150,000,000 votes for his father's congress run. []
  • by 47F0 ( 523453 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:18PM (#7629929)

    We've already got good voting machines here - they're called Lotto machines. Any wino can walk in with a lotto ticket that he's scribbled on with a piece of road tar, and the machines do a great job of reading the ticket - plus, you get a paper printout for verification - plus, the system knows which ticket went to which store. Audit trails, hardcopy - Hmmm,

    But we don't need (or want) all that silly accountability stuff to re-elect Bush do we ...?

    Please help, I am sigless - will code for sigs.
  • by WaterDamage ( 719017 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:19PM (#7629948)
    I have the perfect solution. To be allowed to vote, enter a quarter and pull the lever, if you get three pictures of George Bushes face in a row then you loose your quarter, if you get any other presidential candidates face in a row you win $10,000 and cast a vote for that candidate at the same time. This is a perfect way to vote and pay of the giant deficit that lunar Bush has created. If your desired candidate's face does not appear 3 times in a row then keep playing. Odds of not getting George Bushes face in a row are 1 in 8,000,000. Good luck and be sure to bring lots of quarters to the next election!
  • by snatchitup ( 466222 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:21PM (#7629967) Homepage Journal
    and experience the problem/controversy. You can do a google on this controversy for more info.

    My experience went as follows. I stepped in the voting booth. It was a very nice touch screen layout.

    1/2 way through making my selections.. Up popped a message that my laptop battery was about to die, and that I'd better plug the machine in, etc. Well, I looked, and it was plugged in.

    It turned out that these were not very secure systems at all. The basic platform was Windows on a laptop running non-networked. Storing the data on each machine, to later be combined / counted.

    We're a long way from having anything better than punching a card, and eating chads. A hacker could easily do way more damage.

    In the above case.... I was at the voting place early. I was #14 in my precinct to vote.
  • by blair1q ( 305137 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:22PM (#7629980) Journal
    The voting machine scandal should be raised to the level of a public outrage. It's clear that nefarious corporate interests are foisting inadequately engineered products on the state election commisssions, in their usual, cynical, "good enough for government work" way.

    In the weeks after the 2000 Presidential election, I wrote a letter to my congresspeople recommending that the system be rendered electronically by individuals who know about safety-critical, high-availability software. Airplane code, gambling-device code, medical-device code, etc.

    This is not by any means new technology or new processes. But because the states see a great need, it has become a new scam for brainless, heartless business jerks to exploit.

    Write your state and national legislators. Get the laws changed to ensure that the design and implementation of e-democracy includes the same care that is used when re-counting paper ballots.
  • by CoderByBirth ( 585951 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:23PM (#7629988)
    ...they use a security enhancement and validation program which is remarkably unknown to a large part of the computer security community.
    It's called "The Soprano Security Management Program", and can be summed up in the following simple decision-diagram:
    1) Build a system
    2) Make money
    3) In case of a situation arises in step 2 which is proving to be detrimental to the main objective of Making Money, two things can be done :
    *) Fix bug in system. This is by experience detrimental to the Making Money objective since there will always be bugs, and so this is the wrong decision to make.
    *) Find offending individual(s). Apply excessive and lethal violence. Loop to 2.
  • So like... 999 of 1000 votes wouldn't get anything, but then one person (or say a lobbyist/special interest group) would be a lucky winner and win 700 votes (the house would keep like 300)?
    Ehh, well sounds about like what we have now... I wonder if the democrats would get any negative votes with this one.... and at least this is probably more accurate than the Diebold machines.
  • A funny/sad sideline is that in Nevada, every year or two a programmer or engineer goes to jail for exploiting slot machines.

    OTOH, every four years a president gets elected for exploiting voting machines. ;)
  • I will be your Overlord!
  • The USA is a country where either one can easily be converted into the other. So I guess they're equally important.
  • The same problems we've been discussing here with regards to electronic voting machines and slot machines and such are present in many facets of our lives.

    Think about electronic breathalizers, for example.

    At least for the State of North Carolina, all the elements of an exploit are present:

    • The code is proprietary, not well inspected, not well controlled.
    • The machine is told (through the calibration sample) just exactly what the State limit is at the time the test is performed.
    • The machine is told (through
  • by daVinci1980 ( 73174 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:44PM (#7630217) Homepage
    That guy wasn't just some programmer, he's the same guy who rigged the Keno game out in Atlantic city and got caught.

    Keno, as a refresher (and correct me if I'm wrong) is similar to the lottery, except that you have to choose eleven numbers, and in order to be a big winner, your numbers must match the ordering of the pulled numbers.

    In fact, it is so unlikely that anyone would match all 11 numbers in order that no one has done it in the history of the game. (Except this guy, who rigged the game).

    *ANY* other person who has the same amount of greed and exploits his position to gain his means deserves the same punishment.
    • Wait a minute. You're telling me that this guy had the balls to pull off a (never-before-done) win that happens *1 in 100 billion* times? And this guy *openly* worked for the government group that verified the validity of casino games?

      That isn't greed at all. It's just stupid.
  • by Tokerat ( 150341 ) on Thursday December 04, 2003 @01:46PM (#7630256) Journal

    ...they're pretty much both designed so that you lose no matter what.

Exceptions prove the rule, and wreck the budget. -- Miller