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Evoting in the News 218

Posted by michael
from the your-vote-won't-count dept.
key45 writes "Just a few days after California rejects Diebold E-Voting machines, and Ireland bans e-voting too, the Information Technology Association of America (which represents election equipment makers and other technology companies) released a poll showing that the majority of Americans trust those machines. The war for public opinion is on!" Reader theRG writes "The U.S. Election Assistance Commission held hearings on May 5 about the pros and cons of electronic voting machines. They debated whether or not machines should have paper trails, and what standards should be set. Meanwhile, NPR reports on California's recent decertification of Diebold machines and on one Ohio county's switch from punchcards to electronic voting." And finally, our own OSDN has a report from the election commission meeting: Joe Barr writes "Thom Wysong has a report at NewsForge this morning on the first public meeting of the new U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Questions like whether or not a voter verifiable audit trail and open source should be mandated for e-voting solutions were the order of the day."
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Evoting in the News

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  • no indication (Score:0, Informative)

    by acceber (777067) on Friday May 07, 2004 @12:07PM (#9085288)
    Based on a stratified random sample of 1000 registered voters performed for ITAA by the Winston Group, the new poll finds that 77 percent of respondents are either not very concerned or not concerned at all about the security of election systems, regardless of technology platform.
    A sample group of 1000 people is just that. A sample, and hardly reflects whether the majority of Americans trust e-voting machines or not. A thousand people do not speak for 291 million people [bbc.co.uk] which number the American population.
  • by batgimp (323956) on Friday May 07, 2004 @12:18PM (#9085406)
    Ireland didn't ban e-voting. We merely postponed it. We've already had e-voting machines used in an election two years ago (in a few consituencies on a trial basis). This summer, the Irish government tried to introduce e-voting in every county, and was met with protests. It was taken completely by surprise, and set up a commission to look into the matter and report back with a recommendation. I'm pretty sure that this commission was just set up to reassure the "Luddite" public, and tell them that everything was ok.

    To everyone's surprise, the commission said that there wasn't enough time to guarantee the accuracy and security of the machines, and that their introduction should be postponed until such things could be guaranteed.

    So, it hasn't been banned, just postponed.
  • by Luyseyal (3154) <`ofni.yul' `ta' `sretaws'> on Friday May 07, 2004 @12:20PM (#9085439) Homepage
    The League of Women Voters opposes [lwv.org] voter-verified paper trails. More [lwv.org].

    -l

  • by lythic1 (728653) on Friday May 07, 2004 @12:22PM (#9085457)
    Kim Alexander, President of the California Voter Foundation is the main speaker: "Computerized Voting: The Solution or the Problem?". Hosted by the California League of Women Voters, in tribute to Dr. Who writer Jane Baker today, 11:30 - 2, San Mateo Marriott, $60 at the door. Lunch is included. Call 650 342-5853 to reserve a seat, or stop by!

    http://csmc.ca.lwvnet.org/calendar.html

  • Re:no indication (Score:2, Informative)

    by scd (541350) <[scottdp] [at] [gmail.com]> on Friday May 07, 2004 @12:25PM (#9085500)

    You're ignoring the statistics of sampling. With a properly chosen sample group of 1000, you can predict with a certain confidence how correct the results are. For 1000 properly chosen people, most of these kind of studies have an uncertainty around 5%.

    Which means that you might be able to interpret this as being (77 +/- 5)%, which is meaningful.

  • Statistics 101 (Score:3, Informative)

    by NetDanzr (619387) on Friday May 07, 2004 @12:26PM (#9085504)
    A sample group of 1000 people is just that. A sample, and hardly reflects whether the majority of Americans trust e-voting machines or not.

    Very rarely, polls are conducted with significantly more than 1000 respondents. The marginal decrease of the sampling error beyond 1000 observations is too small to make a larger sample worthwile. 77% being in favor of e-voting machines is pretty damn significant, and it can be said that the majority of all 291 million Americans is in favor of them (of course, I'd need to know the standard deviation of the sample to be absolutely positive).

    That doesn't rule out other errors, though, such as a sampling bias. If the pollsters picked 1000 employees of e-voting machines manufacturers, that would be a voting bias. So would be if they picked 1000 Slashdotters. However, arguing that the poll result is wrong because the sample was comparativelly small is wrong.

  • Re:Why, why, oh WHY? (Score:3, Informative)

    by StormyMonday (163372) on Friday May 07, 2004 @12:27PM (#9085531) Homepage
    Maryland legislators make $37500/year. Next question?
  • by m.dillon (147925) on Friday May 07, 2004 @12:30PM (#9085563) Homepage
    I voted using one of those machines in the last election. I've never seen a worse, design, rittled with security issues and no verification mechanisms at all. Thank god they've been banned!

    There was no receipt, no way to determine after the fact whether my vote actually made it out of the polling place, or even if it was properly recorded. The machines should never have been allowed to be used in the first place.

    -Matt

  • by bobv-pillars-net (97943) * <bobvin@pillars.net> on Friday May 07, 2004 @12:41PM (#9085716) Homepage Journal

    Personally, I spent Tuesday (local election) passing out the following flyer:

    Will Your Vote Be Counted?

    Diebold

    • Produces the "Accuvote" touch-screen voting machines used in Virginia and at least 36 other states.
    • Made over 40,000 internal company files, including passwords, encryption keys, source code, and user manuals, available to internet hackers worldwide.
    • For a step-by-step guide on how to modify the votes in a Diebold-controlled election, see www.equalccw.com/dieboldtestnotes.html [equalccw.com]
    • Despite Diebold's promises to tighten up security after two independent investigations in July and September, a third investigation in March of yielded the following quote:

      Diebold

      "basically had no interest in putting actual security in this system," said Paul Franceus, one of the consultants. "It's not like they did it wrong. It's like they didn't bother."

    • In the the recent California audit, Diebold's own lawyers admitted that their client had "probably broken the law." Frustrated investigators asked whether Diebold was lying, or only "trying to be misleading" in their answers. Here's what Bob Urosevich, president of Diebold Election Systems, had to say for himself:

      We were caught. We apologize for that.

    Direct Recording Electronic "DRE" Machines

    Though Diebold has gotten bad press lately, (it's costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign "contributions" to stay in business), their competitors are no better. Any DRE machine would be just as vulnerable to error, tampering, and fraud. Because they do not produce a permanent record of each vote, modern computerized systems are no better than the huge mechanical lever machines of 1890. Because there is no reliable way to even detect errors, the results of any election using these machines is open to question.

    Voter-Verifiable Audit Receipt

    For at least ten years, security experts around the country have recommended the use of a Voter-Verifiable Audit, or "VVA," to guard against these problems. If passed, Voters Confidence and Increased Accuracy Act would require electronic voting machines to produce a paper printout of each vote. This "VVA Receipt" must be made available for each voter to check before being securely deposited into a sealed container. The paper ballots would count as the actual votes, taking precedence over any electronic tallies in case of doubt.

    Urge your Senator and Representative to support the Voters Confidence Act, also known as H.R.2239 (in the House), and S.1980 (in the Senate.)

    How to Buy an Election

    "How do I know if the machine actually recorded my vote?" The fact is, you don't.
    Representative Rush Holt (NJ) [house.gov]

    To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer.

    There are literally hundreds of ways to tamper with the vote when computers are doing the counting. Here are just some of the possibilities:
    Hire a programmer to create a "back door" program in the voting software which can alter the vote count on demand.
    In Fairfax County, Virginia, during the 2003 elections, voters in three precincts complained that the machines changed their votes. Testing showed that a machine seemed to subtract a vote in about "one of a hundred tries." At least two close races may have hinged on that one percent "error."
    Replace the vote-counting software through last-minute technical "service upgrades."
    Most recently in California, thousands of election computers were "upgraded" just before the election, replacing the certified software with newer, un-certified versions.
    Monopolize some critic
  • You vote at the poll on the machine. The machine records the vote locally (and later to the poll team and later to the central office). The machine prints out a scantron. You check the bubbles are right for your vote and put it in the box.

    The machine vote is the main vote, the scantron is just a backup. The backup will later be used to check the machine vote. Due to printing errors, there will be statistical anomalies taken into account and some will be checked by hand.

    Hackers would have to fool two separate, complementary systems: machine and optical scan.

    You would NOT have the ability to verify your vote over the Internet or ex post facto as this breaks secret balloting.

    -l

  • by OWJones (11633) on Friday May 07, 2004 @01:24PM (#9086407)

    [Shameless_Plug]
    I'm a member of the National Committee for Voting Integrity [votingintegrity.org], which includes Avi Rubin, Rebecca Mercuri, Peter Neumann, Bruce Schneier, Marc Rotenberg (from EPIC), Cindy Cohn (from the EFF), and other people whose names I'm sure you'll recognize (well, and then me :)). Check out our written testimony to the EAC for some talking points and arguments for a voter-verified paper ballot (VVPB).
    [/Shameless_Plug]

    As a nitpicky (but important) aside, make sure you avoid the word 'receipt' like the plague. A receipt is something you get at the store that you take home with you, whereas a ballot is your vote and something you leave at the polling station. We support paper ballots, but oppose receipts. From the context of your text, I'm sure you meant 'ballot', but there's already enough FUD flying with vendors claiming that we are naive enough to support receipts that people take home with them, opening the election process up to vote-buying and vote-coercion schemes.

    What really bugs me are reporters that use the word 'receipt' when we explicitly say 'ballot, not receipt.'

    Cheers.
    -jdm

  • Harris Miller, ITAA's president, was paid by the electronic voting industry [thoughtcrimes.org] to lobby on behalf of that industry.

    In a conference call with electronic voting industry officials, Harris says:

    I just don't like to put it in writing because if this thing winds up in the press somewhere inadvertently, I don't want the story saying the e[lectronic] voting industry is in trouble and decided to hire a lobbying firm to take care of their problem for them," [everyweek.com]

    If it comes out in the press, then his organization will not be able to act like they are the only organization that can speak with authority on any issue that affects the IT space.

    Instead, Miller falls back on the tried and true tactic of discrediting experts and critics [scoop.co.nz] of the companies that he is paid to represent. I would bet all I have that if you took the 1,000 people they used for this very scientific survey and let them know how insecure these electronic voting machines are, they may answer the survey questions very differently.

    www.displacedtechies.com [displacedtechies.com]

  • by Log from Blammo (777614) on Friday May 07, 2004 @01:47PM (#9086720)

    Receipts are usually opposed. The public reason is that a receipt enables vote buying, where the voter provides the receipt to the buyer to prove cooperation.

  • by tgw (88434) on Friday May 07, 2004 @01:54PM (#9086793) Homepage

    You may want to ask voters with disabilities what they think [aapd.com], then ask Caltech and MIT what they have to say on the topic [caltech.edu], then investigate other options [newsforge.com]. Just a suggestion.
  • Follow the Money (Score:5, Informative)

    by billstewart (78916) on Friday May 07, 2004 @01:57PM (#9086851) Journal
    State and local election officials like this stuff because the Feds voted billions of dollars in FREE MONEY for them to buy the machines if they call before midnight tonight! And no, they didn't realize that they were going to be under extreme scrutiny; they were pretty much blind-sided by it, because all the election officials grabbed for the money real fast, before the computer security crowd noticed what an incompetent scam the stuff they were buying was, and much of the negative press has happened precisely because the stuff had serious problems after it was deployed. Apparently lots of politicians were surprised that computer people overwhelmingly distrust this stuff - after all, we're the folks who keep telling them that computers are cool and that they ought to buy more of them.

    John82's point that elections officials don't want to be the next ridiculed Florida Elections Commission is appropriate also, but a big factor is that the Republicans in Congress and the Bush Administration wanted to be perceived as "Doing Something" to fix the big embarassment that they came into office with. (Oh, and also the Diebold folks were big Republican contributors, so they of course wanted to help out their friends.)

    One big advantage of competently designed electronic voting machines is accessibility for blind people, which is a real problem with most voting systems. This lets the election officials help out blind people, and others with limited sight or hand-eye coordination (e.g. old people.)

  • by tgw (88434) on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:05PM (#9086944) Homepage

    E-Voting isn't the problem. It's possible the have secure, verifiable, and recountable e-voting machines [caltech.edu]. Most people are simply ignorant of that fact. The problem is that the e-voting machines currently in use are not designed to support verifiability or meaningful recounts. The mass hysteria whipped up this past year has most people (including a lot of techies) misunderstanding the problem.
  • by workindev (607574) on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:33PM (#9087279) Homepage
    Saddam certainly had ties with Ansar al-Islam, which is associated with Al-Qaeda. Raids on Ansar facilities and arrests of Ansar militants have revealed Al-Qaeda documents and even video tapes of Osama Bin Laden. Bill Clinton [weeklystandard.com] has even claimed that there is an Iraq/Al-Qaeda tie.

    However, even if there were no Iraq/Al-Qaeda connection, Iraq was still on the top 5 list of countries that sponsor terrorism [cfrterrorism.org] for over a decade prior to the US invasion.
  • by cheezedawg (413482) on Friday May 07, 2004 @03:06PM (#9087710) Journal
    What in the hell are you talking about?

    First of all, Disney is a private corporation- they have nothing to do with free speech. Freedom of speech does not mean that a private entity like Disney is required to distribute every crap-filled documentary that Michael Moore makes.

    And your claim about Jeb Bush is even more laughable. Jeb Bush doesn't have the authority to remove ANYBODY from voter rolls. According to Florida law, that responsibility falls on the election supervisor in each county. It was that way in 2000, also. And after all of the hoopla about the felon list in the 2000 election, the USCCR [usccr.gov] was only able to identify 4 people that were wrongly removed from voter registration, and 3 of them were allowed to vote anyway.

    But don't let the facts get in the way of our hate-filled rant.
  • by GPLDAN (732269) on Friday May 07, 2004 @03:18PM (#9087863)
    It happened in 2000.

    Click here [gregpalast.com]

    What they are doing with removing votes recently. [globalresearch.ca]

    How they are preparing to use E-voting to do it again... [infernalpress.com]

    And to the guy who modded it flamebait....Fuck you
  • by bobv-pillars-net (97943) * <bobvin@pillars.net> on Friday May 07, 2004 @03:58PM (#9088305) Homepage Journal
    On Fri, May 07, 2004 at 03:09:46PM -0400, Richard Neal wrote:

    This idea has one bad flaw. How do you handle the problem of a voter printing out multiple VVA receipts if the receipt is created before the vote is recorded and placing two or more in the ballot box, or saving one to prove to someone how they voted.

    In the best (and most prominent) plans, the voter doesn't actually handle the printed copy, but gets to view it behind glass before it drops into the secure container.

    Also how to handle the receipts if incorrect.

    I'm not sure. But at least they'd KNOW it's incorrect.

    Are you saying that we don't want to take any kind of precautions against tampering, system failure, or fraud? Just because we don't want to think about what we'd do if it happens?

    Or how to handle the recount if the number of ballots does not agree with the number of voters who cast ballots (either way)?

    The paper count takes precedence over the electronic count, in case of doubt or disagreement. Some voters will enter the line and leave without actually casting a ballot. Some ballots will be blank. But the "number of voters who cast ballots" and the "number of paper slips in the sealed container" should be, by definition, one and the same number. An electronic vote without a corresponding printout doesn't count as a ballot. A voter who registered and appeared at the polling booth but left without producing a printed ballot doesn't count as a "voter who cast a ballot".

    If the receipt is printed after validation of the ballot on the machine, then one level of fraud is prevented. What kind of printer and paper should be used to prevent fraud?

    The paper and printer used would be similar to that used for a cash register. The main goal is avoiding jams and ink run-outs. I'm not sure what kind of fraud you are implying.

    I have been told that each ballot is saved on the hard drives of the machine, which is better than the lever machines and can be recounted.

    This is false. The DRE machines only record totals, not individual votes. This is one of their problems. No recount is possible. What they call a recount is simply re-running their reporting programs to re-display the internally-generated totals. Read the references I provided for further details.

    Paper ballots have a history of fraud as well. Remember Chicago. There is nothing to prevent duplicate ballot boxes with preprinted ballots. Or the problem of the ink that could not be read by the OCR machines in California.

    Sure. And there's nothing preventing me from walking into my local polling place and switching their electronic smart-card with one I conveniently brought with me, that only records votes for my preferred candidate.

    And there's nothing preventing me from getting a job with Diebold and switching ALL the electronic cards for a given precinct, or making some slightly-unauthorized "upgrades" to their software.

    The difference between ballot-box-stuffing and computer hacking is the scale of damage that can be easily done by a single person.

    I switched from a lever machine to an button machine to an electronic ballot. All three offered the same basic level of security, trust that the voting official could read the counters on the machine. The electronic machine is the only one to provide a permanent record of the tally on paper.

    Many districts use optical-scan, or mark-sense ballots which also provide a permanent paper record. Some companies offer electronic displays which automatically mark the cards via a touch-screen interface very similar to what Diebold and others provide in their un-auditable systems.

    The next question is how much slower the voting proces

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