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Re-Vote Likely After E-Vote Data Mishandling 172

Posted by samzenpus
from the technology-makes-life-easier dept.
davecb writes "A California judge is likely to order a Berkeley city initiative back on the ballot because of local officials' mishandling of electronic voting machine data. A recount was not possible because the city failed to share necessary voting records, a violation of election laws. In a preliminary ruling Thursday, Judge Winifred Smith of the Alameda County Superior Court indicated she would nullify the defeat of a medical marijuana proposal in Berkeley in 2004 and order the measure put back on the ballot in a later election."
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Re-Vote Likely After E-Vote Data Mishandling

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  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@ya ... m minus math_god> on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @07:38PM (#19908429) Homepage Journal
    This should have been done in 2000
    yes, I know it would have been expensive.
  • by Saint Stephen (19450) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @07:44PM (#19908491) Homepage Journal
    For God's Sake, Legalize it already.
  • by seanadams.com (463190) * on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @07:47PM (#19908527) Homepage
    The case points to the dangers of electronic voting systems, which make it harder to ensure fair elections, Luke said.

    How about "make it relatively trivial to rig an election".
  • Re:Good (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @08:06PM (#19908691) Homepage
    I don't know. I don't like Gore, at least in 2000 the only thing I liked about him was his environmental policy, I still hated his corporatism. Maybe he'd be better, maybe he'd be worse.

    The only thing I know for sure would be different had Gore become President is that we would not be in Iraq.

    That's enough for me to wish things had been different.
  • by TruePoindexter (975295) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @08:08PM (#19908721)
    I don't particularly buy the argument that electronic voting is somehow more or less difficult to tamper with than paper voting. Sure there is no guarantee that the hardware and software is protected and will truly offer a fair vote - but can you really say the same thing for paper? Remember those ballots have to go to a machine that counts them. That machine is not perfect - it is just as prone to error and manipulation as your electronic system. Of course with paper ballots you can resort to a manual recount but that is costly and time consuming. Moreover if you think electronic and mechanical counters are unreliable a human is a disaster.

    I'm not saying that the current electronic voting schemes are good. There is clear evidence that the majority of them are flawed and should be replaced or at the very least fixed. I am saying however that making blanket comments that electronic voting is either more or less secure than traditional paper ballots is rather misguided. We're an electronic generation and so we are more attuned to make use of technology rather than more traditional methods. Along those same lines we are used to seeing all the flaws of technology and miss out on the more basic flaws in other systems. After all, hanging chads anyone? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanging_chad/ [wikipedia.org]
  • Re:Possibly. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by iminplaya (723125) <iminplaya.gmail@com> on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @08:28PM (#19908881) Journal
    We need a third party.

    We need a second party. There is only one ruling party right now.
  • by Cervantes (612861) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @08:39PM (#19908975) Journal

    I don't particularly buy the argument that electronic voting is somehow more or less difficult to tamper with than paper voting. Sure there is no guarantee that the hardware and software is protected and will truly offer a fair vote - but can you really say the same thing for paper? Remember those ballots have to go to a machine that counts them. That machine is not perfect - it is just as prone to error and manipulation as your electronic system. Of course with paper ballots you can resort to a manual recount but that is costly and time consuming. Moreover if you think electronic and mechanical counters are unreliable a human is a disaster.
    BZZZZZT. Sorry, but this was so wrong I had to respond.

    Your mistake is an issue of scale. It's relatively easy to slip in one or two false paper ballots. It may not even be that hard to make the machine a little more picky when it comes to checking punchouts on the democrat side of the ballot. But there's backups, paper backups, that get checked and confirmed, even if at a small ratio. Someone watching the pile of ballots go through the machine can find it odd that mostly left-leaning candidates get kicked out as incomplete ballots. Little things can be snuck through easier.

    But electronic... that's what you want when you want to do BIG lies. Just off the top of my head from the last 2 POTUS elections... cards coming preloaded with thousands of votes. Systems designed so that if you left a busy machine collecting votes and forgot to empty it out, it would kick over at 16384 to -16383 (funny how that happened in left-leaning counties, eh?). Funny "glitches" (I hate that word when it comes to elections) that lost entire counties of votes. Concerns that the system might be undercounting Demos and overcounting Repubs. Software that made it exceedingly easy to switch your entire ballot to republican on the last page, without really telling you it was. Or software that just preselected your candidates for you.

    Add too all that... NO paper trail... NO hard copy in your hand to confirm... NO audit trail to be checked to ensure fairness and honesty. Just trust the magic box will tell the other, main, magic box, the correct vote, hope for the best, and ignore the man behind the curtain promising Ohio to Bush. Also, ignore those pesky pollsters and statisticians, they don't actually know what they're doing.

    Really, the 2000 Florida situation was unique, because a swing of a few votes either way made a huge difference. But at least ya'll could go back and CHECK. In '04 all you got was "here's the number, if you don't like it too bad". I'd rather have a few weeks of checking to make sure everythings fair, rather than an instant biased result with no appeal.

    The scale of the flaws of electronic voting far outweigh the flaws of mechanical voting. With mechanical, a few votes can get screwed up. With electronic, a whole election can.
  • by A nonymous Coward (7548) * on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @08:43PM (#19909001)
    Why can't you have a president that is NEITHER an idiot nor an eco-fascist?

    Because there was no third choice. Because you have to choose the lesser of two evils. Because politics doesn't happen in a vacuum. Because you have to vote for what is available. Because the choice in the booth is relative.

    What don't you understand about real world voting?
  • by Qzukk (229616) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @08:48PM (#19909039) Journal

    Remember those ballots have to go to a machine that counts them. That machine is not perfect
    That's because you're doing it wrong. Machines should augment, not replace, humans. "Trust but Verify" -- at every step:

    1) "Voting" Machine that prints out a combination human/optically readable ballot. Human verifies the human part says what they want it to say. We don't want observers confirming this, that's why privacy sleeves have been used for years.
    2) "Sorting" Machine that sorts the ballots based on the optically readable ballot. Human flips through the stacks and verifies all of the human parts say the same thing for that race. Observers can confirm.
    3) A dumb "Counting" Machine that counts a stack of ballots (without needing to know whose ballots are in it). Human puts the resulting number in the tally under the human readable name on the stack. Observers can confirm. Totals of the entire stack before sorting and after counting each race to confirm that nobody misplaced a stack of ballots.

    At each step of the process, a very simple machine (low cost, minimum requirements for certification, etc) performs a single task (and hopefully it will perform it well). And following every machine step comes a step where humans can verify that the step was performed correctly. Since the individual machines don't contain any state about the election at all, voting machine malfunction cannot lose votes, and any malfunctioning piece of equipment can be replaced by any other piece that works. If standards are defined for each step of the process, then multiple companies can compete, driving down prices, and in the event a company is unable to provide sufficient numbers of voting machines, the remainder can be bought from other companies.

    Furthermore, many of the tampering problems with paper ballots (whether cast electronically or not) can be taken care of with forethought and work. Ballot stuffing with leftover ballots (or duplicates, or casting the ballots people turn in as incorrect) can be stopped by issuing numbered ballots and invalidating the remaining or wrong ballots. Likewise, lost ballots would be known based on the gaps in numbers. Preventing this from identifying the voter (based on, say, their position in line relative to a planted observer) can be done by packaging the ballots in blocks of 100 or so, pre-randomized within that block. This way at the end of the day, only the unused ballots of open packages have to be invalidated, the remainder can be invalidated block-by-block (bigger blocks: more random and more to invalidate from an open package at the end of the day. smaller blocks: less random but less cleanup at the end).
  • by TruePoindexter (975295) on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @08:58PM (#19909117)

    Your mistake is an issue of scale. It's relatively easy to slip in one or two false paper ballots. It may not even be that hard to make the machine a little more picky when it comes to checking punchouts on the democrat side of the ballot. But there's backups, paper backups, that get checked and confirmed, even if at a small ratio. Someone watching the pile of ballots go through the machine can find it odd that mostly left-leaning candidates get kicked out as incomplete ballots. Little things can be snuck through easier.

    But electronic... that's what you want when you want to do BIG lies. Just off the top of my head from the last 2 POTUS elections... cards coming preloaded with thousands of votes. Systems designed so that if you left a busy machine collecting votes and forgot to empty it out, it would kick over at 16384 to -16383 (funny how that happened in left-leaning counties, eh?). Funny "glitches" (I hate that word when it comes to elections) that lost entire counties of votes. Concerns that the system might be undercounting Demos and overcounting Repubs. Software that made it exceedingly easy to switch your entire ballot to republican on the last page, without really telling you it was. Or software that just preselected your candidates for you.

    Add too all that... NO paper trail... NO hard copy in your hand to confirm... NO audit trail to be checked to ensure fairness and honesty. Just trust the magic box will tell the other, main, magic box, the correct vote, hope for the best, and ignore the man behind the curtain promising Ohio to Bush. Also, ignore those pesky pollsters and statisticians, they don't actually know what they're doing.

    Yes I understand all that, but that doesn't change the fact that you can't ignore the flaws in previous systems and the possible advantages to this one. Any new system is full of bugs. This is why I always avoid the first few generations of a product just because I know there are issues that need to be worked out and I don't want to have to deal with that. This is no different except the implications and reprecussions are far more drastic (politics is a bit more important than say your car afterall). We shouldn't be trying to abolish it altogether, we should be trying to fix it to make it work. In my view the big fixes that need to be made are these:

    • A proper paper trail needs to be provided including a receipt for both the voter themself and the voting district in the event of a recount.
    • The design, production, and upkeep of electronic voting systems needs to be taken out of the the hands of the private sector and instead be taken care of by the government.
    • Electronic systems need to have an operating system that is dratically different and absolutely proprietary to itself and further be completely open source so it can reviewed by the public at will.
    • The interfaces to and from the devices need to be proprietary and not be simply a reshaped version of an existing interface. No more USB ports.

    That's a small list really but you get the idea. And again I think you should reconsider if paper votes could somehow not have a huge flaw. Deadmen voting? Hanging chads? Lost ballots? Miss-labaled voting cards? Furthermore you're not considering the political machinations behind those previous elections. While the voting was screwed up both times in both cases the polical machines behind both parties were just as flawed if not more so. Lets not forget the people barred from voting in Florida because they simply shared a name with a convicted felon. Paper ballots would not have saved you from that one.
  • Re:Possibly. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MarsDefenseMinister (738128) <dallapieta80@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @09:40PM (#19909447) Homepage Journal
    You know, I dislike Democrats and liberals as much as anybody, but I'm not really sure that the President is meant to have his way ALL the time. Sure, it'd be nice for Bush to have his way 100% of the time, so we could actually fight a war, and fight terror, cut taxes to zero, have school prayer, criminalize abortion, eliminate public education, build a Mexico border fence with robotic machine guns, and lift all restrictions on business.

    But, I'm a businessman, and have to see things as they are, from all sides. I'm not that old, but I've seen enough to know that the Republicans won't be in power all the time, and if we clear the way for a Republican President to use his absolute authority to do good things, that means we also clear the way for Democrats to also use absolute authority.

    Nope, I think that's just a little too frightening.
  • by eean (177028) <slashdotNO@SPAMmonroe.nu> on Wednesday July 18, 2007 @10:45PM (#19909863) Homepage
    e-voting has about 0 to do with the Internet. E-voting uses sneakernet to takes votes from ATM-like machines to a central counting machine. At most the machine might make a POTS call to the counting machine.

    If they did use the Internet they'd probably be like "zOMG hackers!!!" and actually implement some encryption algo's that could potentially make voting more secure then ever before. As it is, they just put some un-signed numbers on memory cards that are then basically feed into an Excel spread sheet.
  • by TapeCutter (624760) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @12:34AM (#19910607) Journal
    Ok, so how do you explain that Gore was not convinced on AGW until after he met J. Hansen at a 1989 senate hearing? Also the information that Gore uses in his "play book" is not simply dreamt up by him, one of his advisers, or even a popular sci-fi authour, it was produced by the IPCC. The IPCC represents the considered (and cautious) opinion of every national science body on the planet INCLUDING THE USA.

    "open your eyes...ignorance of the masses"

    Ironically if wiped the political blinkers from your own eyes it may enable you see the ignorance demonstrated in your post.

    Disclaimer: From what I read here on /. many people in the US appear to judge issues based on the red/blue dichotomy regardless of the amount of contrary information that is freely available. I don't live in the US and couldn't give a rat's arse who you pick to be "ruler of the free world", but to accuse Gore of using Bush's tactics in order to push "his agenda" is just plain nonesense.

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. -- Lazarus Long, "Time Enough for Love"

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