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Flaw in Florida E-Voting Machines 438

Posted by michael
from the repeat-of-2000-coming-up dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Looks like there are more problems with the new e-voting machines. How will they ever be ready in time for the November elections?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Flaw in Florida E-Voting Machines

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  • Democracy? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PatrickThomson (712694) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @07:04AM (#9412362)
    How will they ever be ready in time for the November elections?

    By silencing anyone who talks about the flaws, of course! Do what I'm gonna do, bet money on bush being reelected. That way, if he is, at least it wasn't a total disaster.
    • Re:Democracy? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by malus (6786) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @08:05AM (#9412527) Journal
      I can testify. My dad is a senior reporter with a local NBC affiliate, and I've clued him in to quite a few stories about our current voting machines.

      His assignment editor, and more troubling, the News Director [Hi, Forrest!] have routinely ignored the story. If the story isn't about The Spiderman burglar, or some Old Lady being ripped off by a roofing company, this 'news' channel doesn't want anything to do with it.
      • Re:Democracy? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by zCyl (14362) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @09:15AM (#9412829)
        My dad is a senior reporter with a local NBC affiliate, and I've clued him in to quite a few stories about our current voting machines.

        His assignment editor, and more troubling, the News Director [Hi, Forrest!] have routinely ignored the story.


        Well, then since you have a connection AND an interest, do what's necessary to bring the two together and find a way to make the voting machine problems interesting to the general public. They ARE interesting to the general public, so this should be an easy task, you just have to show them where the attention-getting drama is.
    • by Zeinfeld (263942)
      By silencing anyone who talks about the flaws, of course! Do what I'm gonna do, bet money on bush being reelected. That way, if he is, at least it wasn't a total disaster.

      How can he be RE-elected when he wasn't elected the first time?

      • Re:Democracy? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by swillden (191260) *

        How can he be RE-elected when he wasn't elected the first time?

        Don't be silly. He was most definitely elected. The Electoral College voted, and he got a clear majority.

        Now, you can argue about whether or not Florida's electors cast their votes properly in accordance with Florida state law, but it's simply untrue to say Bush wasn't elected president of the USA. He was.

    • Re:Democracy? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Raven42rac (448205) * on Sunday June 13, 2004 @08:45AM (#9412677)
      Didn't Diebold promise to deliver certain states to the Bush camp? Aren't they against verified e-voting? Huge conflict of interests abound, but no one will listen or do anything about it. The only place I have seriously seen this issue covered is on the internet, the only place that isn't owned by some big multinational that owns every news outlet, a l a Newscorp, Clear Channel, Viacom, etc. These past 4 years have seen more media consolidation than in the previous 100, IMHO. I bought a Palm Beach, Florida voting machine off of Ebay, when I got it, it looks exactly like our Virginia Beach voting machines. One badly designed ballot and suddenly we need to implement a whole electronic voting initiative? Sounds like fixing a symptom rather than the problem, non intuitive user interfaces. An electronic machine could just as easily create a confusing picture of the voting process.
      • Re:Democracy? (Score:3, Insightful)

        The thing being fixed by electronic voting is the vote itself. Previously, election manipulation was too messy and risky. Look at the 2000 presidential election in Florida. Some people almost got caught fixing that election, and it took the Supreme Court stepping in to smooth things over.

        With unverified electronic balloting, the mess and risk is gone. Deposit the right amount in the correct Diebold swiss bank account, and any election is yours.
      • Re:Democracy? (Score:3, Insightful)

        The only place I have seriously seen this issue covered is on the internet, the only place that isn't owned by some big multinational that owns every news outlet

        How about foreign media? I haven't been looking, but if enough foreign media publically ridiculed the US electronic voting machines, maybe something would filter back over here? Imagine reporters from The Times (London, not New York) and the BBC askng pointed questions during Whitehouse press conferences...

        One badly designed ballot and suddenl

    • Re:Democracy? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by demachina (71715) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @09:11AM (#9412806)
      "How will they ever be ready in time for the November elections?"

      Uh, they are ready...to steal the election for the Republicans this Fall. Its pretty obvious Jeb Bush wants to make sure there is no doubt Florida goes to his brother this time around, so he is dead set against making sure all the new electronic voting machines in his state are verifiable.

      The Bush administration has a really strong, or actually overwhelming, incentive to make sure they win. They have to white wash the investigation of who really authorized the use of torture in Iraq. All indications are that it was George W. Bush, General Myers, Rumsfeld and his deputy for military intelligence Steve Cambone under the top secret Copper Green [newsday.com] program. They might have got away with it for Al Qaeda since they are in a legal gray area and may not be under Geneva protections but authorizing torture in Iraq was a war crime under the Geneva conventions and the U.S. laws that enforce the Geneva rules. Its pretty obvious now it wasn't just a bunch of out of control reserve privates doing it on their own.

      If the Democrats were to win the White House or Congress and were to really pursue the investigation, which I'm not sure they would, you could see impeachment and senior members of the Bush administration and the military on trial for war crimes. If the Republicans win they can try to stop the blame and the damage at General Sanchez, and if they continue to control both houses of Congress, and they keep their party members in line they will probably succeed. I wager they are already engaged in massive paper shredding and deletion of top secret documents, especially after the leak of the Pentagon and DOJ memo's last week where it became clear the White House was trying, in vain, to establish a legal basis for the use of torture.

      If you saw Ashcroft's testimony before Congress last week, a rare event, it became pretty clear the Bush administration has decided they are at war and they can do pretty much anything they please, and unfortunately the "War on Terror" is unlikely to ever end.
    • by demachina (71715) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @09:37AM (#9412934)
      It intersting to see Election Systems and Software get some bad publicity. They are actually larger than Diebold in turns of evoting. Every one is familiar with the fact Diebold's CEO is a Bush campaign bigwig in Ohio and promised to deliver Ohio for Bush.

      ES&S is also excessively close to the Republicans. An excerpt from Mother Jones on them:

      "While Diebold has received the most attention, it actually isn't the biggest maker of computerized election machines. That honor goes to Omaha-based ES&S, and its Republican roots may be even stronger than Diebold's. "

      "The firm, which is privately held, began as a company called Data Mark, which was founded in the early 1980s by Bob and Todd Urosevich. In 1984, brothers William and Robert Ahmanson bought a 68 percent stake in Data Mark, and changed the company's name to American Information Services (AIS). Then, in 1987, McCarthy & Co, an Omaha investment group, acquired a minority share in AIS."

      "In 1992, investment banker Chuck Hagel, president of McCarthy & Co, became chairman of AIS. Hagel, who had been touted as a possible Senate candidate in 1993, was again on the list of likely GOP contenders heading into the 1996 contest. In January of 1995, while still chairman of ES&S, Hagel told the Omaha World-Herald that he would likely make a decision by mid-March of 1995. On March 15, according to a letter provided by Hagel's Senate staff, he resigned from the AIS board, noting that he intended to announce his candidacy. A few days later, he did just that. "

      "A little less than eight months after stepping down as director of AIS, Hagel surprised national pundits and defied early polls by defeating Benjamin Nelson, the state's popular former governor. It was Hagel's first try for public office. Nebraska elections officials told The Hill that machines made by AIS probably tallied 85 percent of the votes cast in the 1996 vote, although Nelson never drew attention to the connection. Hagel won again in 2002, by a far healthier margin. That vote is still angrily disputed by Hagel's Democratic opponent, Charlie Matulka, who did try to make Hagel's ties to ES&S an issue in the race and who asked that state elections officials conduct a hand recount of the vote. That request was rebuffed, because Hagel's margin of victory was so large."

      "As might be expected, Hagel has been generously supported by his investment partners at McCarthy & Co. -- since he first ran, Hagel has received about $15,000 in campaign contributions from McCarthy & Co. executives. And Hagel still owns more than $1 million in stock in McCarthy & Co., which still owns a quarter of ES&S."
  • E-Voting safe ever? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CptChipJew (301983) * <michaelmiller&gmail,com> on Sunday June 13, 2004 @07:04AM (#9412364) Homepage Journal
    "These are minor technical hiccups that happen," said Hood spokeswoman Nicole DeLara. "No votes are lost, or could be lost"

    Didn't they let some hackers lose on that Diebold machine and find 30k fake votes changed in a matter of minutes? Honestly, I don't think they're ready for this, if they ever will be. My grandfather can't even operate his DVD player.

    In the gubernatorial election here in Cali (when Arnold got elected), they replaced the chad system with essentially the same design, but instead of punching holes, it left a really dark ink mark on the circle, which seems a lot safer to me. And this thing really flooded the ink, i touched it to my thumb just for fun and it left a pool in my fingertip. To me it really seems like a smart and simple alternative.

    Though of course I expect some replies on the contrary :D
    • by MoonBuggy (611105) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @07:24AM (#9412416) Journal
      I'm sure this has been covered repeatedly, but what's wrong with the UK system of 'put an X in the box by the candidate you want'. If counting time is a problem (IMO a hand count which anyone who feels like it is free to watch is a damn good thing, but anyway) then use those things they have for automatically marking exams, where you fill in the circle by the name you want and a machine scans them all - I know that's practically what this does but why put the mechanical element in there when it doesn't have to be. Seems like just another point for failure.
      • What you're talking about is commonly called a Scantron [scantron.com], as they are really the only big distributor of those forms that I've ever seen.

        I don't think that would work though. Every single time I take a test on one at school, there's always someone in my class who totally screws up and marks each answer one column lower than he's supposed to, ruining his score.

        On a national scale, allowing for the guarantee that the people of Florida will have a particularly high percentage of making these mistakes, I'd est
        • We use Scantron forms here in NC, and they seem to work pretty well, and from what I can tell it'd be pretty tough to game the system. As for the off-by-one error in academic testing environments, that's due to the questions and the answer sheet being separate, not the fact that it's read by a Scantron system. When the choices are printed on the Scantron ballot itself, that problem goes away.
      • Except that even pencil and paper voting seems to be too complex for much of the UK electorate - 500,000 London mayoral election ballot papers were incorrectly filled in.

        All you had to do was put two crosses for *different* candidates (first+second preference), and still 500,000 people can't cope with it.
      • by Animaether (411575) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @07:36AM (#9412451) Journal
        Because in an exam, you know better than to mark 2 circles, or no circles (if running out of time, mark all C's!) at all. If you do mark the wrong one - erase with eraser, mark the one you wanted.

        But this is voting.. arguably more important ..and people will mark more than 1 circle, will forget to mark altogether, or will find other ways to screw things up (break pencil tip, use up eraser end, who knows).
        And neither human counters, much less automatic counters, know what the voter actually intended to do.

        This as opposed to an electronic voting machine, where you :
        - must make a vote (even if it's an abstain vote)
        - can only vote once
        - get a clear and concise "did you really mean to vote for X ?" option to change your vote before actually submitting it.

        Which makes it very easy to
        - count the vote

        And that's all the machines really have to do!
        Writing a voting system that does this is stupendously trivial as far as the code goes. Which leaves me only baffled as to why there appear to be so many bugs with these voting machines to begin with.

        The only problem an electronic voting machine should have to face are human interface design issues, hardware issues, and the well-known papertrail issue.
        The first is the hardest, the second is trivial (backup machine, backup drive), and the third has been discussed to death on Slashdot and some good ideas were written down.
        • No, that is not all they have to do.

          They also have to:
          - offer multiple language support, and give the voter the choice of language
          - offer assisted voting (text-to-speech or super-size font).
          - Be physically and logically secure from local and remote tampering with the votes.
          - Include auditable trails for all actions taken by the application.
          - permit a voter to only vote once (which you mentioned), but not allow vote counters to determine how a given voter cast their ballot.

          There are others, but that's the
          • Hi! Maybe you didn't read :)

            - multiple languages
            See : Human interface design issues

            - offer assisted voting
            See : Human interface design issues

            - Be physically and logically secure from local and remote tampering with the votes
            See : hardware issues
            One note : An e-voting machine should never be capable of remote access, period. As for local security, it's a machine. If somebody starts prying at the thing with a screwdriver or somesuch, somebody had better notice. Please do take note that this has nothing to
        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 13, 2004 @09:23AM (#9412870)
          If you lack the basic intelligence to figure out how to put an X next to your candidates name, correctly, an argument can be made you lack something basic needed to pick a candidate in the first place. I'm not entirely sure you should have to make voting so completely fool proof so that a chimpanzee could successfully vote if they were locked in a booth with an electronic voting machine for a few minutes and banged on it.

          The one exception is I think at least one electronic voting machine, with paper trail, should be at each poll to allow the disabled to vote without assistance.

          "Which makes it very easy to- count the vote"

          Making it "easy" to count the vote doesn't count for anything if it also makes it "easy" to rig the vote. I really like the fact that paper ballots allow a lot of little old ladies and gents to be involved in the process and make sure its on the up and up. You switch to computers and there is no one that can keep an eye on things except hackers.
        • >people ... will *find* other ways to screw things up...

          you can find what is avilable only.
          Remember people are not trying to 'find', just it is happening.
          see, how fundamental things are broken.
      • The other problems I heard are that it's a lot of work to print/distribute paper ballots in dozens-to-hundreds of different languages and that blind people have trouble using paper ballots.
  • by Manip (656104) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @07:06AM (#9412368)
    I want to know why these people have such trouble building a voting machine and the occupying software? I'm sure I speak for many many /. readers when I say that we could nock up the client and server in about an hour to forkful all the specifications and then spend the next hour bug fixing and then in the third hour get a cup of hot coffee! Morons
    • by Frogbert (589961) <frogbert@@@gmail...com> on Sunday June 13, 2004 @07:33AM (#9412445)
      int main(void)
      {
      int candidate1 = 0;
      int candidate2 = 0;
      ing tmpCan = 0;
      while(electionon == true)
      {
      cout << "Press the red button for candidate1" << endl;
      cout << "Press the blue button for candidate2" << endl;
      cin >> tmpCan;
      if( if tmpCan == RED)
      {
      candidate1++;
      }
      else
      {
      candidate2++;
      }
      }
      cout >> "Candidate1 got " >> candidate1 >> " votes" >> endl;
      cout >> "Candidate2 got " >> candidate2 >> " votes" >> endl;
      return 0;
      }

      Obviously not THAT simple, but come on.
    • I want to know why these people have such trouble building a voting machine and the occupying software? I'm sure I speak for many many /. readers when I say that we could nock up the client and server in about an hour to forkful all the specifications and then spend the next hour bug fixing and then in the third hour get a cup of hot coffee!

      Yeah, right. I'm sure that Diebold told themselves the exact same thing, and look what happened.

      The first thing to do would be to collect the requirements, which I

    • by jellomizer (103300) * on Sunday June 13, 2004 @07:54AM (#9412502)
      The truth is that this is not a technical problem it is a political one. Almost any dumbass can program a voting system in like 2 hours I put the first hour in photoshop making fancy graphics the next hour is in what you stated. But the government doesn't work like that this is what happends.
      1. A software company tries to push a solution to the government. (this could possibly be a good solution)
      2. The government takes it to a bunch of meetings. In these meetings there are a lot of different people in a failure driven work environment so if they did something wrong they get punish there is little reward for doing te right thing. As well there are different type of people who don't like each other so they will disagree with them and make their lives difficult.
      3. After these meetings there are now specs for a much more bloated and compplex program that they will ever need or have.
      4. Now the company looking at the specs seeing how big it has became now writes the bid for the government to use. Realizing that it is pollitically charged they will make it seem like a huge amount of work and write the bid so only they can use it.
      5. The government sends the bid out to all the competitors. But because the bid was so spacific to the company. The orginonal company wins the bid.
      6. The Company produces a Beta version of the program.
      7. Goto 2 and repeat

      • by cmacb (547347)
        "The truth is that this is not a technical problem it is a political one. Almost any dumbass can program a voting system in like 2 hours I put the first hour in photoshop making fancy graphics the next hour is in what you stated. But the government doesn't work like that this is what happends.

        1. A software company tries to push a solution to the government. (this could possibly be a good solution)...."


        Thank you. I can attest that this is exactly how government works, particularly at the federal leve
  • How will they? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Amiga Lover (708890) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @07:10AM (#9412377)
    How will they ever be ready in time for the November elections?"

    That's asking the wrong question! it's "How will the voters handle this?". Well, most will ignore it. They'll vote, and votes will be miscounted. Then someone will become president (exactly who doesn't matter). Then there'll be a small investigation into the voting failure, perhaps a story or two on slashdot, and then the country will keep on using them.

    People just aren't interested in a system that works any more. If they have something to complain about and go "oh did you hear the voting in florida was rigged!" it gives them 10 minutes of conversation around the watercooler, then they go ahead with their lives.

    Scuse the cynicism, but I suspect it's the most likely outcome
    • Re:How will they? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by doshell (757915)
      People just aren't interested in a system that works any more. If they have something to complain about and go "oh did you hear the voting in florida was rigged!" it gives them 10 minutes of conversation around the watercooler, then they go ahead with their lives.

      True. I believe the problem is that people always seem to believe that the <irony>perfect democratic system</irony> they live in guarantees that someone above them (in the ladder of power) will fix any issue that may arise.

      Blind tru

    • Not Exactly (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mfh (56)
      > They'll vote, and votes will be miscounted. Then someone will become president (exactly who doesn't matter).

      I think that votes get miscounted when parties use malicious practice by disqualifying entire races from voting just because their last name is the same as someone with a criminal record. This is what Dubya did to get elected, plus he used a lot of other crazy tactics to sway the vote.

      Voting machines could be a factor, but I think that the social engineering from parties needs to be quelled fa
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 13, 2004 @07:12AM (#9412384)
    The worst flaw in those voting machines is that they always offer such a poor selection. I hope they get that fixed in time.
  • Everyone seems to be concerned about whether the voting machines are perfect. I think there's another, more important question: are they better than what we have now?

    Given the fiasco of the 2000 US presidential elections, I'd guess that it's possible for the machines to be both buggy and better than the alternatives.

    I think we should focus on getting something that works well. If we wait for it to be perfect, it's going to be an awfull long wait.

    • by Sique (173459) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @07:28AM (#9412423) Homepage
      There is a working alternative.

      It's called pen and paper.

      It works. It leaves a paper trail for later recounts.

      It can be observed by everyone who is interested in the whole process, from printing the ballots to handing out the ballots, from getting the ballots back and counting them, from sealing the voting box to bringing it at the central voting office for recount, thus minimizing the possibility of rigging the election.

      It keeps the single vote anonymous while at the same moment make every vote count. It keeps the voting and counting process at a speed a human eye can watch it and thus it's the most secure thing against voting fraud.

      There is nothing wrong with voting per paper and pen. People not able to handle paper and pen have to get special support with all the other voting systems too. And you can easily design a voting machine that just pens the right point on the ballot for them. It's as complicated than a stancing machine with levers, a touchscreen or a device for people who can't see or read the ballot (noting wrong with Braille script on the voting ballot at all).
      • This weekend people in the EU went voting for parliament. Pen and paper. It just works.

        I haven't checked the numbers, but I'd guess that's more people than in an american presidential election.

        I'm just back from my "put an X in the box in front of the person you want to vote for" myself ...
        • I haven't checked the numbers, but I'd guess that's more people than in an american presidential election.

          The number I've heard is 350 million. I guess that is the total number of people within the EU and not the number of eligible voters. Still, you are right, since it is larger that the US population.

      • You could also use optical scan sheets. Basically the same, but the mark you put on the paper involves darkening an oval, and a computer knows where the oval goes. You can still easily hand count it, though -- if people bubble two alternatives, and they didn't bubble one more, throw the ballot out.
    • You think it's amusing, but you might not think it's so amusing if, for example, Kerry wins in a landslide and then the repubilcans cry foul and rake up all the muck over the machines' insecurity and send the election outcome back to the Supreme court.
    • India just had its national elections and *one billion people* voted electronically. Why don't the Florida authorities ask the Indian Government for advice? We've heard few complaints from India so I assume it must have been a pretty successful system (can anybody comment on this?).

  • by Lord Grey (463613) * on Sunday June 13, 2004 @07:23AM (#9412414)
    The machines, made by Election Systems & Software of Omaha, Neb., fail to provide a consistent electronic "event log" of voting activity when asked to reproduce what happened during the election, state officials said.
    Emphasis mine.

    Considering that an electronic voting system is specifically designed to record and report voting activity, I'd say that a failure to do so consistently is more than a "minor technical hiccup" (as indicated by a spokeswoman for the secretary of state). An intermittent failure of a primary function is worse than an outright failure, as any programmer can tell you. Consider an intermittent failure of the brake system in your car....

    In a strange way, I almost welcome all this attention focused on electronic voting systems. After all, the companies building them are pretty much doing what most other software companies do: Throw it all together as quickly as possible and let marketing and sales push it out the door. These are simply "average" software products coming under greater scrutiny. Maybe by pushing better quality here, we can force improved quality in other products (great leap of the imagination, I know).

  • by mabu (178417) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @07:30AM (#9412432)
    Whenever a story on Diebold is run, the editors should put in a META tag on the web page to play the O'Jays' "For The Love Of Money". It would really drive the point home. Plus it's a wicked bass line.
  • by Spackler (223562) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @07:31AM (#9412434) Journal
    Really, I am confused. (according to the article, that I actually read for once) The only way to fix this is to hook up a laptop supplied by Jeb Bush to the machine, to have it verify what is happening? Yeah, much better than a hanging chad. Thanks.
  • Voter Purge (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 13, 2004 @07:33AM (#9412443)
    What scares me about all of this is that four years after the last election, it is still not common knowledge that Florida purged thousands of people from the electoral role illegally. This was admitted by Choicepoint in a special congressional hearing. Why Jeb Bush is still Governor in Florida I'll never know. (Notice that I'm saying nothing about the hanging chads business, that's a different kettle fish altogether).

    What really amazes me though is that it's happening again [independent.co.uk] and no-one is doing a thing! Why in god's name doesnt the media in your country do it's job? I'm absolutely amazed that you're allowing this to happen again.
    • Whereas in Britain, candidates get caught with big bags full of postal vote forms in their cars... all democracies are corrupt, just in different ways.
    • Re:Voter Purge (Score:3, Informative)

      by RickHunter (103108)

      Actually, what's really surprising is that the media is doing its job! CNN's sued for access to the rolls of purged voters, which Jeb claimed that no one had the right to look at. A number of other parties have also filed suit for the right to double-check the rolls of felons and ensure that there are no eligible voters on them.

      Even worse is that they outsourced the compilation of the list to a private company...

      • Even worse is that they outsourced the compilation of the list to a private company...

        Who then purged all former felons from the rolls, even those who have the right to vote (i.e. felons in new york). After this came to light, Jeb demanded that they petition their original state to have their right restored, and new york said that they hadn't lost the right in the first place, so they couldn't restore it. It reads like something Kafka deammt up.

  • by t_allardyce (48447) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @07:37AM (#9412453) Journal
    "These are minor technical hiccups that happen," said Hood spokeswoman Nicole DeLara. "No votes are lost, or could be lost."

    They said it couldnt happen..

    "She's the fastest voting machine in the fleet"

    But as the electronic voting system made her maiden election..

    [Insert dramatic music]

    "ACCESS DATABASE CORRUPTION - RIGHT A HEAD"

    Disaster struck..

    "Full reverse transactions on the data base! Switch to MySQL!"

    "Its too late, we cant migrate in time!"

    "But these machines.. they cant fail, they are un-breakable!"

    [Music gets more dramatic]

    "Captin! we have lost 12 states, this system had only enough redundancy for 14."

    "What are you saying sir!?"

    "Captin, im saying that if we loose 3 more megabytes of data.. then this election will be null"


    [Music gets even more dramatic crescendo fff]

    "Jack! Jack! there are only enough paper ballots for half the population of Texas!"

    "You take one, your vote is more important! I was only going to throw it away on a 3rd candidate anyway"


    Coming soon, from the directors of Florida 2000, Election Systems & Software of Omaha, Diebold, Microsoft.

    [Music reaches climax]

    ELECTION: 2004
    They said it couldnt happen.
  • In related news... (Score:5, Informative)

    by mko (117690) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @07:38AM (#9412457) Homepage
    Voting machines are "cheap and untrustworthy" compared to slot machines.

    Gambling on Voting (NY Times Op-Ed today) [nytimes.com]

    I don't understand this run on machines anyway, don't paper ballots scale perfectly? Counting votes can be arbitrarily parallelized after all.

  • I just voted. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 13, 2004 @07:39AM (#9412464)

    For the EU parliament. I went in, took a paper ballot, showed my voting card, recieved a small envelope, went behind the screen, used the pen there to check the box across my candidate on the ballot, put the ballot in the envelope, handed voting card and ballot in. Done.

    How the fuck could e-voting make this any faster/simpler? After all, counting the votes is a highly parallelizable task, so the fact that you have 10x or even 100x as many voters shouldn't matter in the least.

    All in all it took me ten minutes. No more, no less.

  • by tdc_vga (787793) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @07:48AM (#9412479)
    I thought some /.ers might find this amusing. I typically vote using the absentee ballot system. I won't forget to vote, get stuck at work late, and this year don't have to deal with the whole e-voting mess. Unfortunately, I live in Palm Beach County and their website has been "temporarily unavailable" for over a week. I don't know about the rest of you, but if I ran a website and it was down for a week+ I think they'd have my head.

    Obviously, you can still call up and order an absentee ballot, but most people order theirs over the web now. Not to be a conspiracy theorist or anything, but in Palm Beach County most of the "get out the vote" campaigns in urban/impoverished/highly democrat areas encourage voters to apply for absentee ballots, hmm. PBC Elections Link [pbcelections.org] That sure gives me more faith in the system, TdC

  • Source Code (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lff (119360) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @07:55AM (#9412503) Journal
    I guess it is too much to hope that the source code is publicly available, but really shouldn't it be?
    lff
    • I guess it is too much to hope that the source code is publicly available, but really shouldn't it be?

      Even if it was, we still wouldn't have the source code to some of the underlying components, such as Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Access.

      I really don't have a whole lot of faith that my vote will be counted properly this election. Closed voting system, no verifiable voting trail, our governor is the president's brother, tons of shady stories from the last presidential election, little news coverage a
  • How hard does it GET? Why can't they just CnP this code, install linux on the machines and just ... vote??

    #define _GNU_SOURCE
    #include

    int main(void) {
    char* c = NULL;
    FILE* votes;
    size_t len = 0;
    size_t readb = 0;

    if((votes = fopen("votes_nov_2004", "a")) == NULL) {
    perror("votes_nov_2004");
    exit(EXIT_FAILURE);
    }

    puts("Enter your vote>");
    while((readb=getline(&c, &len, stdin))>0) {
    fputs(c, votes);
    putc('\n', votes);
    puts("Enter your vote>");
    }

    fclose(votes);
  • by CastrTroy (595695) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @08:18AM (#9412555) Homepage
    You'd think that a country who prides itself on democracy and tries to spread it throughout the world would be able to figure out something as simple as voting. We've never had problems like this in Canada. This whole punch card/e-voting/dress up like you who want to vote for thing really just makes things more difficult. Much easier just putting an X in the box next to the candidate. Hard to screw up that one.
  • Touchscreen voting machines in 11 counties have a software flaw that could make manual recounts impossible in November's presidential election, state officials said.

    Vinnie says: Day sounds about perfect ta me.

    Yoos gots problems wid dat, maybe we come over ta ur place and talk about it?
  • by X-Nc (34250)
    > How will they ever be ready in time for the November elections?

    Answer: They won't. Until the world realizes that they need a truily open standard for electronic voting no "solution" will ever be ready to impliment.

  • by slashdot_commentator (444053) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @08:41AM (#9412655) Journal
    Use keypunch encoders.

    Voter goes into keypunch booth, looks at wall with each candidate assigned a number, voter types in numbers, extracts card, and (new part), sticks card into reader which displays their choices on a screen. (Doesn't like what she sees, goes back in line to punch out another card.) Voter hands in card.

    You have anonymity, a paper trail, no concerns about hanging chads or mispunches, minimal maintenance, and almost no high tech specialist requirements. I wouldn't be shocked if most of this type of equipment is still manufactured and maintained.
  • E-vote is no good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elpapacito (119485) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @08:51AM (#9412702)
    Even if many like machines, because they relieve us of the burden of doing manual work, the relatively few ones
    that -actually know- how machines really work would rather work manually then let a machine decide the outcome
    of an election. I certainly do and I'm no luddite, on the contrary I call myself a computer geek ;)

    The facts are simple and important: computers can count very quickly, but they can be instructed to MIS-count exactly
    as fast
    . Computers can even be instructed to turn your YES into a NO and your NO into a YES. It requires only a click
    to turn 10 million votes from one candidate to another, regardless of what some self-declared "security expert" say about
    the security of well maintained and programmed computers.

    Hand counting of paper votes cannot as easily be corrupted. While with just one click you can tell computers to do anything
    but you can't corrupt a thousand people without having some of them understand that corruption in voting process is against
    democracry ; some will refuse to be corrupted, others will go to media and denounce the corruption..maybe nothing happens
    and the election is rigged...but some people still know and can still talk, and paper votes remain to be counted a dozen
    times if necessary (with and expecially without the help of a counting machine)

    It is also important to check that each and every voter is given his/her voting rights. One can't just trust computers
    to tell if a voter still have his/her rights or have lost it. With a simple click one could trick a computer into reporting
    that 10000 ex-inmates are still in prison, or that 100000 people are alive and should have voted, while in reality they're
    DEAD so they shouldn't be counted as voters to begin with.

    Here is an example with CASH MONEY. Do you like your dollar bills ? Do you like to hold your money in your hands, knowing that your
    money isn't going anywhere unless YOU decide to do something with it ? Indeed it's only a piece of paper, but a very
    important one. Imagine a world in which paper or metal money doesn't exist anymore ..would you trust banks/govts/corporations
    to have all your money in their hands, stored as numbers in their computers ? What if a black-hat hacker attacks their computers ?
    What if some corrupted individual working at a bank steals money from their computers, or simply -delete- your money from your
    account because he doesn't like you ? Why do you think that banks are still using PAPER to keep their records ?

    Fire can destroy paper money, you could lose it, anything could happen...so why do we keep money on paper with holograms
    and other forms of expensive protection ? Because one could falsify money, one could destroy it accidentally..but you can't
    destroy all the paper money with one click, you can't falsify all the money with one click, you can't take money away from
    population hands with one click without kick-starting a bloody revolution.

    Now back to vote : your vote is not money, but for some people it is more much more important then money. Why ? Because your
    vote will direct trillions of dollars and a lot of power to some hands, because your vote will elect a politician, giving
    him/her power to WAGE WAR in your name, to decide were tax money is going to be spent, to decide if a law needs to be changed
    for better or worse.

    Still want your vote and your voting rights to be counted or decided by a stupid computer ? I don't want humans to be taken
    away from the voting process in the name of "progress" or in the name of "savings". It's stupid, it's dangerous.
  • Solution? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by t_allardyce (48447) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @09:11AM (#9412807) Journal
    Whats wrong with just attaching cheap receipt printers to every machine (they wanted to attach notebooks). Design the receipt to be visually obvious and machine readable, use paper thats atleast abit hard to forge, it could be for example just headed with a hologram sticker or water-mark or even just a unique id. Then when the voter presses ok, it prints, they are told to check it, the paper is wound up abit and the next voter comes in. Make recounts by this method mandatory for every election and the machines that read them are not made by the same company (or diebold). Advantage: You can use the existing machines, it doesnt matter how insecure they are, aslong as the paper is kept secure behind glass and then placed in a sealed box. Disadvantage: Im pretty sure the two results will disagree.

  • "Looks like there are more problems with the new e-voting machines. How will they ever be ready in time for the November elections?"

    Move along please, nothing to see here.

    Alex
  • Seriously, they've been in use for many years, reasonably easy for the voter to use, machine readable for quick tallying and give an absolute paper trail. The cost is much lower than placing a computer in each booth and IMO more durable. Somethings like paper books, the steering wheel in cars and the Colt 1911 ACP have been around for a long time because they work, and work well. The same goes for the paper based ballot.

    People bitch about MS being so evil (which they are) but Diebold doesn't care if they

  • by shaitand (626655) * on Sunday June 13, 2004 @10:16AM (#9413138) Journal
    That's right, the global technical community. Slashdotters, open source advocates, programmmers abound.

    Let's set actual security aside for a minute. And lets set hardware drivers aside for a minute.

    How long would it take any child in a high school BASIC class to write a program which can print out selection menus and accept input variables that represent votes. How long to add accurate logging? 30 minutes? an Hour?

    Claiming these problems are all accidental might fly with the technically ignorant. But I'd be willing to bet at least 80% of those reading slashdot at this moment could write a program that was more functional without doing anymore debugging than it takes to get it to compile, and do in under an hour. Toss back in the drivers and I'd bet at least 60-70% of us could do it in less than a week, from top to bottom.

    I'd also bet with only that level of debugging we'd have it more secure than this is the first time around. And after a month of turning it loose on the open source community have it locked down so tight it would never actually be hack (of course we'd continue finding theoretical holes... there are always theoretically exploitable holes).

    The entire effort of commercial voting vendors insults the intelligence of programming everywhere. Diebold yes, but the rest of them as well. For god sakes the php webserver announced last night as simple as it was, was 1000x more complex than the software these guys are claiming they can't get right!!!!

    So my friends thats what we have, and we have to let the rest of the world know better. We at least have to try. Go pay a visit to your family, give them a call or what have you. Bring up this subject and explain how trivial and disgusting this is. It's starts there. Let all your friends know. Everyone in the world is supposedly linked by a small association chain, lets prove it.

    Don't waste time writting email and letters to bought and paid for congressmen who don't read them and send back cookie cutter responses. Tell the PEOPLE. Get press if you can. Send in letters to editor of the local paper, start with the small ones until it's so public the big ones have to carry it. Forget the government, outrage the PEOPLE.

    Now when 200+ million americans are pounding on their doors demanding open source voting software, THEN we'll see how long they throw up red tape.
  • by FFFish (7567) on Sunday June 13, 2004 @12:17PM (#9413896) Homepage
    For a country that has always held itself to be the shining, guiding light of democracy, this next election is going to be one helluvan embarassment.

    There are undoubtedly going to be significant voting scandals -- again -- and the USA will become the laughingstock of the world.

    And the real shame of it is, it's not that the people of the USA are individually a bunch of buffoons. Given the choice, the individual citizens would love to have a voting system that actually works.

    But the US government is determined to prove itself clueless and useless. How frustrating!

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