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Feds to Recommend Paper Trail for Electronic Votes 205

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the jig-is-up dept.
flanksteak writes "The National Institute of Standards and Technology is going to recommend the decertification of all electronic voting machines that don't create paper records. Although it sounds like this recommendation may have been in the works for a while, the recent issues in Sarasota, FL (18,000 missing votes) have brought the issue a higher profile. The most interesting comment in the story comes near the end, in which the author cites a study that said paper trails from electronic voting machines aren't all they're cracked up to be."
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Feds To Recommend Paper Trail for Electronic Votes

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  • by 3seas (184403) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @11:49PM (#17060856) Journal
    actually it should never have been without a paper trail.
    It's not like we don't have enough prior experience with data losss not to know how useful a paper trail is.
    And the government with its sexdulpicates should have already know it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by networkBoy (774728)
      Thing is, depending on whether or not the machine prints a human readable output only then it could be made to lie on the paper record as well.
      -nB
      • Paper records (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Thursday November 30, 2006 @11:58PM (#17060908) Homepage Journal
        "Thing is, depending on whether or not the machine prints a human readable output only then it could be made to lie on the paper record as well.

        But if a paper copy is given to the voter, then lies are caught.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ewl1217 (922107)
          That's not necessarily true. The machine could be made to print the votes that the voter made on paper, but to actually submit fixed votes electronically.
          • Re:Paper records (Score:5, Informative)

            by dsandler (224364) <dsandler@nOsPaM.dsandler.org> on Friday December 01, 2006 @01:42AM (#17061708) Homepage
            Doesn't matter. In the case of a recount, the paper ballots---the ones the voter verified---are used.
            • by CastrTroy (595695)
              Did you watch Hacking Democracy? Do you know how hard it is to get a full recount done? In the voting area shown in the film, you get to count 3% of the ballots that are chosen "randomly" and if the results are different then a full recount can be done. However, the ballot selections weren't really random, and with the other hacks possible, it doesn't really matter anyway. With the memory card trick, you could do the -1, +1 votes thing, and then count 3% of the votes, and they would all be counted corre
        • by Shakrai (717556)

          But if a paper copy is given to the voter, then lies are caught.

          You can't give it to the voter. That defeats the purpose of the anonymous ballot and what good is it anyway? You couldn't use them in a recount unless you have a chain of custody.

          New York State election law requires them to be shown to the voter behind glass. If they accept the paper ballot after verifying it then it goes into a lockbox. Our legislature is dysfunctional but sometimes they actually manage to get it right...

        • If a voter can prove a vote, one way or another, then their votes can be bought with money or threats and democracy will fail. If a voter cannot prove how they voted, any threats or buyouts are pointless because the people can lie.
    • actually it should never have been without a paper trail.

      You obviously misunderstand one of the new and enticing features of electronic voting systems. Paper trails would only make wide-scale fraud more difficult!

    • too late (Score:3, Insightful)

      by loid_void (740416) *
      if you haven't seen "Hacking Democracy [hbo.com]" you better.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 01, 2006 @02:13AM (#17061928)
      I assume you realize that anyone who can hack the voting machine can also hack it so that the paper print-out will indicate your correct vote but the record on the card will be another set of votes, not what you made. The security of the system depends upon the integrity of the clerical staff in charge of the balloting system, it always has and always will. If you can't trust them, and make certain that some independent experts, who have to post bonds certifying the system is clean, certify and assure that no one has unauthorized access to the machines and all connections until the vote is tabulated. That will cost a little more but will put someone's money on guaranteeing that no one tampers with your vote.

      CBS
      • by maop (309499) on Friday December 01, 2006 @04:40AM (#17062700)
        Thats why the voting machines should not keep track of any results. The voting machines should just print out a ballot with your choices you selected from the touchscreen. The tally should be done at the optical scanner that scans in the printed ballots. The optical scanner/tabulator software of course should be bulletproof and not easily modifiable. The physical security issue would be easier in this case and the real records are always the paper ballots with the tabulator output as the intermediate records.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by MadJo (674225)
          No matter how long you make the chain. It's still as strong as the weakest link.

          What is essentially the difference between the voting machine itself counting the tally, or that optical scanner?
          Do you trust the software inside that optical scanner? (even though that software can be hacked as well)

          This paper trail should be used as means of checking the results of the voting machines, no matter what physically counted the votes (the voting machine or the optical scanner)
        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          Ok, then here's my submission for a "voting machine". The voting machine is a wooden stick with a piece of graphite down the center which can be used to mark a piece of paper. The paper is marked by person, with an X, using said wooden stick. The ballot is placed in a box, but the voter, which will later be read by an optical scanner. The optical scanner, in this case, is a person, who looks at paper, counts it, records the count for each candidate. People are allowed to watch the optical scanner work to
      • You sort of missed the point of paper trails.

        In US States with competent electronic voting standards such as Nevada, a third party audits a random sample of all machines (usually 1-3% in practice, which is adequate), comparing the paper results with the electronic results. Any discrepancy found in the samples between the electronic results and the paper results triggers a full recount from paper, which is presumed to be correct since the voter verified it. This buys you the speed and accuracy of electroni
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by uncoveror (570620)
      We need to ditch the high-tech whizbangs entirely. Pencil on a paper ballot works. Not every new technology is good, or old one bad.
    • by Ucklak (755284)
      It's like one of those obvious patents.
  • Paper voting! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Quietude (634889) on Thursday November 30, 2006 @11:59PM (#17060918)
    Why do we have to overly complicate voting in this country anyway? Other Western democracies make do just fine with pencils and paper, so what's the reasoning behind using electronic voting machines in a country where most people can't set the clocks on their VCRs?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by The Zon (969911)
      It's not my fault the clock is round and keeps rolling off.
    • Re:Paper voting! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by QuantumRiff (120817) on Friday December 01, 2006 @12:50AM (#17061280)
      Remember the vote for leader of Iraq that Our government bragged about? The one with the election that we setup to be fair and honest? People voted by dipping their thumb in ink, and then voting for the canditate by pressing their thumb next to the candidate.. No duplicate voting, since its obvious when someone walks in with a purple thumb.. Simple, effective, and fair... And people were told to "Twist" their thumbprint to make sure that the print wasn't readable..
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JimBobJoe (2758)
        And people were told to "Twist" their thumbprint to make sure that the print wasn't readable..

        Many countries just dip the thumb in ink when credentialling is complete. The actual ballot is marked with a pen.
      • In that very same election that you are talking about people found that they could wash the ink off and voted twice. You should have known it wasn't entirely true when our government bragged about it. It's a shame that the american media has become lazy and tends to source their facts from government press releases instead of doing actual reporting.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jpetts (208163)
      Because if you did it that way, with the number of questions on a given ballot form it gets very unwieldy. What REALLY needs to happen is the decoupling of trivial local (citywide, countywide) ballots from presidential and congressional ballots. KISS.

      But of corse that won't happen as it simplifies the electoral process, and transfers understanding and clarity back to the electorate: something the Dems and Reps both hate...
      • Re:Paper voting! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by HUADPE (903765) on Friday December 01, 2006 @01:35AM (#17061654) Homepage
        Because if you did it that way [paper and pencil], with the number of questions on a given ballot form it gets very unwieldy.

        I don't buy that a paper ballot can't work. I voted absentee in the midterms (I'm studying abroad), and I had a total of 15 elections, with as many as 9 lines each, and a total of 12 different political parties. This even included such oddities as the "Rent Is Too High" party. Fit perfectly fine on a 11x17 sheet of paper. vote once in each column, each row is for a political party. The page was about 3/5 full, so probably 8 more elections and 7 more parties could have fit.

        The ballot made sense, was easy to fill out, and included space to write in. I know cause I used that space in a couple of elections where I reviled both candidates. So to your complaint of unwieldy I say no good sir.

    • what's the reasoning behind using electronic voting machines in a country where most people can't set the clocks on their VCRs?

      The people who can't set the clocks on their VCRs (who are, incidentally, the majority) think that "computers make things more accurate". And they want voting to be more accurate. Therefore, they think computerized voting machines are a good idea.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by maop (309499)
      Or you could use a pen and an optical scanner like the entire state of New Mexico did.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sn00ker (172521)

        Or you could use a pen and an optical scanner like the entire state of New Mexico did.

        And like New Zealand does. Sure our voting population is only about two million people, but we get voter turnout in excess of 80% and still have results for most electorates within six hours of the polling booths closing. The official result takes somewhat longer, once all the special votes (taken at hospitals and prisons, registered before the election by persons out of the country on the day, or made outside the cou

  • by olivrwendl (465918) on Friday December 01, 2006 @12:00AM (#17060920)
    http://www.forbes.com/opinions/2006/11/10/voting-f raud-security-tech-security-cz_bs_1113security.htm l [forbes.com]

    This article came out in forbes a while back and the author has the best solution I've seen for verifying votes on electronic voting machines. He proposes having a touchscreen computer to make all of your ballot selections and when you are done and hit vote it prints out a piece of paper with your sslections. You then can verify your votes were recorded correctly before putting your ballot in a box so that it can be run through an optical scanner at the end of the day to count the votes.
    • So basically you're saying we count the votes twice, once on the computer and once on the paper ballots? I completely understand the need for a paper trail, and actually think the Forbes article idea is good, but wonder if the government would go for it. For all intensive purposes, the author is proposing we go back to the old paper system, with a different machine (the computer) to replace the paper punch and pull-down-tab machines of the past.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        For all intensive purposes

        Methinks that you meant "For all intents and purposes". Take this as a gentle reminder that you should make sure that you actually know what you are typing, otherwise you look like a retard. You're welcome.
    • I'd take it one step further: http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=204463&cid=167 05323 [slashdot.org]
      • by clickety6 (141178)
        My idea would be to have a system like till receipts with all votes being tallied on a large roll of paper which is visible through a glass window. You vote on the touch screen - get a printed receipt and your vote is printed on the roll. ou look through the glass window and compare what is on your receipt to the roll - if they don't match you kick up a stink!

        Then the roll can be used as an independent check against the computer tallied results. Make the print out in a machine-readable type face and you cou
    • by zippthorne (748122) on Friday December 01, 2006 @12:46AM (#17061258) Journal
      How is that better than voting by marking up a heavy card stock ballot with a marker and running it through an optical scanner? If the goal is to minimize steps, why have the touch screen mumbo jumbo at all?

      Plus, a sharpie is a lot cheaper than a tablet computer with built in printer.
      • by dasunt (249686) on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:43AM (#17062378)
        How is that better than voting by marking up a heavy card stock ballot with a marker and running it through an optical scanner? If the goal is to minimize steps, why have the touch screen mumbo jumbo at all?

        Because, with a computer-generated card, the result should be more or less binary -- either Bob voted for a candidate or he didn't.

        With a card filled in by a voter, there can be some debate about how complete a mark must be before it counts. Witness the hanging chad hell in Florida.

        (OTOH, with computer generated cards, since they are computer generated, it should be trivial to print out fake ballots and stuff the box. But the fake ballots will lack different and unique finger prints.) :/

      • The real reason they want to use touch screen voting machines is so they can pay for all the new equipment by selling targeted ads on the touch screens. As you vote, the ads will be tailored to the demographics of the candidates you support.

        -Don

      • by PMuse (320639)
        How is that better than voting by marking up a heavy card stock ballot with a marker and running it through an optical scanner?
        • 1. Machine allows mis-markings to be corrected until final commit. A voter who mis-marks with a marker must request a fresh ballot and start over.
        • 2. Machine has page space to legibly list options in dozens of races and issues. Card stock ballot requires a flip-book or similar.
        • 3. Machine's ability to place mark on right spot on ballot can be error-checked before hand. It can als
      • Also, many local elections have things like "vote for exactly two" from a pool of many candidates. The computer can verify that the voter voted for exactly two, but if you have two clear votes and one smudge near another candidate, is the vote invalid? That's the hanging chad problem.

        With a paper verified trail, it can print a human readable form followed by checksums that will allow you to correct for smudges and printing errors. Also if the human doesn't like the printout, it can be invalidated, and re
    • by Dausha (546002)
      Not entirely novel thought, either, since I've been saying the same damn thing since the 80s. Sorry, but election fraud has pissed me off since the 70s (when I was in grade school). How the hell can we have a democracy when judges are encouraged to circumvent the legal process and create laws, and when the election process is so porous that we can't be sure of who was elected?!

      You need to make sure the final printed ballot shows candidate names (all) with a big, friggin' dime-sized black dot next to the can
      • GREEeeeaaat Idea (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ahnteis (746045)
        Make it so that the VOLUNTEERS who run the voting locations can be thrown in jail if they make a mistake. That'll really encourage more people to help out.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by JimBobJoe (2758)
      He proposes having a touchscreen computer to make all of your ballot selections and when you are done and hit vote it prints out a piece of paper with your sslections.

      This exists and is sold by a major voting machine manufacturer. [essvote.com] They sell it more for the purpose of helping disabled voters vote in jurisdictions that use scantron-like ballots. But nothing stops you from having all voters use the machine. (I can't recall if any jurisdiction has adopted it that way however.)
    • by spisska (796395) on Friday December 01, 2006 @01:47AM (#17061754)
      The problem with this idea is the same problem with all electronic machines: It's a colossal expense to do something that would be handled just as well with $0.10 marker.

      There are problems with any voting system. Here's the basic rundown:

      1) Mechanical lever, paperless: a machine in which the voter sees the whole ballot, sets switches to indicate their vote, and pulls a master lever to cast the vote, which mechanically adjusts a counter mechanism that is recorded by hand after voting has closed. Problem: the gears can jam. This has happened before, and officials can generally identify jammed machines by an anomolous number of 9s -- the machine fails to advance beyond 9 in a given column because that requires the turning of two counting wheels rather than one, Trust me it's happened, and this is why mechanical levers countinue to be used in only a very few jurisdictions.

      2) Punch card, paper: the voter indicates their choice by putting the ballot into a machine which makes a physical hole in the ballot that can then be read and counted by machine. Problems: There is no chance to correct a mistaken vote except by spoiling the ballot. An incomplete puch can lead to incorrect tabulation (hanging chads). Perforations that were not voted can still fall out before tabulation, meaning an overvote and an invalid ballot. Florida 2000. This is why virtually no jurisdictions still use punch cards.

      3) Optical scan, paper: the voter indicates their choice by marking a paper ballot -- generally by making a mark in a given area of the ballot. Problems: Voters fail to follow directions and make marks other than where they're supposed to (eg circling names rather than checking boxes). Optical scanners identify stray marks as votes (or overvotes), or fail to identify votes. Folded or damaged ballots (particularly in the case of absentee ballots) cannot be read by machine. Optical scan ballots are still very popular, and probably the best solution now being used.

      4) DRE - direct recording electronic, paperless or optionally with a voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT): A voter makes their selection through a touchscreen, keypad, or audio interface and the vote is recorded digitally onto a removable storage unit -- generally a PCMCIA card. Some units feature a simultaneous paper record to present the voter with a hard copy representing their vote. Problems: No transparency between the casting and counting process. No software independence -- the tabulation of votes is dependent on the same software that records the votes. No independent auditability -- there is no way of verifying that the voting and/or tabulation software has not been compromised. No physical record of the vote when there is no VVPAT, and no dependable physical record when there is a VVPAT.

      Paper trails are the most failure-prone parts of the machine and offer no effective protection of the process -- printers can fail, paper loaded incorrectly, ink runs out, paper jams, paper runs out, etc, etc, etc. If it can happen it will, especially in a machine whose hardware is little tested and whose software is engineered on short notice (due to election law that often changes dangerously close to elections), and a machine designed to be used only a couple times per year.

      5) All-mail: this is a system that is being pioneered by Washington State -- all voters vote by absentee ballot delivered through the mail. Eliminates the need for polling places, poll workers, etc. Problem: Opens the door widely to massive vote fraud.

      6) Colored Stones Cast into an Urn, paperless: A very effective system used in ancient republics wherein voters would indicate their choices by placing stones of different colors into given vessels to indicate their vote. No question of hanging chads, hacked machines, misunderstood ballots, etc. Problems: Not machine readable, somewhat impractical for large precincts and long ballots, expensive and difficult to transport and verify stone counts. Very, very few governments or municipalities have used this me
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by adavidw (31941)
        5) All-mail: this is a system that is being pioneered by Washington State...
        You mean Oregon, right?

        In my opinion, and yes IAAEP (I am an Election Professional)...
        Then I'll assume that's just a brain fart and you really do know the difference between the Pacific Northwest states.
  • by MarkusQ (450076) on Friday December 01, 2006 @12:02AM (#17060928) Journal

    Part of the problem with the "paper trail" issue is that the idea keeps getting transformed, by gradual steps, into something that is totally useless. The paper gets put behind glass, printed on a roll, no recourse if it's too fant to read, etc. until there's no reason to suspect that it represents the voter's intentions and not some hacker's.

    The ballot needs to be tangible, a physical object that the voter can inspect (handle, read and verify) and it should be the official record of the vote. If you want to have the touch screen machine give you an insta-count, fine (though I wouldn't) but the actual ballots should also be counted, every time, by hardware too dumb to hack, and if the counts differ the physical ballot count should be the one that is used.

    --MarkusQ

    • by Salvance (1014001) *
      So what's the point of an electronic machine if the votes are counted manually? Seems like it would be a lot cheaper just to improve the paper ballots.
      • You, sir, are a genius. Who would have thought that sometimes, the old-fashioned way worked best? Simplicity should be what we strive for. Why take ten steps to achieve a goal when two will work just fine except w/o the bells and whistles of our Fisher Price XP world?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tm2b (42473)
        Speed. There are all sorts of reasons that speed is valuable, from the voters' desire for instant gratification, to extending the amount of time that a newly elected candidate will have to prepare for his or her new office, to the financial markets handicapping industrial issues based upon the mix of newly elected officials.

        It makes sense to have the electronic results available immediately, and then the paper count can be available days or weeks later. In a close election, it'll matter, and it's just
        • Early voting "results" being announced nationally leads to people NOT voting because "it's already been decided".

          On the other hand, we have exit polls in the place of real results, so I guess we're no worse off.
          • by tm2b (42473)
            Well, yes. Which is why all the responsible organizations don't announce results until after the poll for a state have closed. It wouldn't be any different for official results.
      • by spisska (796395)

        So what's the point of an electronic machine if the votes are counted manually? Seems like it would be a lot cheaper just to improve the paper ballots.

        Yes, yes, yes.

        You, sir, have realized what any sensible person would, and what virtually all coutry clerks, recorders, registrars, directors of boards of elections, and every other person who works with matters of election administration have long realized: It's much cheaper and more sensible to have human-readable ballots that can also be read by machine

    • The ballot needs to be tangible, a physical object that the voter can inspect (handle, read and verify) and it should be the official record of the vote. If you want to have the touch screen machine give you an insta-count, fine (though I wouldn't) but the actual ballots should also be counted, every time, by hardware too dumb to hack, and if the counts differ the physical ballot count should be the one that is used.

      What we do in NH is so basic and straightfoward I can't imagine why it's not widespread:

      1.
      • by MsGeek (162936)
        The InkaVote machines used in LA County are similar, but designed around a paradigm that is familiar to voters in our county. An InkaVote marking device is just like the punchcard device it replaced, but instead of a stylus punching out a hole on a punch card there is a little ink pen. You have to push the little cuss HARD to make a mark on the ballot, but once you do the mark is there for good.

        The ballot IS the vote in LA County. The InkaVote reader machines are technically able to count as well as read, b
    • by ukemike (956477) on Friday December 01, 2006 @02:45AM (#17062132) Homepage
      Actually this time just RTFA isn't enough. You need to read the whitepaper as well.

      It appears that at least one federal agency has not turned to the dark side. The draft NIST white paper recommends a voter verifiable paper audit trail that is also the ballot of record, AND robust auditing. I was very pleased to read it. I hope the final document isn't watered down, and I hope this or something similar is implemented in time for the 2008 election.

      The premise of the whitepaper is that no software dependent system for counting votes (like a touchscreen with no paper ballot) can be fully vetted, and that they should never be used without a software independent record for use in mandatory statistically robust audits.

      In other election reform news... There is an organization that has been a key mover in the election reform movement called electionarchive.org. They did a lot of very interesting statistical analysis of the 2004 elections and found some startling results. They have made a very solid list of 15 legislative recommendations. They can be found here:

      http://electionarchive.org/ucvInfo/US/EI-FederalLe gislationProposal.pdf [electionarchive.org]

      here is a list of the electionarchive.org recommendations
      1.Manual Audits
      2.Voter Service Reports
      3.Auditable Voting Systems
      4.Fund Manual Audits and Voter Service Reports
      5.Teeth (enforcement)
      6.Public Election Records
      7.Election Monitoring Website
      8.Submission of Reports
      9.Public Disclosure of Voting System Software
      10.Prohibit Certain Network Connections
      11.Qualifications for Technical Guidelines Development Committee
      12.Public Right to Observe
      13.Vote Count Audit and Recount Committee
      14.Repository for Voting System Disclosure
      15.Prohibit Practices that Disenfranchise Voters
  • The most interesting comment in the story comes near the end, in which the author cites a study that said paper trails from electronic voting machines aren't all they're cracked up to be.

    Ted Selker mentioned something similar at a seminar this past week. He described a study where subjects voted and the audit trail was sprinkled with a few errors. There were two conditions: (a) paper trails and (b) audio playback of the vote that is recorded to an external device. Subjects did terrible for detection of err

  • In Maryland, before we got the darned electronic voting machines, our county had scantron forms. You filled in the mark with a marker, and fed it into the R2-D2esque machine, which collected the votes electronically. I don't see what the problem with this system was. It has a paper trail with the original paper ballot, and an electronic counting system. Why did we change? Because of the neat-o factor? Sheesh.
    • by cptgrudge (177113)

      In my area in Minnesota we've still got the scantron machines. You can bet I'll raise holy hell if they change it.

  • by 3seas (184403) on Friday December 01, 2006 @12:08AM (#17060974) Journal
    It seems to me that ATM machines get a great deal more use and account for a great deal of money. They give a receipt and also have an internal paper log. It takes two people to open one up legally ....

    You'd think this was new technology in light of the voting machine problems.
    But ATMs have been in use for at least a quarter century.

    • by jipis (677451) on Friday December 01, 2006 @12:15AM (#17061036)
      There is a fundamental difference between an ATM and a voting machine, though. In an ATM, you MUST keep track of the user who was standing at the machine doing the transaction. With a voting machine, you MUST NOT keep track of who is standing at the machine at any given time. Doing so could leak information about how that person voted.

      And, as has been proven, a company that can do one well can real screw up the other (hint: begins with a 'D' and rhymes with "re-told").

      -J
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by JimBobJoe (2758)
      But ATMs have been in use for at least a quarter century.

      ATMs are not as mission critical as voting machines are.

      No one ever needs to use an ATM. They can always use another, or they can just go into the bank, but the voting machine needs to work right, from 6am to whenever polls close, be maintained by less than tech-savvy individuals, resist tampering that is arguably much more complex than a bank machine faces (the worst a machine can do is release its financial contents...which is actually a rather limi
  • Now Diebold can helpfully offer to build these obviously-necessary devices for a mere 120% of the cost of their paperless brethren. Or upgrade their many, many useless old ones, but that's going to be pricey, since they weren't designed that way. It'll cost you at least 30% of a new one.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 01, 2006 @12:14AM (#17061026)
    You've got it wrong. NIST is not proposing to decertify anything. The white paper only talks about proposals for what requirements ought to be in the 2007 federal voting system standards. Read the white paper.
  • by notaprguy (906128) * on Friday December 01, 2006 @12:15AM (#17061032) Journal
    I'm far from a conspiracy theorist but the more I read the more convinced I am that there is something rotten in Denmark...or at least the RNC and their cronies. Check out http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/002027.php [tpmmuckraker.com] for the scary details on the FL-13 race. More than 18,000 voters in primarly Democratic leaning areas showed NO vote for the Congressional candidate. An excerpt from the Orlando Sentinal:

    The group of nearly 18,000 voters that registered no choice in Sarasota's disputed congressional election solidly backed Democratic candidates in all five of Florida's statewide races, an Orlando Sentinel analysis of ballot data shows. Among these voters, even the weakest Democrat -- agriculture-commissioner candidate Eric Copeland -- outpaced a much-better-known Republican incumbent by 551 votes....
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dausha (546002)
      Sorry, Dems have been stealing elections since way before. As I recall, Kennedy got Chicago by enough votes to get the electoral count needed to beat Nixon---and the needed votes "showed up." Don't blame the RNC when the DNC is just as guilty. This is not a party issue, this is a politician issue. They want power and will do what they want to get/keep it.
      • If you had only read the summary better: If 18000 people vote for democrat candidates in other races, but in one race their votes are not counted, why would you think this is fraud by the democrats?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by kcbrown (7426)

      It's worse than that, I think.

      It looks to me (and others) like the Republicans attempted to steal the entire 2006 congressional election (more precisely, enough to maintain a Republican majority in both the House and Senate) and failed only because voter opinion became even more favorable to the Democrats at the last minute. See http://electiondefensealliance.org/landslide_denie d_exit_polls_vs_vote_count_2006 [electionde...liance.org] for details.

      And lest you think the pre-cooked exit polls were "inaccurate" this time aro

  • by carpeweb (949895) on Friday December 01, 2006 @12:15AM (#17061040) Journal
    Let's face it, e-voting is a dumb idea. It's bad solution to a host of problems that never existed outside media and lobbyist FUD and creates more problems than it will ever be worth. "Fixes" to it will make it worse. Want a paper trail? Use paper ballots.
  • I had a question that I would like to see the Slashdot community have a go at. What exactly is wrong with the following electronic voting system (I assume something is wrong becasue it seems so simple):

    You go to a voting booth. You are assigned a random and unique number. Your vote is tied to that unique number and made available online. Anonymity is maintained, while anyone can verify that their vote was cast accurately, and anyone who wants to can tally the votes. No central tabulator is required, and no
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by wheelgun (178700)
      The problem with this and with any sort of receipt is that it destroys the anonymity of the vote. Someone could be pressured into revealing their ballot reciept or the information required to access it. You can bet your bottom dollar that union thugs and similar underworld types would take advantage of a receipt system, if one was instituted.
  • >"If you insist on paper you're tying elections to an old technology," he told internetnews.com.

    In the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, either it works or it doesn't.

    I was just talking to a friend who consults on DP for banks, having worked her way up from being a teller. They keep multiple records of everything and crosscheck everything. Double-checking begins at the earliest stages of data rollup. Humans look over the results from machines.

    Paper "trails" do have the drawback that apparently voters
    • Currently I lean toward optical scan, filled in by the voter and not by machine, with readers set to reject invalid ballots with helpful error messages ("Looks like you voted twice for Congress")and trigger a shred-it-log-it-replace-it procedure.

      This is pretty much what we do now in Kansas City, Kansas, after we replaced the old machines (in both senses of the word). There are so many advantages to this method:

      • Since the time each voter spends at the optical scan machine is just a few moments, there is no
  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday December 01, 2006 @12:45AM (#17061246) Homepage Journal
    Fascinating that the NIST requires an evidence trail only after Bush is no longer involved in a single election, only weeks after Democrats take back control of Congress.

    So the law makes it harder for Democrats to steal elections like Republicans could get away with for years.

    Though I bet Jeb Bush (R-FL) is pissed.

    Next up, a law against lying the US into war. Or maybe against spending $TRILLIONS in debt. Against ignoring PDB warnings of terrorist attacks? Or maybe against NSA warrantless wiretapping. It all looks so much more sensible to live in a democracy when you're a civilian than when you're "the decider".
  • Computer scientists and election experts such as Roy Saltman disagree with the idea of going back to paper ballots. "If you insist on paper you're tying elections to an old technology," he told internetnews.com.

    Yes, except that it was an old technology that worked. I wonder if Saltman thinks it's archaic to cut butter with a knife instead of trying to cut it with an iPod. Computers are not the right tool for every job.

    Even if electronic voting wasn't an inherently bad idea, the current sorry state of most s
  • by geneing (756949) on Friday December 01, 2006 @12:51AM (#17061300)
    I think that the voting machines that San Francisco uses are the best design so far. We get a paper form on which you mark your vote (by drawing a line next to your choice). If you are voting in person, you feed the paper into a machine that 1) Alerts you if you overvoted or didn't mark anything 2) Counts the votes and 3) Stores the marked paper ballot.

    This system has all the benefits: the preliminary results are available immediately from the electronic machine, there is a complete paper trail, you know if the machine couldn't read the ballot, and absentee ballots look exactly the same as the ballots in the precinct. Why isn't this system used everywhere?

  • I don't understand why this fascination with electronic voting exists in the first place. I voted in the midterms and I was horrified to see that there was absolutely no physical record that indicated the black box had in fact recorded my votes correctly.

    If one wants to "solve" the problem of ambiguous voting I suppose the idea of a printed paper result that the voter verifies and then places in a box isn't bad, but I think it's overly complex given the issues at hand. I will concede the advantage that a
  • by paulproteus (112149) <slashdot@@@asheesh...org> on Friday December 01, 2006 @01:00AM (#17061362) Homepage
    Wow, great timing!

    Democracy for America, the follow-up to Howard Dean's Dean for America organization, is running a "Put paper ballets on the agenda" [democracyforamerica.com] drive right now. They want people to tell Nancy Pelosi, as the future Speaker of the House, to make this a priority for next year's Congress.

    So if you care about this issue, make sure she hears about it!

    For what it's worth, I filed testimony in the EFF lawsuit, OPG v. Diebold, where Diebold was suing kids who (like me!) posted to the Web copies of some Diebold memos [berkeley.edu] in which you can read about Florida precicints with negative 16,000 votes for Al Gore and Diebold "upgrading" the software to uncertified (read: "illegal") versions in California.

  • by Odinson (4523) on Friday December 01, 2006 @01:15AM (#17061496) Homepage Journal
    'He pointed to a system devised by Ted Selker, co-director of the CalTech-MIT Voting Technology Project. "The state of the art systems aren't even on the market."'

    Warning RANT!

    Then the people creating the current systems should all be fired. What kind of computer scientist doesn't understand that with any random access storage there is a risk of accidental or intentional destruction or alteration, at any time, in a random fasion. That's why it's called uhh random access. Hello? This is like a CS 101 second week quiz question. They even still call it RAM!

    Any write once technology will be infinately better. Which one is academic. You can use a variety of write once technologies with a diverse amount of write confidence levels, number of rereads possible and techniqiue used, and cost. Just write the votes at they happen, in a sequential fasion, in a way that you cannot backtrack and rewrite.

    • a dot matrix printer?
    • a laser printer?
    • a cdrw?
    • a writable dvd?
    • a WORM tape drive?
    • Sevral of the above?

    Why the hell are do Sarb-Ox and Hipaa require worm tape and encryption in many cases, yet our voting systems have nothing but the seat of their pants.

    As an aside Bruce Schneier [schneier.com] chimed in on this recently. I wonder if this had any effect on NIST's comments.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by maop (309499)

      What kind of computer scientist doesn't understand that with any random access storage there is a risk of accidental or intentional destruction or alteration, at any time, in a random fasion. That's why it's called uhh random access. Hello? This is like a CS 101 second week quiz question. They even still call it RAM!

      That is NOT why they call it random access. They call it random access because memory can be accessed just as easily (with smallish time variation) no matter the order of memory locations requ

  • by cwills (200262) on Friday December 01, 2006 @01:18AM (#17061528)

    Electronic voting benefits mainly the media. There really is not any real reason to have to produce the results of an election within hours after the polls close, except to support the media hype surrounding the election.

    The ease of a voting system should not be directed towards the "counters", but towards the person voting and the people who need to be able to verify the counts during a dispute.

    Use a simple paper ballot that the voter fills out (with maybe a mechanical/electronic assistance if needed), and places into a ballot box. The voter should not be able to walk out the door with any thing that can prove how they voted, as this can lead to selling votes or force someone to vote in a certain fashion (think of your boss saying that if you want to keep your job, you had to vote for X and bring in the proof).

    Electronically/mechanically process the paper ballot to produce the counts. If there is a dispute the paper ballots are verified by hand counting.

    The counting system should make a first pass through the ballots and perform a simple pass/fail on each ballot. Any ballot that fails goes to a hand count bin. The machine should be able to perform this "sorting" without human intervention (I believe that my local district's machines either require intervention with each failed scan, or simply indicates that there were failed scans within a batch).

  • The worlds largest democracy(In numbers) has successfully shifted to Electronic Voting machines without any major tech issues and issues on tampering etc., The number of voters there is close to 1 Billion.

    Sure there are other issues like booth capturing and voter intimidation and bribing, but the technological transition has been smooth. To top it all India is still a developing country with a large percentage(40%+) of the voters being completely illiterate. If India can do it, so can US, its more of a wil

  • Yeah, well... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jd (1658) <imipak@yaCOLAhoo.com minus caffeine> on Friday December 01, 2006 @02:32AM (#17062072) Homepage Journal
    Ballot boxes go "walkies" all the time, which is important if you have specific districts that are likely to vote in opposition to however you happen to feel. As such, there needs to be much more security on such stuff before I'm willing to take it seriously.


    One thing I'd like would be for the electronic machine to generate a cryptographically-secure hash generated from all the votes cast on it. The paper ballots can then be electronically scanned and the same hash algorithm applied to the scanned data. If ALL votes are present and unmodified, then the hashes should be the same. Provided there is no collusion between the voting machine and the scanning machine makers, the probability of the hashes coming out the same in the event of vote-tampering of any kind should be extremely low.


    However, knowing that tampering has occurred doesn't solve the issue of what to do about it. I'd simply insist on the election being re-held until all districts came back clean from tampering. Oh, and all sports, adult and cartoon channels would be legally required to stop transmitting until everyone bloody well voted and/or adjudicated honestly. Also, anyone caught attempting (or practicing) voting fraud should be compelled to buy everyone the DVDs of the shows they missed, before being locked up in a psych ward in Romania for the rest of their unnatural life.

  • Computer prints you a receipt with a random number. Your vote is kept with your random number (electronically, plus internal paper roll in case electronic copy is FUBARed). You can check your vote, using the random number, on the web or via a bulletin board at the voting place the next day. Poll workers count the total number of voters at each site, which should "exactly" match the number of records on the web/bulletin board.

    Can anyone think of a way to cheat THAT system?

    It seems to be able to hand
  • Why not just have the voter vote on paper like they used to, and then just use a machine to scan the ballots and transmit the results? That way, the paper trail could be trusted, and if there was any doubt about the machine, you could use any other to verify the results.
    • by Detritus (11846)
      Because many people are stupid and can't follow directions. Other people may have problems with vision and motor skills due to age, injury or illness.
  • by vtcodger (957785) on Friday December 01, 2006 @09:18AM (#17064150)
    Seems to me like Americans have this cultural thing that causes us to believe that complex, untested, technologies must be superior to the old fashioned way. When I was a kid during World War II, I used to thumb through the back pages of Popular Mechanics where they had pictures to these neat weapons that would surely bring the axis to its knees. Sixty years later, we STILL can't build usable versions of some of those things.

    If the problem is that people make mistakes in counting, mark and scan technology should produce better results. If the problem is votes from dead or imaginary voters, how can any technology help?

    If there is, as I suspect, no real problem at all, why the hell are we stumbling around with all this half-baked technology?

  • by rickkas7 (983760) on Friday December 01, 2006 @09:21AM (#17064158)
    In my little town in Vermont there was no line to vote because there were probably 20 completely private booths and 40 semi-private counter spots in which to fill in the little bubbles on the optical scan card with permanent marker.

    All other issues aside, there is no possible way we could afford anywhere near that many touch-screen machines. Even barring technical problems this is bound to cause a bottleneck as people ponder their vote.

  • What good is a paper trail? Sure, it will print out the votes that I cast. But how do I know they are really being counted? Electronic voting just doesn't work. We need a manual system where you mark your ballot with permanent ink and that ballot gets counted both by machine and by hand. And the choices have to be far enough apart on the ballot to prevent inconsistencies. Its the only way.

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