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Observer Pans Touchscreen Voting Test 278

Posted by timothy
from the oh-they're-only-votes dept.
riversidevoter writes "I recently observed the Logic and Accuracy 'test' given to the touchscreen voting machines in Riverside CA. Riverside County uses voting machines and software from Sequoia Voting Systems. The voting kiosks do not produce a voter-verified paper trail. As a computer programmer familiar with software testing, I was really disappointed at what I saw." Read on for his critical observations of the demonstration.

riversidevoter continues: "WinEDS, the program that is used to count votes, was only tested in a pre-election mode. The software was not tested in the configuration that it would be in on election day.

In addition to that, people signed a form that said that they had verified the results of the test before the test had finished running. Mischelle Townsend, the Riverside County Registrar of Voters, told Salon that the form that people signed was just an attendance form. But the form clearly states 'We the undersigned declare that we observed the process of logic and accuracy testing of voting equipment performed by the Riverside County Registrar of Voters, as required by law and that all tests performed resulted in accurate voting of all units tested, including both touchscreen and absentee systems.'

You can see a copy of the Salon article here. You can see a copy of the form that people signed here.

I also believe that the observation group that witnessed the test was given a misleading description of Sequoia's system. For example, the fact that the votes are transferred from the DRE to a SQL Server database to be counted was never fully disclosed to all the members of the group.

Also, the sheer number of times that the phrase 'proprietary operating system' was used, among other things, helped to create the impression that Sequoia's system is not as reliant on Microsoft Windows as it really is.

I have created a website about this issue; please take a look at it.

On the website you can find my report on what happened that day (which outlines several problems I haven't mentioned in this posting) as well as some supporting documents. There is a letter and a note from Mischelle Townsend in which she mentions mailing the results to people or having the test results be picked up 'afterwards'...."

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Observer Pans Touchscreen Voting Test

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  • Unfortunate. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by i_am_syco (694486) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @08:37PM (#7277343)
    If they don't do it right on the first try, e-voting won't ever take off.
    • Re:Unfortunate. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Daniel_Staal (609844) <DStaal@usa.net> on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @09:10PM (#7277570)
      No, it's more unfortunate than that. It will take off, despite not being done the right way, because it costs less/looks good/is progress. The public won't realize it wasn't done right until something happens. If we're lucky it'll be small. More likely the small problems will be swept under the rug and the first clue the general public has about the problem is when a presidential election is hacked. And there won't be a backup.
    • Re:Unfortunate. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Lost Penguin (636359) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @10:10PM (#7277943) Homepage
      What is really unfortunate is that the e-vote will result in no possible investigation of another 2000 election. I wonder which political party is in charge of the voting system. Diebold has strong Republican ties, Can anyone claim indifference?
      Maybe use the UN, Canada or Mexico to supervise the election hardware. (never happen)
      I believe this system could be another jack boot on the neck of freedom.
    • Ironically, e-voting may take off precisely BECAUSE it didn't work the first time... (miscounting votes to put e-voting friendly folks into office)
  • Oh Boy.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by H8X55 (650339) <jason.r.thomas@nOSpaM.gmail.com> on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @08:38PM (#7277349) Homepage Journal
    Just when you thought FloridaGate 2000 was out of everyone's mind, we bring you CaliforniaGate 2004: Rise of the Machines
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @08:40PM (#7277365)
    People who used the new voting system are believed to have voted for an independent operating system, dispite the fact that the test was on a faux-presidential race.

    According to this text Linux was voted into the White House. We suspect Apache will be selected as running mate, though rumors say Samba is also a consideration.

    • According to this text Linux was voted into the White House. We suspect Apache will be selected as running mate, though rumors say Samba is also a consideration.

      This is just speculation from exit polling, folks! Remember Dewey vs. Truman!

      Don't waste your vote on Linux - remember, independents never win!
  • by bstadil (7110) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @08:41PM (#7277370) Homepage
    Diebold is trying to hide [theinquirer.net]the problems behind their Voting Machines behind DMCA.

    The Good students at have decided this will not stand. [swarthmore.edu]

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @09:08PM (#7277552)
      Read the diebold memos:
      http://why-war.com/memos/s/lists/

      Search the diebold memos:
      http://why-war.com/memos/cgi-bin/search.pl

      MEMO EXCERPTS

      "Elections are not rocket science. Why is it so hard to get things right! I have never been at any other company that has been so miss [sic] managed."
      source: http://why-war.com/memos/s/lists/announce.w3archiv e/200110/msg00002.html

      "I have become increasingly concerned about the apparent lack of concern over the practice of writing contracts to provide products and services which do not exist and then attempting to build these items on an unreasonable timetable with no written plan, little to no time for testing, and minimal resources. It also seems to be an accepted practice to exaggerate our progress and functionality to our customers and ourselves then make excuses at delivery time when these products and services do not meet expectations."
      source: http://why-war.com/memos/s/lists/announce.w3archiv e/200110/msg00001.html

      "I feel that over the next year, if the current management team stays in place, the Global [Election Management System] working environment will continue to be a chaotic mess. Global management has and will be doing the best to keep their jobs at the expense of employees. Unrealistic goals will be placed on current employees, they will fail to achieve them. If Diebold wants to keep things the same for the time being, this will only compound an already dysfunctional company. Due to the lack of leadership, vision, and self-preserving nature of the current management, the future growth of this company will continue to stagnate until change comes."
      source: http://why-war.com/memos/s/lists/announce.w3archiv e/200112/msg00007.html

      "[T]he bugzilla historic data recovery process is complete. Some bugs were irrecoverably lost and they will have to be re-found and re-submitted, but overall the loss was relatively minor."
      source: http://why-war.com/memos/s/lists/support.w3archive /200207/msg00090.html

      "28 of 114 or about 1 in 4 precincts called in this AM with either memory card issues "please re-insert", units that wouldn't take ballots - even after recycling power, or units that needed to be recycled. We reburned 7 memory cards, 4 of which we didn't need to, but they were far enough away that we didn't know what we'd find when we got there (bad rover communication)."
      source: http://why-war.com/memos/s/lists/support.w3archive /200003/msg00034.html

      "If voting could really change things, it would be illegal."
      source: http://why-war.com/memos/s/lists/support.w3archive /200009/msg00109.html

      "I need some answers! Our department is being audited by the County. I have been waiting for someone to give me an explanation as to why Precinct 216 gave Al Gore a minus 16022 when it was uploaded. Will someone please explain this so that I have the information to give the auditor instead of standing here "looking dumb"."
      source: http://why-war.com/memos/s/lists/support.w3archive /200101/msg00068.html

      "[...] while reading some of Paranoid Bev's scribbling."
      source: http://why-war.com/memos/s/lists/support.w3archive /200302/msg00069.html

      "Johnson County, KS will be doing Central Count for their mail in ballots. They will also be processing these ballots in advance of the closing of polls on election day. They would like to log into the Audit Log an entry for Previewing any Election Total Reports. They need this, to prove to the media, as well as, any candidates & lawyers, that they did not view or print any Election Results before the Polls closed. ***However, if there is a way that we can disable the reporting functionality, that would be even better.***" (emphasis added)
      source: http://why-war.com/memos/s/lis
    • by mykawhite (149348)
      Diebold stories have been a constant presence on /. recently. Here's how to help:

      1) The students engaging in this civil disobedience are meeting with the Dean of their college Wednesday, October 22nd at 4pm. We need you to email *nice* and *supportive* emails to rgross1 (at) swarthmore.edu and cc them to info (at) why-war.com *before* October 22nd at 4pm EST. Please help Dean Bob Gross understand the importance of this issue!

      2) Download the entire memo archive:
      http://why-war.com/memos/s/lists.tgz

      3) Jo
      • My letter (Score:5, Insightful)

        by PotatoHead (12771) <doug&opengeek,org> on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @11:08PM (#7278260) Homepage Journal
        Greetings,

        Recently, there has been a rise in the number of stories in the press surrounding the topic of electronic voting. I live in Oregon where we have chosen to vote by mail. At first, I wondered exactly why my State chose this route because electronic voting seemed to be attractive for a number of reasons.

        After reading the various news stories and web postings present on various Internet web sites and forums, I have come to the realization electronic voting in its current incarnation is a highly suspect process.

        The majority of voting machine manufacturers today wrap the inner workings of their machines inside contracts and licenses designed to cloak their products in secrecy. These cloaks when combined with the current state of intellectual property law make it difficult for the American people to understand and discuss the nature of the machines and their potential effect on the democratic process.

        The American people need to engage this issue with all the facts at hand. The spirit of the law is not in line with the letter of the law in this case. The action of your students is commedable and worthy of your support.

        "Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything." --Stalin

        The right to vote is one of the founding principles behind our great nation. Changes to this process will have nationwide consequences on our society that we might not understand, but for the actions of a few people concerned about preserving the trust inherent to the core of the democratic process. These changes will affect each and every one of us and should not be made lightly or without due consideration of all the facts involved.

        I urge you to consider the nature and purpose of the student actions along with the potential issues at hand before rendering your decision.

        Respectfully,

        ( name )
      • 2) Download the entire memo archive

        Or get the .torrent here [emptylogic.com] and save why-war.com and swarthmore.edu from an unnecessary load. I just tried downloading the memo archive from swarthmore's server, but soon found that I was getting literally 1000 times the transfer rate from bittorrent.

    • I had some experience last night that I thought I'd share. My spouse runs elections for an unnamed government agency that uses Diebold voting equipment.
      Although they do 95% of their voting using a more reliable technology (optical scan machines and paper ballot cards), they use the Diebold touchscreen units for accessibility reasons - it supports audio-only voting for visually impaired voters using a numeric key pad for navigation, etc.

      So, here's how a Diebold engagement works for the touchscreen unit

  • Oh man... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by goon america (536413) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @08:41PM (#7277372) Homepage Journal
    People are so crippled by the more expensive == better heuristic they don't notice when the rug is being pulled out from under them. Electronic voting should be unconstitutional.
    • Re:Oh man... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @10:20PM (#7277998)
      People are so crippled by the more expensive == better heuristic they don't notice when the rug is being pulled out from under them. Electronic voting should be unconstitutional.

      Who moderated this statement as "Flamebait"? It's absolutely true and I hope you get metamodded to hell.

      Newer does not always equal better. Touch screen voting is not even a solution looking for a problem. It's a problem posing as a solution looking for a problem. It's so absurd. Advances in technology are not automatically a good idea. They should solve more problems than they create.

      Is there really a need for computerization here? People who would scoff at the idea of robotic prostitutes will blindly accept the idea of computerized voting simply because it gets computers involved in the election process. Why is this automatically considered a good thing? People see pretty colored lights and they think it means their vote is safe and secure. It doesn't. It merely implies that the votes can be tallied more quickly than before- at the cost of a greater risk of fraud. But elections are held in November. Elected officials take office in January. This gives us two months to count votes, which means we should be optimizing for accuracy, simplicity, reliability, and verifiability. Not convenience. Not speed. Computers should stay the hell away. People perceive this strange need to make elections "modern" to avoid disenfranchising voters, and it makes no sense.

      Is it such a hardship to live in a country that counts its votes slowly? What was wrong with punched cards? They actually performed very well in Florida, which was an extreme test of any electoral system- to a resolution of a few hundred votes. Most elections don't fall that close to a tie. And you certainly didn't need to worry that someone stole your vote. Touch screens are devices for disenfranchising voters. The original poster was right. Electronic voting should be unconstitutional.

      Some things do not need to be optimized for speed and efficiency above all other concerns. Sex is one of them. Elections are another.

      • Re:Oh man... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by bman08 (239376) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @11:15PM (#7278288)
        Yes, but with a media that treats elections as game of red versus blue, getting the votes counted fast is much more important than getting it done right. Americans won't wait two weeks for a basketball score, and it just doesn't seem like an election if we can't see the tearful concession speech over the final swig of beer and last congealed nacho. Instant replays just slow the game down, they gotta go. I think the best voting system would be sticking it to a robot prostitute that looks like your candidate. It's perfect because they'll be sticking it to you for the next four years.
      • Re:Oh man... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by *weasel (174362)
        another problem is the media hyping mechanical voting systems as 'inaccurate' or 'difficult to understand', suggesting that things like the butterfly ballot skew results towards educated voters. they're manufacturing a crisis.

        if computers do the job - great. but they -need- to be only used to simplify the creation of the physical ballot. just like the mechanical machines before them.

        why not just have a touchscreen computer laserprint out a scantron-style form with the selected votes (computers allowing r
      • Re:Oh man... (Score:3, Informative)

        by Idarubicin (579475)
        Is it such a hardship to live in a country that counts its votes slowly?

        Is 'No' a good answer?

        In Canada we conduct federal and provincial elections using old-fashioned paper ballots. The ballots are black, with each candidate's name block printed in white next to an open white circle (names in alphabetical order by surname). To vote, put a mark in one--and only one--circle. Easy to count, easy to use. In principle, I suppose ballots marked in such a way could be counted mechanically, too, but we don

  • by tizzyD (577098) * <tizzyd@NoSPaM.gmail.com> on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @08:41PM (#7277375) Homepage
    First, after you vote, a 2-D bar code is printed. That code contains a record of your vote, with an encryption of the machine you voted at and your selected key. Nothing big, 4 digits. The critical part is the hardware key used on the machine.

    A copy of this bar code is printed at the same time inside the system.

    If there was an audit, randomly call people to determine their key. Although you could decrypt it, it's better than just leaving the votes lying around. Then, verify the accuracy.

    Since I have a printed record at the time of the voting, I can use it to verify my votes. The local voting office could decrypt it, and then I can verify my votes.

    Thoughts on this approach are very much welcome.
    • If you don't care about cutting all links between the voter and the vote, why not just hold a public vote?
    • great ideas but you cannot ask voters who they voted for after the matter. One, it is a private vote, 2 all hell would break loose. I agree a receipt is needed in such a system of some form, but simply a receipt that says you voted. Another receipt is generated and put into a box as the paper proof of who you voted for so if it comes to that (the machines all die) they can open these locked vote boxes, similar to modern ballot boxes, and count the votes that way. Of course you would have to have someone
      • nah, the voting system produces a paper tape stream that goes directly into the box, cuting the voter out of the physical process, the code on the slip is scanned as it passes into the box and the value read FROM THE PHYSICAL SLIP is what is used to actually tally the votes.

        An immediate lockdown of the machine and backup (with CRC checksums, or something to that effect) of the untallied vote and all tallied votes should occur if there is an error reading the code. Since the feed and scan are at a fixed ra
    • Why bother being so complicated? How about a simple paper roll in each machine. When you vote who you voted for gets printed to the paper. You can read it then. You hit 'confirm', it scrolls out of sight. If there is a recount, just pull out the rolls and count the votes.

      The only way to track voters to individual votes would be to record which order the voters used it. In a normal situation that will be random, so it doesn't matter. Each voter can verify that their vote was correct, and there is a t
    • by rhysweatherley (193588) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @09:21PM (#7277632)
      The accuracy problem cannot be fixed by voter receipts, since most voters will not know how to verify them. It can only be fixed by ensuring that the votes can be re-counted using some mechanism other than the computer that first recorded them.

      Use the computer to help the voter prepare the ballot, print it out, and then have the voter hand carry it to the ballot box.

      The computer can keep a running tally, but at the end of the day if the tally does not match a hand count of the box contents, then the ballot box is the only correct representation of the will of the voters.

      It is easy to teach the average monkey to keep an eye on the ballot box for tampering, and to hand count the contents. Teaching the average monkey correct computer security skills is impossible, so that source of problems must be factored out.
      • Well, there's no such thing as a perfect system, but it sure makes sense to me that the voter should be allowed to read the ballot as the machine is going to count it, and that those ballots should be stored for verification, if needed. Just printing a receipt is not adequate--it doesn't really matter so much *WHO* voted. What matters is that ALL of the votes are properly counted. Remember Florida?

        Some of the Diebold people arguing against printing copies are mumbling about the expense of printing, but tha
    • by PetiePooo (606423) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @10:26PM (#7278046)
      If there was an audit, randomly call people to determine their key. Although you could decrypt it, it's better than just leaving the votes lying around. Then, verify the accuracy.

      I am opposed to this. Audits shouldn't involve contacting the general populace. ATMs have internal printers for similar reasons; as a permanent physical audit trail in case of power failure or such.

      Since I have a printed record at the time of the voting, I can use it to verify my votes. The local voting office could decrypt it, and then I can verify my votes.

      I oppose this as well for privacy reasons. There is one basic privacy tenant in ballot voting that would need to be upheld by any electronic voting system: plausible deniability.

      For example, if I'm being coerced or paid by someone to vote a particular way, I need to be able to tell that person that I voted the way he/she wanted even if I didn't. There CAN NOT be a way to track down who I voted for at a later time. That's not what the paper trail is for. Once a person has the ability to decisively prove to someone else which candidate they voted for, then votes can be forced or sold.

      Here is what I would suggest:

      A citizen enters the voting center, is authenticated as a registered voter by the volunteer staff, and given a vote card.

      The citizen enters a voting booth (behind a privacy screen) and activates the selection kiosk using their vote card.

      Once their candidates and referendums have been chosen, the machine prints out a 2D barcode on the vote card and returns it to them.

      The citizen exits the voting booth with his completed vote card.

      The citizen has the option to verify his barcode using a separate verification kiosk which deciphers and displays the barcode (behind a privacy screen, of course). Once satisfied, the citizen leaves the verification kiosk.

      While a staff member watches, the voter deposits his vote card into the official ballot kiosk's card reader.

      This kiosk reads the barcode, electronically sends the vote to the regional counting center, and keeps the vote card for future audits.

      This method is very similar to conventional voting methods. As far as electronic voting goes, it has several advantages. The selection and verification kiosks are not online, so would be less vulnerable to hacking. The ballot box is the only networked machine, but is under close surveillance by the staff for physical access. In case it is compromised via the network, there is a stack of 2D barcodes underneath or inside it that can be used to audit the results. As the article mentions, audits SHOULD be performed periodically, even on results that aren't suspicious, just to verify that the count is accurate and no tampering has occurred.

      The vote cards can be cheap paper mag-stripe cards with signed serial numbers that are overwritten when the barcode is printed. This gives the selection kiosk the ability to reject previously used, non-activated (unsigned), or duplicated cards. If there are no privacy issues (I'd have to think about this more), the card's serial number could become part of the 2D barcode as well. The card reader/writer and printer are all OTC products, which would help keep costs down. The selection and verification kiosks could use commodity PCs with no I/O except a touchscreen and the card unit. In fact, the verification kiosk doesn't need any input other than an eject button.

      While such a system would fix usability issues and paper audit trails, it doesn't touch on the issue of voter registration fraud and such. That's a whole 'nother ball of wax.

      • The citizen has the option to verify his barcode using a separate verification kiosk which deciphers and displays the barcode (behind a privacy screen, of course). Once satisfied, the citizen leaves the verification kiosk.

        If you can't trust the main voting system, what makes you think you can trust the verifying system? Surely they could lie in concert?

        Votes have to be human readable first, and computer readable second.

    • This was the first thing that came to my mind as well, but perhaps a much more secure method would be to have recipts, basically pre-printed with candidates names, much like the punch-card methods used now, and have the machine punch the hole of the person you've voted for.

      After all, even CD copy protection can be defeated with a Sharpie, and a bar code leaves a possibility for similar tampering. Inagine if the codes are designed so that the addition of one small line It is much, much harder, however, to r
  • by darkonc (47285) <stephen_samuel.bcgreen@com> on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @08:42PM (#7277380) Homepage Journal
    Let's just hold a vote to decide this issue and get it over with!

    I'll supply the hardware.

  • by Clinoti (696723) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @08:43PM (#7277395)
    I'm not a doomsayer or a OMG the world is ending yokel. But with more and more stories surfacing about the lacking credibility and accuracy of the 'new' school of voting....one can only come to see the outrage when people start to connect the idea (perhaps even falsely) that their votes are easily manipulated, miscounted, or simple footnotes catered to the wanted result.

    This line: In addition to that, people signed a form that said that they had verified the results of the test before the test had finished running.

    Scares the hell out of me.

    • "But with more and more stories surfacing about the lacking credibility and accuracy of the 'new' school of voting....one can only come to see the outrage when people start to connect the idea (perhaps even falsely) that their votes are easily manipulated, miscounted, or simple footnotes catered to the wanted result."

      Wouldn't this imply that they had to vote in order to care about their votes being manipulated? I hope the electronic voting system gets to the point where you can do it remotely. I'm not su

    • "This line: In addition to that, people signed a form that said that they had verified the results of the test before the test had finished running. Scares the hell out of me."

      Depending on the legal implications of falsifying that record, it might ought to be scaring some pretty big fish. It depends on how official that document is, and what sort of rules that state has to govern such things.

      Let's hope it's some ridiculously harsh prison sentence for the highest authority who knew or should have known th
  • Way cool.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by SoSueMe (263478) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @08:45PM (#7277405)
    I wish I could get user acceptance sign-off before I started testing.
  • by horster (516139) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @08:45PM (#7277408)
    Pleas join an existing, legitimate effort at http://verifiedvoting.org -

    This site, rather than coninually dispairing at the fact that there are problems with electronic voting, has concrete steps that average citizens can take to make change.
  • let's just have a vote to decide whether to adopt these machines or not.
  • by treat (84622) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @08:50PM (#7277448)
    This electronic voting is the most serious threat to America that we have seen in our lifetimes. Most here realize that no computer voting system can be secure without serious efforts that are not even being hinted at here. Compromising the secrecy of the vote offers many ways to secure these sysetms. A more reasonable compromise would be a voter-verified paper ballot that is re-inserted into the machine.

    Since the most basic steps to provide security are not provided here, it is clear that the intention is to make a system that has completely compromised the validity of US elections. For some reason the mainstream media has not taken note of how serious an issue this is. The people involved in the current electronic voting plans can not be trusted AT ALL. They either want to subvert the voting process themselves, or want to create a system that is easy to subvert at a vastly lower cost than current systems.

    What can be done to raise awareness of this issue? How can people be convinved that we need elections that are not trivial to subvert? Is the American public so apathetic as to make this an impossible task? Are we completely doomed?
    • This electronic voting is the most serious threat to America that we have seen in our lifetimes. This electronic voting is the most serious threat to America that we have seen in our lifetimes. They either want to subvert the voting process themselves, or want to create a system that is easy to subvert at a vastly lower cost than current systems. I have just one question: Was there a shooter on the grassy knoll??? You conspiracy theorists make me sick. If you feel the system is insecure (and it is), th
      • I see. On the other hand, the parent has a lot of company in election-subversion conspiracy-land. George Bush, Jr. has been accused (repeatedly) of doing exactly that to win the Presidency. Granted, if true it was done via legal means, not technological, and I'm not prepared to make a case either way. But that's irrelevant: the fact that such a mindset may exist at the highest levels of government is reason enough not to trust electronic voting as currently implemented. The general trend towards centra
    • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @10:10PM (#7277947)
      The beauty of electronic voting (to a subversive type) is that computers aren't machines to most people: they're magic. And magic isn't meant to be understood by anyone but the magician.

      Okay, I don't mean that literally, but there is a world of difference between knowing that something is a machine and having any idea of how it works and how it interacts with other machines, and how that interaction may affect you, personally. How many individuals do you know that are perhaps computer literate to a degree, but depend entirely upon someone else to handle the inner workings of their systems? They have no choice but to accept the word of their local computer expert. Unfortunately, when that "expert" is on TV singing praises for the latest, greatest electronic voting system people will be inclined to accept what he says.

      You and I and the majority of Slashdot readership may understand the fundamentals of computer and network security, but the vast majority of Americans do not. This doesn't make them stupid, it just means that they aren't computer experts. There is simply no reason that citizens should be required to be expert in such an arcane field of knowledge just to be confident that they are casting their votes the way they think they are. It is an affront to ask Americans to risk giving up one of their most cherished rights in exchange for speedier election returns. I mean ... what's the rush? If voting is worth doing at all, it is worth doing right.

      My feeling is that with something this vital to our future, we should simply stick to basics, to something that Joe Citizen does understand and accept. After all, this isn't a nation of technojocks, it is a nation of all kinds of people, people that have a right to cast their vote and have it be counted (properly!) A paper ballot may be low-tech, but it does the job perfectly well, and is a damn sight harder to subvert than any electronic voting system will ever be.

      The voter should cast a human-readable paper ballot as he has done for over two hundred years. It works, its been time-tested, and I've not yet heard a government official give a definitive answer as to why we need to change. If it is proven desirable to have an "electronic voting system" involved in the proceedings, the system should scan the vote already officially cast (and recorded!) on the paper ballot. In other words, the computer should simply be a tabulator, not the official legal repository of our votes. They can keep their touch-screens.

    • "This electronic voting is the most serious threat to America that we have seen in our lifetimes."

      I thought about this, and then I realized that there are just a few probable outcomes:

      One of the parties that is in power already, rigs the election to slide to their party. We get a Republican or a Democrat. Or else we get the status quo on a tax issue or bond measure, or else we get the measure to pass.

      That's one scenario, the one where someone in power is the one rigging the election.

      Another scenario i
  • issue alive.

    Looks like someone else has joined the fight
    Why-War? [why-war.com]
  • by matchlight (609707) * on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @08:53PM (#7277467)
    Seriously, what OS isn't known to hackers/crackers? Fact is, the more obscure the OS the more interesting it becomes to crack.
    The old question/answer "Why did you do it? Because it was there." tells the story of what will happen regardless of the OS chosen.
    I'll admit that the script kidz may be able to hack-the-vote with a MS SQL server backend but I would hope that the network used (or whatever format of data transfer) would be a little more robust that a windows box in a DMZ.
    But I'm sure that with a few days of coding it could be released from the bonds of M$... it is just SQL, right?
  • by KNicolson (147698) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @08:54PM (#7277476) Homepage
    Voting technology doesn't need to be any more complicated than that.

    Sure, it may take a few hours to count all the votes, but they're verifiably countable and recountable, and seem good enough for most of the other countries in the world. Why does there have to be an electronic solution to this non-problem?
    • Agreed (Score:2, Interesting)

      Yep. Sure United States is larger than Canada or Australia, but 10x the people means 10x the vote counters.

      Now, you can debate about whether it's better to use a pull-lever stamping system to write out the ballots, or just marking an X with a plain old pen. The advantage of some kind of a pull-lever system (or press button system) is that you won't get ballots which are unclear (just a printout) and you can have an internal counter on the machine to give you a reasonable idea if your hand-count is corre

    • ...when a low-tech one will suffice.

      Or even: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

      Yeah, that's the one. Cards work good.
    • "Sure, it may take a few hours to count all the votes,"

      Two words: scan tron.
      • Two words: scan tron.

        Ah yes, that solves a lot of issues with the lack of immediate electronic results for primarily paper solutions. I presume there's some sort of unique barcode on the voting form to prevent accidental or deliberate rescanning.

        In the UK, where I'm from, the only discussions about the election process is multiple voting (dead people, collecting cards from student halls, etc) - of course still an issue with these electronic methods - and the general "people too lazy/disenfranchised/disch

    • This is similar to the new voting system in Indianapolis. They replaced the old system (which I believe was pretty similar to Florida's in the last election) with a scan tron type system. You pick up your ballot, fill it the circles, insert into the counting machine at the precinct, and it will tell you if you made any errors, and then your done.

      The only issue is with the machine that is tabulating the results.

      more info on the new system [indygov.org]

      great video on how it works!! =] [indygov.org]
  • Sometimes the old way just works. There are lots of things like that in this world.

    Some distrustful people still keep all their money hidden in a jar in the kitchen or under their mattress. Sure, they don't get interest, and sure, they don't have ultra-convenient access wherever they are. But you know what? They never have to worry about a bank error.
  • Seriously (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nate nice (672391) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @09:05PM (#7277531) Journal
    Who is designing these systems? It shouldn't be that hard, seriously. It should be obvious what the design requirements are. In no particular order; Ease and clarity of use, secure and anonymous (as far as who voted for whom), the ability to record who was voted for in a non electronic medium and proof that a vote was registered and receipt to the voter in some form. Not to mention a backup system in case anything goes nutty. An obvious design would be to have all systems offline, when the voting times are over each station has a particular upload time assigned, they upload their data, it is checked for error and checked against their local data, if none of it differs, then all is well. The vote data should be encrypted on sight (inside the voting computer, before it is sent to the locol database) so there is no tampering locally and the keys should be known by the voting commission. They systems should be as fully automated as possible with well trained (and paid fairly) personal there to operate these machines. This is just off the top of my head, is it *that* hard to design these systems, really?

  • by ender1598 (266355) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @09:10PM (#7277572)
    Lead by none other than Martin Luther King III.
    http://www.workingforchange.com/activism/petition. cfm?itemid=14993 [workingforchange.com]
  • Eventually (Score:5, Funny)

    by BigGez (692965) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @09:11PM (#7277579)
    Just think, eventually we'll all be getting pop-up ads telling us who to vote for, while we're in the booths!
  • by rednox (243124) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @09:23PM (#7277641) Homepage

    Here's an idea to make the process accountable, without requiring a mound of paper at the voting site.

    1. Vote at the machine
    2. The machine asks you for a PIN number.
    3. The machine concatenates your voter registration number with the person you voted for and your PIN number, and computes a SHA-1 hash of the result.
    4. The machine prints out your vote, your voter registration number, your chosen PIN and the hash on a reciept and gives it to you.

    Later on, a text file is made publically accessible with a row for every vote. Each row would have only the hash and the person they voted for. The algorithm for computing the hash would also be published.

    Anyone who is interested in confirming that their vote was properly recorded can look up their hash in the text file to make sure it lists the person they voted for.

    Anyone who has a spreadsheet can do a recount.

    Any third party with a bit of cryptography knowledge can write a web app for people to confirm that their hash was computed properly.

    This method has the advantage of remaining completely anonymous and completely accountable.

    Any thoughts?

    I release this idea into the public domain.

    • Aren't voter registration numbers pretty anonymous already?
    • Sorry, this only allows for an *individual* to audit his or her own vote. It does not allow for the public to independently audit the physical records of the votes to see how they stack up to the tabulations.
      • You're right.
        And that's the whole idea.

        I can individually audit my personal vote, and my political party (if it so desires) can demand a recound and audit the physical votes (the receipts). Or change the rules so anyone who has the cash to pay for a recount (to pay for the physical counting process - wages and the like) can request one.

        But any system where the public can independently associate me with my vote (as with the parent to which I replied) is open to abuse.
    • by BSDevil (301159) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @09:54PM (#7277835) Journal
      This is what I love about these electronic voting discussions - people always come up with these solutions, and then ignore the fundamental principle of designing voting machines: it must not be possible, under any circumstances, for an outsider to verify your vote independently. Now, that sentence is worded poorly, so I'll give an example of the problem with this proposed system:

      1. CREEP announces that they'll give $200 to anyone who votes for person X
      2. Joe Public says "OK, I'm in"
      3. Joe Public votes for X and remembers his PIN number
      4. Joe Public goes to the local CREEP office and tells them their PIN, their VRN, and who they voted for
      5. CREEP, using the freely-available hash function, creates their hash using the supplied information
      6. CREEP then checks the list and sees if the vote was recorded
      7. If yes, $200

      Now replace "CREEP" above with "The Mafia" and "$200" with "the life of your family." Now you see the problem.

      My proposed solution has always been the following:

      -Vote on a computer (with a well-designed interface), which records votes and prints out a receipt with the name of the candidate and a simplified 2D barcode on it.
      -Have a poster on the wall inside the boot saying "if you voted for X, your barcode should look like this"
      -Deposit the recipt in the ballot box on the way out, as usual.

      This allows us three counts: the machine, the barcodes, and the names. Any political party can request a count based on the barcodes, and if it's close they can get one based on the names on the ballots. As far as I can tell, this system is - at worst - no more prone to fraud than the current paper-based one. And you can't buy votes, since no personally-identifiable information is stored on the receipts (which voters can't keep anyways).

      There's probably a logic gap in my solution: any suggestions?
      • I would change the order of the counting to:

        1. Barcode
        2. Candidate's name
        3. Computer record

        with the order of weight going:

        1. Candidate's name
        2. Barcode
        3. Computer record

        After all, if you can verify the barcode visually with the candidate's name on your printout, you can then deposit it into the tally box for later counting by a barcode reader which can be the first official tally. The computer record can be used to verify the barcode count, and any discrepancy can be solved by recounting the barcode/nam
    • The paper printout had better be tied verifiably to the voting machine, too. Else, I vote one way, then go away and reprint my own 'receipt' with a different vote as a basis, then call up the media and say 'look - it doesn't verify!' to attack the process. The machine itself would have to have an embedded secret key and sign the vote too - that couldn't be spoofed so easily.
  • by Alyeska (611286) on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @09:23PM (#7277653) Homepage
    Electronic voting without a paper trail is never going to be secure to my liking.

    That physical record of a vote is a crucial piece of evidence -- if there are no physical records, that's one less thing for any "bad guys" to have to worry about. It's one less audit point for any corrupt party.

    With the input and compilation of data all within the same system of computers now, corruption can happen at any step -- input, processing, reporting, or combination -- with no "independent" physical record to be audited that might expose the corrupt results. Imagine a zealot programmer hacks a kiosk and tells it to re-write the votes after confirming it with the voter. The number of voters on the register would match the number of votes cast, so this would be difficult to discover -- there would be no physical records, which can be re-tabulated independently of computers.

    Elections are high security risks, historically. Paper is not inherently evil. Just because paperless systems are possible, doesn't mean they're preferable. The more physical evidence, the better, I say...

  • by indros13 (531405) * on Tuesday October 21, 2003 @09:36PM (#7277740) Homepage Journal
    I have no idea why there is so much fantasizing over touchscreen voting. I've seen studies suggesting that its accuracy is actually worse than other existing technologies (optical scan) and is no better than the infamous punch card ballots. To top it off, optical scan machines are cheaper and leave a lovely paper trail (called a ballot) stored right inside the machine.

  • is not accuracy, verifiability, safety, ease of use, or any such thing.

    It has to do with recounts. The purpose is to have a system that will always give the same result after every recount. Recounts make people unhappy because the result is never the same, so people assume the the mistakes continue to exist and are in favor of the other guy. We want the voters to be happy.
  • Why is electronic voting so tough??? Go in, cast a vote, verify a vote, print the result on a strip of paper, hell, two strips of paper and move on. What's the holdup here??? I don't get it.
    • Why is electronic voting so tough??? Go in, cast a vote, verify a vote, print the result on a strip of paper, hell, two strips of paper and move on. What's the holdup here??? I don't get it.

      The problem is that the Diebold has promised to deliver the next election to the Republicans. If they are required to print a verifiable ballot or open their systems up for auditing there is no way to make sure the electorate doesn't just vote for the wrong candidate. They made a promise and accepted the huge payments
  • As much as I believe virtually ANY report of Diebold malfeasance, this guy is absolutely the WRONG guy to rely on. He's got a huge credibility problem of his own: he's a candidate for the "Peace and Freedom Party." In other words, he's a Trancendental Meditator and disciple of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. I've heard that in England they refer to the P&F Party as "The Looney Party" after a Monty Python sketch. P&F's believe in human levitation, they insist that their houses have toilets that point north, e
  • Oh come on, look at it from the other side - Wouldn't it be fun to h4x0r the voting boxes and elect Linus president? Or even better, RMS? Or that lady from the "Where's the Beef" commercials in the mid '80s?

    Final election results:
    G. Bush: 2 votes
    X. Democrat: 3 votes
    W.T. Beef: 58,321,742 votes

    Actual congress transcript:
    Joe X: We see that increasing the M1 money supply will help to invigorate job development in my riding...
    President: Where's the Beef?!?

  • I voted on one of these machines in Riverside County. I was taken aback because I didn't know beforehand that an electronic voting system was in place. Immediately after voting, I had the same concern that no paper trail was created - and therefore no manual way to verify votes in a close election. The visual representation was close to what was mailed to me, but it was not exactly the same - the names were not in the same order... No big deal if you were planning on voting for Schwarzenneger or Boustam

  • Great, the machine produces a paper trail and so immediately in an election I have my printer produce its own paper trail that matches the results that I want. I just have enough of a record to demand a recount, cast the election in doubt...

    The right way to do this sort of thing is to get rid of anonymous voting.
  • /Jeremiah Akin, a 28-year-old computer programmer/ /It should be noted that Sequoia has referred to the Microsoft Platform as "...well known and understood by computer hackers..." You would think that if Sequoia says that the Windows operating system is well known and understood by hackers that they would not use it./

    No, you'd think that a 28 year old computer programmer would know that it is a good thing for hackers to know and understand an operating system. That forces the manufacturer to deal with any

  • Isn't the obvious problem with touchscreen technology the marks left by previous voters? I mean, if Arnold Schwarzenegger had massive amounts of finger prints on his box, and other candidates had near-zero prints on theirs, couldn't that alter my choice?

    Why does anybody want to get rid of the paper system? Sheesh.
  • I really wish people would expend as much energy attempting to understant election science [sciencenews.org] as they do attempting to capitalize on people's by-and-large unjustified fears of paper ballots engendered by the last presidential election. That would actually make the world a better place, rather than simply making a few people a litte richer and the rest of us a little poorer.

  • Before this, Diebold was a good trademark. Now, it is becoming worse than useless. If things continue, no one will even buy a Diebold lunch bucket.
  • ... there is a techno-fix for everything. Trustworthy, reliable voting machines record ballots [bolson.org] for advanced election methods [bolson.org] and we incontrovertibly know the will of the people within a minute of the polls closing.

    On the other hand, I wonder if we could do better by paying minimum wage to two people per precinct to count each plain-old-paper-ballot twice, by hand. bc-of-envelope says $12/hr labor divided by 120ballots/hr processed = $.10 per ballot processing. About equal to the paper it's printed on. Soun
  • Let's describe a voting system that works:

    1) There's a program somewhere running inside the

    2) Each person gets a smart card or similar secure device. As it counts, it burns out gates inside the card. The count can only go up.

    3) Back at the main counting station, a similar thing happens. People insert their cards, and counters go up by burning out gates (i.e. FPGA)

    The cards are disposable. There is no database. There's no way to decrement any of the counters. It just works. ...but this would be too easy.
  • Media silence (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Espen (96293) on Wednesday October 22, 2003 @04:00AM (#7279242)
    I find it remarkable how silent the mainstream media is on this issue. When even the New York Times fail to mention any of the controversy over Diebold in a recent article on voting machines [nytimes.com] you know this is going to be an uphill battle.

    However, if these machines are already in use, the next step would surely be legal action? Someone with the right to vote in an election should demand the right to cast their vote by means where there is proof their vote will be counted.
  • Keep It Simple Stupid

    It was always obvious that receipts would be the best way to verify vote.

    Apart from initial outlay, cost is minimal - the only reason somebody would not want verification is because vote would be easier to corrupt. Apart from reason of moronic stupidity that is.

    This system should be kept for all time - to prevent any fiddles in future.

    People would cast their e-vote, get the receipt, verify it is correct and put the receipt in a new type ballot box.

    Vote is not cast or recorded until

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