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California to Require Paper Voter Receipt 348

DDumitru writes "Wired reports that California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley will require all electronic voting systems be equipped with a voter-verifiable paper receipt. This receipt will not be retained by the voter, but deposited at the polls and may be used to audit electronic election results. All new voting system installed after July 1, 2005 must include the new printers. Existing systems, including the systems already installed in four counties must be retrofitted by July 2006. It looks like the public outcry about Diebold and other voting equipment manufacturers has been heard, at least in a very major market for these machines in the US. It should be very difficult for other states to not follow suit."
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California to Require Paper Voter Receipt

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  • It's too late (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SpaceLifeForm (228190) on Saturday November 22, 2003 @09:04AM (#7535902)
    This needs to be implemented *before* the elections next November to avoid a mess again.
    • I know it would probably create long lines at the polls, but I for one would be more than happy to wait an hour or more if I could know that my vote wasn't being rewritten by some unseen entity.
    • a National Standard

      This is about all of the electronic voting machines (even though Diebold is most suspect) and it's about the whole country.

      • No, a national standard for voting is a bad idea. It would allow a national exploit as well.

        It is much better, if more expensive, to allow counties to implement the voting system they see fit.
      • by FreekyGeek (19819) <> on Saturday November 22, 2003 @12:54PM (#7536956)
        Anything required by California is almost de facto a national standard. It probably isn't worth it for voting-machine manufacturers to make two different models, one for sale to CA and one for sale to other states.

        You see this in lost of industries: low- and zero-emission vehicles are available nationwide primarily because CA required them. And that's why the banking lobby fought so hard against privacy regulations in CA: because if they had to redo their IT systems for CA, then basically it becomes available to their customers in all states. Cheaper to do it for eveyone than just people in one state.
    • by twitter (104583)
      The software needs to be open if not free. Paper reciepts are a great first step, but the system can still be manipulated within paper counting accuracy. For the sytem to be an improvement, it should do better and it can. Open software can be verified for the soundness of it's methods and rigourously tested by interested parties. The results of that kind of testing would be secure and accurate voting that's really better than paper.

      Closed source junk, on the other hand, is imposible to test and verify.

  • I wonder (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 22, 2003 @09:05AM (#7535905)
    if diebold CEO is still promising (and meaning it) to deliver W..
    Oh, wait.
    The printer was delayed until AFTER the next major election.
    • Re:I wonder (Score:2, Insightful)

      by squiggleslash (241428)
      California would be a difficult one to rig, even if Diebold wanted to. It would look exceedingly suspicious if it went to GWB (yes, they elected the Republican candidate for Governor, but that's a Republican who is far more liberal than Bush is.)
      • I hope you're right. The problem is that when things get screwed up at the state level, the only recourse is to turn to the federal government -- and who runs the federal government right now? That's right ...

        Well, okay, there is another recourse -- "1776 is the cure for 1984" and all that. But I really don't expect to see that happen, no matter how egregious the vote fraud gets.
    • I wonder if diebold CEO is still promising (and meaning it) to deliver W..
      Oh, wait.
      The printer was delayed until AFTER the next major election.

      Give it a rest.

      EVERY elected executive-branch office in California is held by a Democrat except the new gubernator - who is a flaming liberal on all issues except partly on fiscal AND married into the Kennedy clan and advised by them.

      That includes the Secretary of State who promulgated this decision.

      Yes we'd ALL love to have this done in time for '04. But CA is
  • 2005? 2006? (Score:2, Troll)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Way to deflect the issue, kids. "yeah yeah, we have to be accountable... but in two years". Too bad they're going to have a little thing like "presidential election" first before all that comes about, huh?
    • Re:2005? 2006? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by leerpm (570963) on Saturday November 22, 2003 @09:26AM (#7535976)
      You have to give the counties an appropriate amount of time to purchase voting machines that work this way. Not all of them have money falling out of their pockets that they can spend on brand-new voting machines (again), if they happened to recently purchase some machines without these features. Granted, those counties probably should not have purchased such machines, but if you force this on them too soon, you will get a backlash because the counties will have to pull the money from other parts of their budget.. AND that would piss voters off.
      • So those counties do not believe the voter need to know their vote counts, what is bases of county that has required to buy the RIGHT equipment, in the first place.

        Electron Day 2004:

        Yes, we use paperless machines here still, this is saving you money...

        Wait! Stop! Please, do not pay attention to man behind the curtain, he is the repairman... ...and the new next president of United States!"
  • Democracy works?
    • Re:Democracy works? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by quigonn (80360)
      It does, but (currently) not in the US.
      • What democracy!!! Last time i looked, we lived in a republic. Wow, schools have certainly gone from bad to hopeless, when even the type of govermnent is not know. Just so we all know, the public does not directly elect the president. Its the electorial college that does that. So its possible to have candidates who have more total votes and still loose the election.

        Learn the type of govermnent you have and then youll be able to properly complain about it.

        • At what point (Score:2, Interesting)

          by mindstrm (20013)
          did "republic" and "democracy" become mutually exclusive?

 e= UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

          The US is a republic. Eire is a republic. The soviet union was a bunch of republics. China is a republic.
          • Re:At what point (Score:3, Informative)

            Yes, exactly.

            To elaborate: in the US and in many other countries, republicanism is the mechanism of democracy. We are both (in theory) a republic and a democracy -- a republican democracy, or a democratic republic (that latter term, unfortunately, having been recently hijacked by some very undemocratic republics.) Anyone who says "the US is a republic, not a democracy" and thinks it proves something is an idiot.

            Examples of undemocratic republics: USSR, China, Cuba, Iraq (yes, still), Iran, North Korea
            • Re:At what point (Score:3, Informative)

              by benzapp (464105)
              Democracy = government rule by majority vote of the people

              republic = government rule by a select group, can be elected by the people or not.

              I agree in principle with what you are saying, but most people who make a point of saying the US is not a democracy are basing on that majority rule concept. A lot of people think that if the majority wants it, it should be law... whereas there is no such principle in the country and ample evidence that is what the founding fathers were trying to avoid.

              As far as unre
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 22, 2003 @09:07AM (#7535912)
    If a machine runs out of paper, he said, Sequoia would recommend that poll workers remove the entire printer component and replace it with a new one so that workers do not need to touch the receipt roll.

    Yeah right, so his company makes even more money...

    • This is yet another example of the ridiculous double standard. If the machine could have the paper replaced like normal reciept printers, you would be clamoring about the security of the paper record. They make it so that they never have to touch the thing, and you complain about the cost. It's one or the other, guys. Things cost money.
  • What to count (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Councilor Hart (673770) on Saturday November 22, 2003 @09:07AM (#7535914)
    But what will be counted?
    The electronic votes or the printed votes.
    Who says they are the same?
    Who says people will even bother reading the piece of paper?
    • - Unless there is a complaint, surely the electronic votes, otherwise the printed votes.

      - No one, that is why one can complain and request a recount, should there be a doubt.

      - Well, those who care to vote, surely care how it will be counted. I mean, it is not like one goes there just for fun.
  • by eap (91469) on Saturday November 22, 2003 @09:07AM (#7535915) Journal
    It looks like the public outcry about Diebold and other voting equipment manufacturers has been heard, at least in a very major market for these machines in the US. It should be very difficult for other states to not follow suit.

    Will Diebold voting machines should now carry warnings that state, "This voting machine contains technology known by the State of California to be harmful to Democracy"?

    • You'd have to paste all of those signs on the members of Congress, too, because the United States has a representative government, not a democracy.
      • Please, do tell how the representative government of the United States is not democratic.
        Among others, defines "democracy" as

        1 a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections
  • How does the voter know that the line printed and the vote saved are the same one? It would be trivial to make the program print a vote for candidate X and mark it as a vote for candidate Y?
    • Re:how? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anspen (673098)
      How does the voter know that the line printed and the vote saved are the same one? It would be trivial to make the program print a vote for candidate X and mark it as a vote for candidate Y?

      True, but at least it would be possible to hold a paper recount, which would show such a deception.

    • Just make sure that the paper votes are counted after the elections for a random selection of voting machines. If large discrepencies are found, redo the elections, put Diebold in jail.
  • Hey... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by s20451 (410424) on Saturday November 22, 2003 @09:10AM (#7535925) Journal
    What exactly is wrong with taking a piece of paper with every candidate's name on it, and making an "X" beside your choice? This is the way things are done in Canadian federal elections, no fancy-pants touch screens or butterfly ballots or any other nonsense. Everyone gets a ballot with a standard design, from Victoria to Halifax.

    Sometimes the best solutions are the simplest. If technology doesn't simplify life, what use is it?
    • Re:Hey... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fname (199759)
      Not just directed at you, but: Earth to Slashdotters. This does not require electronic voting. Marking a piece of paper with an "x" would be perfectly valid. This simply requires electronic systems to work properly and to be audit-able. Bubble cards, etc. are still ok.

      One nice advantage of electronic voting is it has the potential to be very easy/quick to set up an election; there are very many other positives. This decision addresses the one giant negative associated with the process.
    • by MyNameIsFred (543994) * on Saturday November 22, 2003 @10:22AM (#7536159)
      I think paper ballots probably are the best. The process is more transparent. Although fraud can be committed with paper ballots.

      ...Everyone gets a ballot with a standard design, from Victoria to Halifax...

      However, there are some differences between the American and Canadian electoral systems. Please remember, the US Constitution explicitedly puts the responsibility for conducting elections in the hands of the states, for example Section 4, Clause 1 on the election of Senators and Representatives. Furthermore, as witnessed in the last election, we use an Electoral College to pick the President. The selection of the Electoral College members is decided by the individual states. So the Federal government cannot mandate a uniform ballot. (Your statement also ignores the fact that most, if not all, localities use the national elections as opportunities to decide local issues that require some customization of the ballot.)

      To do what you propose, while it has merit, would require a Constitutional amendment. One that is not likely to be passed because the states would have to give up some of their power.

    • Re:Hey... (Score:3, Informative)

      by Skjellifetti (561341)
      Too labor intensive. Columbus, OH where I live often has problems finding enough poll workers. Ballots can be very large when you have races for municpal, state, and federal offices (judges, county engineer, auditor, dog catcher, council, reps, executives - its a long list) plus ballot isues to deal with.

  • They should look at my voting system idea, which I outlined in my journal [].
    • Important Guy Running Elections: "This system is lame. We need a better one."

      Staff #1: "The Think Tank has lots of ideas, we're going through them case-by-case for viability"

      Staff #2: "Look at this other country, they have a good implementation, we can modify it and try and solve the problems it has."

      Staff #3: "Here are a list of commercial vendors, they all seem to have quality products except for one - Diabolic I think their name is?"

      Important Guy: "No, we've tried them, what a shambles."

      Staff #4: "I

    • Everyone thinks of this.

      Everyone thinks they're the first to think of this.

      Everyone's got the right idea -- except Diebold.

      • There are tons of ways to do better than Diebold. I mean it's harder to get crappier than the current e-voting systems the US has.

        Even a show of hands would be more accurate - you are unlikely to get less than zero votes.

        Just get a bunch of crypto and security guys, they'd be able to figure out a good system that has anonymity and auditability.

        But it sure doesn't seem very important to the US.

        If anyone put such shoddy code in a banking system they'd be sacked with extreme prejudice. But hey no big deal,
    • What your system cannot do is prove to the voter that its internal storage records exactly what the screen does in terms of the votes placed.

      No electronic system can do this.

      Of course, some of our current non-electronic voting machines cannot, but some can. The voter can actually see what physical piece of evidence will be later counted to determine their votes.

      Since you cannot write a proof to guarantee code does something, you have no mechanism to tie any artifact (whether electronic on-screen results
  • Why So Long? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Databass (254179) on Saturday November 22, 2003 @09:12AM (#7535929)
    Why does the bill allow such a long timeline? By requiring a paper trail in 2005 (not in time for the next presidentail election), the legislature is clearly saying there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Why does it not need to be addressed in time for the Presidentail election?

    A year is plenty of time short of deliberate sandbagging.
    • by borkus (179118) on Saturday November 22, 2003 @09:29AM (#7535987) Homepage
      Because if George W. Bush does not become re-elected, they can send Governor Schwarzenegger back in time to terminate the Democrat president.
    • Re:Why So Long? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Politburo (640618) on Saturday November 22, 2003 @11:51AM (#7536599)
      Because that is only a year away. You have obviously never worked for government. Design (if applicable), procurement, setup and training for an election system could never occur in under a year. It could be possible, but with fundamental changes in the system. I would rather see it take 2 years, and have it done right, then have them rush a shoddy system into place for 2004.
  • um...useless? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by amichalo (132545) on Saturday November 22, 2003 @09:12AM (#7535932)
    I see two possible scenarios which make this an unrealistic solution:

    (1) The receipt includes a voter ID and the results of their vote. This totally violates the anonymity of the voting process but does allow for counting.

    (2) If the receipts include no voter ID but just some form of transaction ID, then why print them off at all? Just run some report at any point during the voting process to see the tally? Why not? If the voting system is compromised, then there is no way to ensure the paper votes with the transaction id, generated from the compromised system can be trusted either.

    As I see it, this solution does not add value without removing rights.
    • Re:um...useless? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by srleffler (721400) on Saturday November 22, 2003 @09:27AM (#7535980)
      You missed the point. The reason to print the receipt after each person votes rather than printing off a report later is so the voter can see the receipt and verify that the machine has correctly recorded the vote. Even if not every voter bothers to check the receipt, enough will that a malfunctioning machine will be detected. The receipts than allow for a recount to be done later if there is some doubt about the machine's accuracy or if the machine crashes.
      • You're missing the point. Anonymity is lost in case the machine is flagged as untrustworthy. Every person who complains that they didn't see their vote on the printout can be tracked, since they must divulge their identity before voting.

        So if the machine is deficient on purpose, you could get a list of all people who didn't vote for candidate X, including name and address. The list won't be complete since not everyone will complain, but it'll be large enough to send Vinnie over for a "talk" later on if you

      • Re:um...useless? (Score:2, Informative)

        by Guppy06 (410832)
        "The receipts than allow for a recount to be done later if there is some doubt about the machine's accuracy or if the machine crashes."

        Like hell they do. They're receipts, which means the voter leaves the polling place with them in hand. That makes them even less reliable than the machines we're talking about. As soon as the state asks for receipts to come back for a recount, each party will turn in a half a million such receipts they "found" somewhere.

        This new law requiring these machines to print re
    • I see two possible scenarios which make this an unrealistic solution

      With an appropriate cryptographic solution the receipt doesn't have to reveal information about the actual vote. And still it is possible with the right algorithm to verify, that this vote was actually counted in the final result. Unfortunately I don't remember the rest of the details about how this should work.
  • paper receipt? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ejaw5 (570071) on Saturday November 22, 2003 @09:16AM (#7535946)
    What's so hard about using a sharpie to fill in a (relatively large) bubble next to the canidate you want to vote for? Then use any computer technology you want to count the bubbles. Sounds cheaper to me. The paper trail is there, and only what needs to be automated (counting) is.

    Maybe setup a few touchscreen kiosks for those who really need it. For the rest of us, I want my pen and paper.
    • Re:paper receipt? (Score:2, Informative)

      by SemperUbi (673908)
      This is pretty much the way San Mateo County voters have been voting for years. We use black markers to connect two dark lines for the candidate we want, and then feed our ballots into an optical scanner which records our votes. It's a simple, elegant solution.

      It's surprising that this technology hasn't gotten more media attention. People following the news would think the only three ways to vote are old voting machines, punch cards and DRE!
    • One of the biggest reasons? Blind people. DRE machines are *huge* for blind people, because they can be supplemented with an audio interface that help them vote unassisted. Computer-mediated voting allows any number of interfaces to be presented in order to overcome various disabilities.

      Some of the biggest advocates for DRE machines have been advocates for the blind and other disabled people who have previously required help at the polls.
      • > One of the biggest reasons? Blind people. DRE
        > machines are *huge* for blind people, because they
        > can be supplemented with an audio interface that
        > help them vote unassisted.

        A touch screen that prints a paper ballot can also be fitted with an audio interface.

        > Computer-mediated voting allows any number of
        > interfaces to be presented in order to overcome
        > various disabilities.

        All of those interfaces can be used with machines that print paper ballots.
  • by martin-boundary (547041) on Saturday November 22, 2003 @09:30AM (#7535990)
    From a procedural standpoint, if people are required to take the receipt and bring it to an official stating "hey, I didn't vote for that guy", then anonymity is effectively lost. How many people are going to think twice about complaining in that case?

    Voter: Sheriff, I just voted with that machine over there, and it said I voted for Bubba Smith.

    Sheriff: Yeah, what's the problem? Don't like my cousin?

    Voter: Uh, no everythin's fine. Forget it.

  • Amen (Score:5, Insightful)

    by djupedal (584558) on Saturday November 22, 2003 @09:51AM (#7536037) goes California, so goes the nation. Smog laws; consumer protection laws, etc. Not always, but usually. Too bad CA can't stop shooting itself in the foot when it comes to business and health care.

    A paper trail is just a sanity check, and a completely reasonable way of keeping things in line.
  • by acoustix (123925) on Saturday November 22, 2003 @09:54AM (#7536046) Homepage
    In Iowa to vote you go inside your own booth will nothing but a pencil and a scantron sheet (like the ones you fill out on a standardized test). Fill in the circle and you're done.

    Of course, the circle has to be completely filled in. But the again, if you can't fill in a circle then you probably shouldn't be voting.

    Counting the votes is relatively fast. We usually know within 2 hours of the polls closing who has won.

    Why do we even NEED an electronic system? What is wrong with the paper ballots?

    • Of course, the circle has to be completely filled in. But the again, if you can't fill in a circle then you probably shouldn't be voting. Counting the votes is relatively fast. We usually know within 2 hours of the polls closing who has won. Why do we even NEED an electronic system?

      Sounds like a scantron system to me. A machine is counting your votes already. A machine might also be adding the county results up for you too.

    • by barawn (25691) on Saturday November 22, 2003 @01:45PM (#7537279) Homepage
      Because a scantron system can screw up, and destroy all of the ballots, so paper is dangerous.

      Plus paper is expensive. Plus counting is only fast if you have the people (or the machines, which are dangerous) to do it.

      Plus scantrons are ambiguous. There's a recognition issue there, and while they're pretty good, the margin of error is nonzero (as it is with all counting systems, but here it's measurably non-zero). And then you'd get into "pregnant chad" lands again, just with, I dunno, "pregnant bubbles".

      Look, the paper trail isn't the important part. The important part is that a hardcoded audit trail is available, and that it can be easily spot checked to ensure that the machines are working as they are supposed to be working.

      Electronic voting is the right way to go, in the future. As you scale the number of people, the logistics get insane, and wasting money on elections is not what I want a government to be doing. We're talking about *counting* here, something that's been done since the first person looked at his fingers.

      What you need, though, is a foolproof system. A system without friggin' software, a system running on bare metal, just logic gates, writing to a verifiably safe write-once-read-many storage medium.

      Unfortunately, in order to develop that, you need to have some technical expertise, which Diebold and co definitely don't have. Come on. Commercial off-the-shelf crap? Jeez. Take out a damned electronics CAD package and design something that doesn't suck.
  • by Shoten (260439) on Saturday November 22, 2003 @10:00AM (#7536060)
    That's ridiculous. It'll be easy for other states to not follow suit; what will be difficult will be for the companies who make these machines to avoid producing them with this as an option. This, as a result, will make it easier for states to follow California's example, if they are so inclined. But sticking to the status quo of electonic voting has not become more difficult yet.
  • by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Saturday November 22, 2003 @10:17AM (#7536144) Homepage
    The problem with this little scheme is that the printer generates a linear log of votes, and this might be used to figure out who voted for whom. There goes your anonymity. People might be afraid of retribution for voting the wrong way.

    I recommend using blinded signature techniques to solve the problem. "Poll watchers" will network their computers to the voting machine, and when someone votes, their machines will sign the voter's choices through a blinding mechanism that will validate the vote. The vote will then be released to the poll watchers' machines mixed with "chaff".

    The chaff would be generated prior to the vote; a large number of votes would be created, tabulated and signed blindly. Each vote broadcast on the network would be mixed with ten or so randomly chosen chaff votes. At the end of voting, the unused chaff votes would be tabulated again, the number of chaff votes cast would be calculated and subtracted from the total, giving the true number of votes cast.
    • What is to stop the voting machine from modifying the ballot choices right as the voter casts them? Your system provides no integrity guarantees at all: we need a system in which the voter actually looks at a piece of paper with his choices and validates by eyeball that the votes are correct, and in which this very same piece of paper that the voter validated is used in random manual recounts. Nothing else provides any confidence in integrity.
    • Yes, why don't we replaced a centralized, self-contained system with one that involves thousands of anonymous Internet users. That's much more secure and accountable.
    • -1 Paranoid or -1 Bad Solution would be more appropriate.

      There's already a linear log of votes - votes at the bottom of the ballot box were turned in first. And that doesn't change - THE VOTING MACHINE DOES NOT COUNT VOTES! It just produces paper ballots with greater accuracy than previous methods. That's it. It's the paper ballots that count.
  • 1 to 150? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Espen (96293) on Saturday November 22, 2003 @10:32AM (#7536203)
    With one machine for every 150 voters you've got to wonder what the point of machine voting is.
  • that the deadline is 7 months AFTER the 2004 election.. Aaaahnold!!!
  • Check out VoteHere (Score:4, Informative)

    by ca1v1n (135902) <<moc.cinortonaug> <ta> <koons>> on Saturday November 22, 2003 @11:18AM (#7536409)
    If you want to see a really clever electronic voting system, check out VoteHere. They use paper receipts that basically records a hash of your vote, so your receipt cannot prove to anyone who was not looking over your shoulder when you cast the ballot what that vote was, but still allows you to prove that your vote has/has not been changed after the polls close. As VoteHere points out, authoritative paper receipts really just turn the machine into a very expensive pencil, when they offer the potential to do so much more.

    By the way, I have no ties to VoteHere, I've just been studying electronic voting a lot lately.

    For more info, see []

    Of course, this system has weaknesses, as will any system which enforces both authenticity and anonymity, but even if it cannot be protected against all attacks, it at least lets you know when an attack is happening, which is a huge step up from most paper and even electronic systems.

You can bring any calculator you like to the midterm, as long as it doesn't dim the lights when you turn it on. -- Hepler, Systems Design 182