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New Jersey E-Voting Problems Worse Than Originally Suspected 118

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the lazy-or-shady-it's-still-evil dept.
TechDirt is reporting that the New Jersey e-voting troubles are even worse than originally thought. Apparently the "minor bug" which was supposed to be fixed is still not corrected, suggesting that Sequoia still doesn't know what is going on. "Ed Felten has received a bunch of 'summary tapes' from the last election in New Jersey, and while many of them do have the vote totals matching up correctly at the end at least two of the summary tapes simply don't add up, meaning that Sequoia's explanation of what went wrong is incorrect. Given how often the company has denied or hidden errors in its machines, despite a ton of evidence, we shouldn't be surprised that it was inaccurate in explaining away this latest problem as well. However, we should be outraged that the company refuses to allow third party researchers to investigate these machines. It's a travesty that any government would use them when they've been shown to have so many problems and the company is unwilling to allow an independent investigation."
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New Jersey E-Voting Problems Worse Than Originally Suspected

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  • by Leptok (1096623)
    Minor "Big?"
    • by Tackhead (54550)

      Minor "Big?"

      That's not an oxymoron, that's a feature! (Rather like most proposals for electronic voting itself...)

      • I read your provided link, and to be honest it's hard for me to get excited about incorrect vote tallies. Even when the guy I want wins (first Bill Clinton in 1992, then George Bush in 2000), said guy acts completely contrary to what he originally promised. So I wonder why it even matters who I vote for? The guy I liked is the same guy I end-up hating eight years later! At this point I really don't care who the next president is, or whether or not the machine records my vote.

        For all I care, let the Stat
  • by langelgjm (860756) on Monday April 07, 2008 @03:41PM (#22992494) Journal
    Here's the link that should have been in the summary, [freedom-to-tinker.com] to the post in Ed Felten's blog, Freedom to Tinker, complete with images of the paper tape in question.
    • by RobBebop (947356) on Monday April 07, 2008 @04:01PM (#22992708) Homepage Journal

      I think the scary part is that the small error is definitive proof that the voting machines are wrong, but that there is no mention of a method in NJ for the poll workers to go back and check out that there really were X number of votes for each candidate.

      The thing that is important for the integrity of the election is that there is a verified paper "receipt" that the voter has checked and dropped into a box that can't be tampered with.

      Sure, the summary print outs are "nice" for instant access to the results, but there isn't really a good reason not to have a bi-partisan check of the paper records at the end of the day.

      After 5 or 6 election cycles are validated with this computer/receipt method, then we could start to put more trust in the machines... but Diebold and their ilk have proven time-and-time again that they cannot design voting machines that stand up to scrutiny of even the simplest checks (like Felten's comparison between total votes and reported number of total voters).

      • What bothers me (Score:5, Interesting)

        by dj245 (732906) on Monday April 07, 2008 @05:30PM (#22993762) Homepage
        What is really bugging me is that computers are great at counting and adding. ITS WHAT THEY DO! The fact that nobody can come up with a believable voting machine tells me something really rotten is going on. I could understand if they were having troubles with advanced CFD code making or some other complex process where the real-world results are not completely understood, but these machines are basically taking $NumVotesCast +1 many many times.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by fredklein (532096)
          What is so goddamn hard about producing a simple, easy to use, secure, electronic voting machine/method?
          Take a podium, put a mini-atx MB in a locked metal box under it, a touch-screen lcd on the top, and strap a printer to the side. The thing boots over the network from a server locked a cage in the corner of the room.
          The software is not much more than a web page that displays the pictures/names of the candidates (or the text of referendums, etc), and allows you to touch the name/face of who you want.
          The p
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by kesuki (321456)
            the simplest solution with receipts, is to fold them in half, and drop them in a separate box, that the voting poll place provides, so they can compare receipts to the big master rolls.

            the end user, if they see a print out other than what they chose, can take it straight to the voting officials, tear off a special the code at the bottom, and they can hand them a paper ballot, and they type the code in on their workstation, invalidating that entry in the electronic tally.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by fredklein (532096)
              the simplest solution with receipts, is to fold them in half, and drop them in a separate box, that the voting poll place provides, so they can compare receipts to the big master rolls.


              They're printed on 2-ply paper. Both receipts get impact-printed at the same time. There is no way they can differ.

              if they see a print out other than what they chose,

              They would get a chance to review their choices before printing, and a chance to view the receipt before it feeds out of the machine. If it is incorrect, they hi
              • by kesuki (321456)
                And what do you do when the print out doesn't match what the screen shows due to a bug in the system?

                hrm?
                • by fredklein (532096)
                  I'm not sure what you mean. It's a fairly simple system, with only one purpose. All the software, including print drivers, will be designed and tested exclusively for this system. The possibility of a random error does exist, however.

                  And the solution is simple- A voter can always go to the officials, give them the ID number off the receipt (or, lacking that, the machine number and time) and they can enter a 'manual' cancellation. These manual cancellations will be done on a seperate client, and require pa
              • Barcodes are not going to work for a voting application.

                The problem with barcodes is that most ordinary humans cannot read them, so the ordinary humans don't know for sure what information is contained in them. Sure, you say you pushed the button for void, but how do you know it's the word "*VOID*" that's printed and not "*CONFIRMED*"? As a human, you don't.

                To be trustable and easily understood by the average voter, the receipts must be human readable. If there is a real need for them to be machine r

                • by fredklein (532096)
                  The problem with barcodes is that most ordinary humans cannot read them, so the ordinary humans don't know for sure what information is contained in them.

                  1) use an established barcode encoding standard such as code 93 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_93 [wikipedia.org]). That way, anyone who wants to can read it.

                  2) You can tell the difference between 'thick line, thick line, thick line, thick line, thick line, thick line' and 'thin line, thin line, thin line, thin line, thin line, thin line', right??

                  3) I said "in both
                  • by plover (150551) *
                    1. No, virtually no one can read it. They don't have a barcode scanner in the voting booth with them.

                    2. Actually, I cannot. Without a reference to compare against, I cannot tell if a line is thick or thin. Besides, that's not a legitimate symbology (from your point #1.)

                    3. What good does it do to print the human readable code below what are essentially random stripes to a human? I can easily print bars that contain the word "VALID" but print the word "VOID" beneath them and you would never know. E

                    • by fredklein (532096)
                      No, virtually no one can read it. They don't have a barcode scanner in the voting booth with them.

                      But they will have scanners during recounts, which is the only time the barcodes really matter.

                      Without a reference to compare against, I cannot tell if a line is thick or thin.

                      If you can't tell the relative sizes of two objects, that's YOUR problem.

                      Besides, that's not a legitimate symbology (from your point #1.)

                      It was an example, not a suggested coding. Sheesh.

                      I can easily print bars that contain the word "VA
                    • by plover (150551) *
                      And my point is that it is neither simple nor easy to come up with a TRUSTWORTHY electronic voting system. As a matter of fact, it is not possible. The only secure system that actually works and that human beings in the voting booths can understand is one based on simple tokens -- names and marks on paper stuffed into a box, or clay coins dropped into a jar. Electronics have no role in these systems.

                      Computer bits are themselves invisible, and can only be ordered about by invisible processors running in

                  • Barcode argument solved...
                    Sorry, barcodes are a horrible idea, as explained by plover (150551). The readable and scannable problem was solved 52 years ago http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MICR [wikipedia.org] by the banking industry. Have you ever written a check/cheque?

                    Receipt argument solved...
                    Voting machines should have printers in them that print 2 check-like vouchers. One is a receipt, the other is a ballot that the voter inserts into a scanning lockbox on his/her way out. The voting machine isn't even on a network, a
              • by Socguy (933973)
                Very nice, very simple. Although in my opinion you ought to do away with the barcode. If a recount is required it should be done manually, (by a neutral 3rd party of course). If you can't trust the machine the first time around, I won't trust it the second... Further, a manual recount should be automatic when the results differ significantly from exit polling.

                My rant: We can put a man on the moon. We can create new forms of life one gene at a time. We can alter the chemistry of the seas and atmosphe
                • by fredklein (532096)
                  Although in my opinion you ought to do away with the barcode. If a recount is required it should be done manually,

                  That's fine by me. It's just easier and faster to feed a roll of paper under a laser scanner than it is to manually read each name.

                  If you can't trust the machine the first time around, I won't trust it the second

                  Different machines. :-) The recount machine is just a laser scanner (like at your local grocery store or whatever), hooked to a pc that 'translates' the barcodes into text, and counts th
          • To partially copy-paste from a previous post, I live in Seattle, which is in King County, evidently the 12th largest county in the nation according to their FAQ site. I worked the AVU [metrokc.gov] (Assisted Voting Unit) for the primaries this year. It was a Diebold Accuvote TSx [eff.org] (direct link to PDF [eff.org]). It has a printer and a sealed spool, and the voting works like this:
            1. Voter makes their selections on the screen and hits the "Next" button (or whatever it is)
            2. The printer prints a printout of what they voted on all the
          • So what that you haven't put the voter's name on the receipt. That's not going to stop the selling of votes (etc). I remember the first time I voted. NYS used mechanical machines, every candidate had a toggle switch (on/off). when you were done you pull the vote lever and it records the votes you toggled on. If you toggle a candidate for mayor and then toggle another candidate for mayor, then the first one flipped off. This is freaking simple. You display a page with radio buttons in groups, punching one
            • by fredklein (532096)
              So what that you haven't put the voter's name on the receipt. That's not going to stop the selling of votes (etc).

              Sure it will... the first time someone shows up wanting to get paid with 30 receipts he found on the floor (most people will throw them away, I'm sorry to admit).
      • by cpeterso (19082)
        For all their fancy screens and print-outs, what problem do e-voting machines actually solve? Counting votes by hand seemed to be old-fashioned, but working just fine, thank you. :\
        • by Catbeller (118204)

          what problem do e-voting machines actually solve?


          Democrats in public office. Solves the problem perfectly.
      • by kesuki (321456)
        In Wisconsin, they ask you 'paper or electronic' when you ask for a ballot. Knowing what I know, I always say 'paper.'

        Eventually there will be a time when they stop asking, just like grocery stores stopped asking 'paper or plastic' and just give you cheap plastic bags that drop your groceries to the ground before you get to the car.

        The fact that voting machine companies have refused to use an open model for handling votes shows that they are just in it for the money, they could give a damn if the election
        • by Catbeller (118204)
          Money? They are in it to *cheat*. No system so simple could f* up so badly unless someone wants it to. It's counting, for FSM's sake, not modeling a nuclear explosion.
    • Here's the real story [theonion.com]. Just in case you missed it. Diebold has already accidentally leaked the 2008 election results. Warning - Stupid non-skip 10 second ad before story.
      -b
      • by Splab (574204)
        those must see adds are gonna lose people traffic. I automatically close the site these days, been way to many sites that force a commercial that often takes longer than the content you want to see. (not in this case though)
    • Go read Sequoia's explanation. Under their scenario, voters were presented with THE WRONG CHOICES for PRESIDENT of the UNITED STATES. Specifically, Democratic party members were presented with Republican party choices or vice versa - and (this is important) - the error was not detected by the voter. This should be reason enough to disqualify the equipment!

      I also note the use of the term "Democrat party" in Sequoia's explanation - I'll reserve my own comments on this slur, instead referring the reader to htt [wikipedia.org]
  • Minor Big (Score:3, Funny)

    by electricbern (1222632) on Monday April 07, 2008 @03:42PM (#22992514)
    Make up your mind.
  • by Trigun (685027) <evil@evilempire . a th.cx> on Monday April 07, 2008 @03:43PM (#22992528)
    This is getting old. Nobody in Government wants to say anything against this, as they might just end up on the wrong side of an upset vote. The people don't care as long as the majority doesn't feel disenfranchised. The minority can't do anything, because the majority doesn't care.
    • Bullsh!t (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mpapet (761907) on Monday April 07, 2008 @05:04PM (#22993484) Homepage
      The minority can't do anything

      And there's your excuse for you and the ~4 moderators let sleeping dogs lie.

      It's partially your fault for not participating. Own up and get involved in the voting process.

      Or, maybe you'll have another excuse for doing nothing.
    • by reddburn (1109121)
      This is a bit simplistic, especially when you consider that most polls indicate that the majority of people aren't in line with those in power. It's not the "Majority" that doesn't care, it's the really loud minority that makes the majority irrelevant. Quit whining and do something. I'm sure you can find a local group that would love your help.
  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Monday April 07, 2008 @03:44PM (#22992530)

    Apparently the "minor big" which was supposed to be fixed is still not corrected

    I guess I'm a dork for enjoying the second-order kind of humor in that statement.

  • This is New Jersey (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    However, we should be outraged that the company refuses to allow third party researchers to investigate these machines. It's a travesty that any government would use them when they've been shown to have so many problems and the company is unwilling to allow an independent investigation.

    So what the hell do you expect? This is New Jersey, whose various governments have a reputation for corruption that makes the chicago machine green with envy. Someone is benefiting from the use of these voting machines, pay

    • So what the hell do you expect? This is New Jersey, whose various governments have a reputation for corruption that makes the chicago machine green with envy. Someone is benefiting from the use of these voting machines, payment for them, support of them, transport of them, incumbent protection by them... oh hell, its New Jersey; all of the above!
      By your anonymous posting, I'm guessing you live in New Jersey.
  • by mcmonkey (96054) on Monday April 07, 2008 @04:00PM (#22992702) Homepage
    So many stories have "the company did this" or "the company denied that." Aren't these companies made up of people?

    I can imagine an effort by management to cut corners and maximize profits at the expense of quality and company reputation, but is there really no one in a position of first hand knowledge who knows better?

    With the multitudes of avenues for anonymous communications, it's not like I'm asking someone to put their job on the line. (Not that it would be too much to ask. There are people out there risking their lives in a very real way to protect this country. You won't even risk a job you most likely hate anyway?)
    • by Qzukk (229616) on Monday April 07, 2008 @04:09PM (#22992800) Journal

      You won't even risk a job you most likely hate anyway?
      Whistle-blower laws exist because companies don't exactly line up to hire such paragons of virtue and honesty.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by kesuki (321456)
        "Whistle-blower laws exist because companies don't exactly line up to hire such paragons of virtue and honesty."

        Ahh, so THAT was the question i kept screwing up when i tried to get a job at best buy. Who the hell knew that if you saw someone steal 20 dollars from the company they wanted you to say you'd do nothing.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Come on now, lets put this in perspective a bit, I am perhaps the least technically savy reader slashdot atracts on a daily basis, and even I could manage to throw a program together that would require little more than a 286 running dos that could ask people a few mutiple choice questions AND acurately keep a count of the results.

      Can there REALLY be any question that something shady is going on?

      ((lol at confimation image of "booths"))
    • by tobiah (308208)
      Whistleblowing works best in response to fraud. To report your company for incompetence requires someone capable enough to recognize it. Diebold seems to lack that employee. And given their response to these reported errors, I can understand why they failed to attract such employees. Competent engineers embrace criticism, and tend to avoid work that suppresses it.
  • You have a "Perfect Storm" of apathetic voters, an administration that has displayed its contempt for democracy at every turn and aggressively appointed people who place ideology above honour and country to positions affecting all levels of government, a company that has exhibited at every opportunity a predilection for cover-ups, a House and Senate that have abrogated their role in the checks and balances equation, and a judiciary that has similarly abandoned its responsibility to remain independent of po

    • by hyades1 (1149581)

      Looks like I tripped over one of those nasty little fascists who somehow manage to get Moderator privileges from time to time. Perhaps somebody should teach them what "fair comment" means, and how it contributes to open, honest discussion. Or, in this case, how "fair comment" includes a very reasonable analysis of how a truly unacceptable and potentially dangerous situation was permitted to arise.

      "Flamebait" my ass!

  • Man... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Copley (726927)

    Your country's elections are screwed up!

    How'd your elections get to be such a mess?! USA - the 'bastion' of democracy, and you can't even organise a fair, verifiable election.

    You might want to take a quick look at how so many other nations manage with just paper ballots and pens. Don't forget kids, K.I.S.S.!

    • Re:Man... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sumdumass (711423) on Monday April 07, 2008 @04:32PM (#22993092) Journal
      It isn't really all that screwed up. But we do have a few problems. First is that each state (province in most other countries) decide how to have their elections independent of the federal government. Then you have situations where someone demands that fraud happened because their guy lost and they aren't willing to accept that. So you get state governments wanting to figure out how to look like their going to do something to compensate for what really amounts to stupid citizens and here comes all the companies with plans to make them money.

      So know you have politicians who think something needs to be done, companies lobbying them thinking they can make a buck, and when they do, it isn't enough, they have to cut corners, which then turns the same sour puss crowd that turns it into a We gotta do something again message that perpetuates the companies claiming give us more money and we can fix it.

      The problem is that it is getting represented as worse then it is. There might have been a few problems here and there but the major ones you hear about are more or less citizen errors. Things like claiming disenfranchisement because someone passed out a flyer saying Vote on X day if your voting republican and vote on Y day if your voting for a democrat (ohio), people claiming disenfranchisement because cops are parked in the medium strip watching traffic 4 or 5 blocks away from a polling place, or that they couldn't figure out how to line up their cards properly and look to see if a hole was actually made on certain selections (florida). Now we have new jersey and Maryland where where Electronic voting seems to have made a couple of errors that would be somewhat par for the course if paper ballots where used anyways. But because it is electronic, it is receiving much more scrutiny.

      In all, it isn't nearly as bad as it is being made out as. Still it isn't something that should be ignored either. The real interesting thing is that they areas having the problems seem to be more liberal in nature which is probably why you get the loud screaming if something doesn't go the way they hoped it would. (the perpetual underdog syndrome where we can raly the grass roots but claiming someone is mysteriously attempting to use the magic smoke in the decices to stop your vote from counting.)
      • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

        The problem is that it is getting represented as worse then it is.

        Got any evidence for that? Any comparison of electronic voting totals with real voting totals in an actual election somebody cared about? Some sort of plan for gathering such evidence?

        If not, then I do think it's as bad as it's being made out, or worse. Specifically, with no assurance that our votes are counted accurately, what happened to democracy?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I don't mean the security of the evoting process - that is very hard.

    But getting the numbers to add up?? Come on - that should be trivial. If they're FBARing that, I have absolutely no faith in the rest of it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Toonol (1057698)
      There's one point this indirectly makes, though... I think this illustrates incompetency rather than fraud. It is was fraud, they would add up.
  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Monday April 07, 2008 @04:19PM (#22992892)
    ...and, you know, the voting machines fell off the back of a truck - if you know what I mean - which is why the state was able to get them "wholesale". You got a problem with that? I got your warranty right here.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Rude Turnip (49495)
      The fact that this problem is taking place in New Jersey should be disgusting and shocking...keep in mind we have the gambling sub-mecca of Atlantic City over here. What you might not be aware of is that the state government maintains strict controls on slot machines and other electronic gaming devices for gambling. In fact, the source code to the machines is reviewed by the govt for fraud detection.

      If the state government maintains strict controls on slot machines and has access to the source code of slo
      • Good points all.

        If the state government maintains strict controls on slot machines and has access to the source code of slot machines....why the hell doesn't it have a better grasp on voting machines?

        Simple: Voting *costs" money and gambling *makes* money for the state. Voting machine companies aren't really held for any liability and casinos are.

        Add some vendor-inaccessable accounting to the voting machines and fine the vendors for every discrepancy and see if the quality of their product changes, o

      • You've got a good point. At this rate, these voting machines are more random than slot machines.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by kesuki (321456)
        "If the state government maintains strict controls on slot machines and has access to the source code of slot machines....why the hell doesn't it have a better grasp on voting machines?!"

        Just to be fair, people have died because they worked for a slot machine company (one that sold to bars, etc, in Nevada, where they have the same or similar laws) and were going to whistle blow (testify in court, witness protection and all that) on them about the fact that the company had forced them to work on two versions
    • by Sloppy (14984) on Monday April 07, 2008 @05:15PM (#22993602) Homepage Journal

      the voting machines fell off the back of a truck .. which is why the state was able to get them "wholesale".

      I get the joke, but..

      One of the interesting things about the situation, is that New Jersey apparently does not own the machines. They neither stole nor bought them. They licensed the machines, and the terms of the license are what prohibits them from analyzing the flaws. Without the state signing a contract that prohibits them from auditing the machines, Sequoia would have had no muscle to prevent it, and Felten would have his hands on one by now.

      • by kesuki (321456)
        they may have licensed the machines, rather than bought them, but they still were able to analyze the data output by them in a real election, compared to voter registration (voter registration is not handled by their machines, they only tally votes)

        this is how they know that they have a serious bug, the numbers didn't mesh by a large enough number to be more than statistical chance.

      • by VoidCrow (836595)
        Why in God's name would they sign a contract prohibiting auditing? That's retarded.
  • Is it just me.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gdog05 (975196) on Monday April 07, 2008 @04:23PM (#22992940)
    or does "worse than originally thought" define the daily dose of reality we Americans keep receiving?
  • I wonder how the recent election in Zimbabwe would have turned out if they had used Sequoia's kit.


    Then again, maybe they *were* using Sequoia's gear ...

  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday April 07, 2008 @04:32PM (#22993090) Homepage
    I think the number one reason people are suspecting corruption and election tampering is the idea that adding one (1) is somehow a complicated action to perform. And that is the basic operational notion behind voting after all.

    But why aren't people outraged? I think it's because we, the people, don't believe our votes count anyway and so none of this comes as a surprise. There may have been a time when men with pistols and rifles might gather and demand a recount, but guess what? We don't have gun ownership any more... at least not the kind that we had in the past. And if a group of people with guns gathered together for just about any reason at all, I think the potential outcome would be easy to guess based on recent historical events.

    I really don't think our votes count. They don't because of a variety of reasons prior to the ballot being printed. Independents don't stand a chance... even the people who are actually pretty well liked by most. The news media is incredibly biased. When debates are being held, lots of people are simply not allowed to even participate. Some states such as Texas even have laws that state you cannot participate in getting an independent on the ballot if you have voted in any party primaries. The end result is that we can "vote" for whoever we want... but the selection is more or less out of our hands.

    If people really believed their votes counted, they would be outraged. The lack of rage is a pretty telling indication that the people aren't interested in voting irregularities in the least. If there were irregularities in their bank statements, their phone bill or their paychecks, they'd be outraged to the point of violence as is often the case when such issues occur. So if outrage is an indicator of how much someone cares when things go wrong, then I'd say people are more upset over [literally] spilled milk than they are over elections.
    • by mpapet (761907)
      I think it's because we, the people, don't believe our votes count anyway

      Sadly, that is all most Americans think is required to maintain the Republic. (hint, it's not a democracy)

      I really don't think our votes count.
      You get exactly what you put into your ~1 hour a year of effort. A government that is best-suited to work against your ideals. It's your fault. It's not some multi-headed hydra of wealth and political power running the show. They participate, you don't. Period.

      Independents don't stand a ch
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by erroneus (253617)
        You get exactly what you put into your ~1 hour a year of effort. A government that is best-suited to work against your ideals. It's your fault. It's not some multi-headed hydra of wealth and political power running the show. They participate, you don't. Period.

        Ah that's the great thing. It's not "my" fault for not participating in a system that is clearly rigged to favor particular groups and particular parties. In fact, the opposite would be true... if I were to feed the corrupt system with my participat
      • by lgw (121541)
        Actually, independents mesh well with our two-party system. Credible independent parties (parties that can claim at least 1% of the vote) regularly change the platform of one of the two parties to get those independent voters back. Seems to work pretty well - there's no need for the independent party to win an election for its idea to win, after all.

        Most voters as so apathetic because life is so good here - as much as people whine and complain, stability and even gridlock is what most people seem to want,
    • by Sethalos (1090699)
      People are tired and worn out, they are too busy to care anymore and that's the way the big corporations and the Gov't like it. There are just too many things going on for people to protest, or complain about, and this lack of caring is a direct result of todays Corporate and Social pressures on the working class of people.
      • by erroneus (253617)
        Are you suggesting that this is "by design"? I'd be inclined to agree with you. A recent example of this is where the Bush administration put forth this ridiculously complicated set of options for government medical benefits. They've got us worried about unemployment, health care, taxes... the media has us watching Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. Yeah... we're a pretty distracted group of people...too distracted to care.
        • by Sethalos (1090699)
          That is precisely what I am suggesting, and trying to do so without some labeling me a "conspiracy theroist", hehe. Smoke and mirrors have worked very very well for the Bush agenda, and I have no doubt that it is still a prime means of dealing with issues. People are easily distracted in todays society and for the most part many of us have the concentration and focus of caffeinated monkeys with ADHD. So many newsworthy stories have been buried because of just this type of maneuver.
    • by Sloppy (14984)

      I think the number one reason people are suspecting corruption and election tampering is the idea that adding one (1) is somehow a complicated action to perform. And that is the basic operational notion behind voting after all.

      Counting is hard. The 2010 US Census will cost nearly $50 per person counted. (!!!) No wonder Sequoia's machines have "trade secrets."

      It's a good thing computers don't have to deal with multiplication very often. You'd think multiplication would be easy, because you can just add

      • by Grygus (1143095)

        Suppose you have to "carry the one", but the malloc() fails? Where do you store the carry bit then?

        Well... this one goes to eleven.
      • by kesuki (321456)
        the last time i dealt with a census worker they came to the front door, and asked to verify some data... i was living with my sister at the time (i think it was the 2000 census) and i didn't recall the ages of her kids, but they were okay about it, said i didn't have to know.

        considering the amount of data they have to collect, hiring enough temp workers to go door to door in every city in America... it's no wonder it costs $50 per person.
    • by Todd Knarr (15451)

      I think it's actually that counting is easy, and people know it. But verifying the count is hard, and people know that too. And the advocates for the voting machines, and the companies that make them, have all been incredibly vehement in their opposition to any form of audit trail. And that immediately makes most people suspicious.

      The audit trail itself turns out to be a non-computer problem. It has to be, because the definition of an audit trail is a check against something independent of what you're audi

    • by Backward Z (52442)
      I agree with you on the lack of outrage point, but I disagree with your comparison to bank statements, phone bills, paychecks, etc.

      In those cases, there is someone you can call. If your phone bill shows up twice, you can call the phone company and complain. If your bank statement gets mucked up, call the bank and complain. If your paycheck doesn't show, bitch at your employer.

      If the votes get miscounted, you call... the representative the phony votes put into office? Yeah, like that's going to go ANYWH
  • That is why Sequoia sued all of the Princeton CS Profs and hired some drunk named Mike Gibbons to do the same thing that the Profs were going to do for free:

    http://www.bradblog.com/?p=5849 [bradblog.com]

    The profs may have come up with their own conclusions, instead of just signing the ones that were handed to them the first minute they walked onto the job. - There's your problem.
  • it says a lot. If the feds had required that ALL machines had to have open code and closed boxes (i.e. truly locked down), then no doubt that a number of other companies would have come forward. And they would have sold it at a much cheaper price. But the problem is not just that the feds allow this, but it appears that a number of their policies ENCOURAGE this. It would be like the feds telling states that they had to allow only 1 republican to count all the votes.

    To paraphrase an obvious progenitor of th
  • by crmarvin42 (652893) on Monday April 07, 2008 @04:43PM (#22993242)
    that members of this site haven't started an open source project around developing an OS and maybe a basic hardware specification for cheap E-voting machines.

    Considering how many people get upset every time some article like this comes up and the expertise many claim that this hasn't occurred to anyone yet. I'm no programmer (outside of incredibly simple perl scripts) so "I" couldn't do it but I can't imagine that members of the Slashdot community would do any worse than these asshats. Besides, even if they did do a crappy job it would be open source so that security hats could look through it and point to all of the bugs for fixing.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by tobiah (308208)
      That's a great idea. Too good to not have happened, here's what a quick search yielded.
      http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/02/03/173241&from=rss
      http://www.wired.com/politics/security/news/2004/01/61968
      http://openvotingsolutions.net/
    • But they need our support. http://www.openvotingconsortium.org/our_solution [openvotingconsortium.org] Anyone out there care to match a $30.00 donation to help stop the next GWB® from buying key districts in swing states.
      • by kesuki (321456)
        that site doesn't specifically state that they'll use open source software. "that would be publicly owned or open source."

        Basically they're saying they're selling the source code, along with licensing the machines. Part of this is due to dibold and others trying to make it illegal to use open source software so they can't predate on dibold's contracts to license voting machines to voting precincts.

        Remember dibold and other companies are 'insiders' in politics, and competing open source projects are not. I
    • by number11 (129686) on Monday April 07, 2008 @07:00PM (#22994606)
      that members of this site haven't started an open source project

      You mean, like the Electronic Voting Machine Project [sourceforge.net] and OpenSTV [sourceforge.net] and the Voting Software Project [sourceforge.net] and the Open Voting Consortium [openvotingconsortium.org] and Blue Screen Democracy [sourceforge.net] and probably a dozen other projects?

      One problem is that voting software/hardware has to be certified by the state. A ponderous, time-consuming, and expensive bureaucratic nightmare not particularly friendly to amateurs (or even corporations, unless there's a good prospect for vast sales).
  • Gambling Machines! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Facegarden (967477) on Monday April 07, 2008 @04:48PM (#22993292)
    Someone made this comparison in an older post and i think it is key to making people see the point: gambling machines are required by law to go through a very stringent and thorough set of checks, including source code examination, in order to be certified for use. Why we don't do the EXACT same thing with voting machines is ABSOLUTELY beyond me. It makes perfect sense and it is insane that we don't. -Taylor
    • Nope. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mpapet (761907)
      Nope.

      The difference between the two devices is one is gaming HUGE income generator for Government. In order to keep the poor schmucks at the poker machines, they contribute to the scheme by certifying the devices. Voting infrastructure is all costs and the only people that benefit are the contractor and the representatives the contractor is paying.

      You seem to have forgotten that government is supposed to be run more like a business.
    • by Shivetya (243324)
      There have been a number of stories posted here and at Digg about payouts that were voided because of courts siding with casinos when they declared the winner only won because of a bug or the jackpot was wrong because of a bug.

      So they aren't a great example.

      Its not like either party wants it fixed, they do far better crying an election was stolen than do actual work.

      It also gives them an out, elections are the ultimate ego bitch slap, its no fun when people don't vote for you and you lose, it means people d
  • Well, duh. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Monday April 07, 2008 @05:36PM (#22993820)
    You can't help fix elections if you allow the public to review your machines and code! Come on, people, don't be ridiculous.
  • BSOD (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 07, 2008 @05:37PM (#22993826)
    The first time I saw one of Sequoia's units was at a demonstration in Philadelphia about 3 years ago. At that time they were demonstrating a prototype as they didn't have the displays they intended to use. Half way through the demonstration, in true Bill Gates style, the device threw up that old familiar blue screen.
    One thing to point out is that Sequoia, or at least some of the companies that it now owns, has a history in the voting machine industry. Remember those big blue mechanical booths with the sliding curtains? Those things were as inaccurate as hell.
    The argument for paper is good, but in many elections there can be thousands of individual ballots in a single county. If you overcome the logistic hurdles, then you have the problem of people doing the counting of thousands of ballots and compiling that information. I've spent many election nights reviewing paperwork from precincts that was just wrong - didn't add up or was off by an order of magnitude. These weren't people trying to hedge an election; they just screwed up simple arithmetic.
    I studied this problem for years from a security analyst's position. In my opinion, a print on demand, image, scan, and destroy solution is the only practical solution. Sorting and storing tons of paper just doesn't make sense. Recycle it. Use barcodes on the ballot, steganography in the stored image, and encryption in the scan record to verify the match of the scan and the stored image to the print at the polling place.
    Let's face it, we have exactly what the original GW warned us about, a two party system where the political aristocracy selects the possible candidates based on the influence of lobbyists. Their machines are calibrated to select issues and positions to give a 50% bias within the uneducated masses.
    As a Libertarian, all I can do is sit and watch in disgust. This not what our ancestors had in mind, but they only had (much less than) 0.3% as many ballots to count.
    • by kesuki (321456)
      "In my opinion, a print on demand, image, scan, and destroy solution is the only practical solution"

      I hope by that you mean 'destroy' only AFTER the election is made official by the state. the whole point of a paper trail is that it can be recounted.

      your suggestion that the image should be encrypted baffles me... who can read a 3-d barcode Besides a computer? they come standard issue on almost every state drivers license... yeah regular barcodes can be read, by the exceptional individual, but we don't need
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Catbeller (118204)
      Canada solved their paper ballot problems long ago. At every voting station, people from each interested party watch a manual count of paper ballots after the elections is over. The tally is checked and phoned up, and the original paper is kept for recount and audits.

      The system scales to national elections, and... they finish the count in three hours or so. The whole country. Manually. No Scantron, no PC's, no networks. Examine that system.

      Our US system is designed to take a long time, and provide nearly in
  • Let him know how you feel too! "Smith, Ed"

    Here is my email thread with him-

    Buttressed by the fact that the email I sent only to two professors has been distributed without my knowledge or consent, why would we allow analysis of our machines by unlicensed parties? We are not afraid of the results. In fact, as mentioned to you earlier, the report from the code review that is in progress goes to the State simultaneous to release to Sequoia.

    Ed Smith
    VP, Compliance/Quality/Certification
    Sequoia Voting Systems

    Co
  • McCain got his highest percentage of votes in NJ.
  • by ByTor-2112 (313205) on Monday April 07, 2008 @07:06PM (#22994664)
    candidate->votes++;

    • by achurch (201270)

      candidate->votes++;

      Of course, somebody's gone and overloaded the -> and ++ operators to do things you really don't want to know about. Isn't C++ wonderful?

  • by darkonc (47285) <stephen_samuelNO@SPAMbcgreen.com> on Tuesday April 08, 2008 @12:33AM (#22996752) Homepage Journal
    Every time they have a vote to ban Sequoia, it turns out in Sequoia's favor -- no matter how many claim that they voted against them.
  • The problem is that elected officials, election supervisors, elections workers, and prosecutors have an incentive not to rock the boat. They all benefit from the rigged election systems.

    For every particular procedure or mechanism that is proposed to ensure honest elections, there is a way to circumvent the protection. Elaborate procedures or processes are not the answer. We need to create some incentive to counterbalance the existing incentive to rig elections. And, we need incentives to detect and p

  • When the media and politicians were going mad over the hanging chads on ballots in Florida during the Bush vs Gore presidential election, many people were making jokes and were annoyed with the seemingly childish manner the situation was being handled. What is going to happen during the upcoming presidential election? At least with the Florida recount, the ballots could be double checked. With electronic voting, parties will argue over what part of the print-out is correct: the totals or the individual coun

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