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Ohio Sues Over Missing Electronic Votes 341

Posted by timothy
from the oh-it-was-only-a-few-votes dept.
dstates writes "The Columbus Post Dispatch reports that the State of Ohio is suing Premier Election Systems (previously known as Diebold) over malfunctions in electronic voting machines. Election workers found that votes were 'dropped' in at least 11 counties when memory cards were uploaded to computer servers. The same voting machines are used nationwide. The company blames a conflict between their software and antivirus software for the problem and says that an advisory was issued on the subject. The Ohio lawsuit contends that the company made false representations and failed to live up to contractual obligations and seeks punitive damages."
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Ohio Sues Over Missing Electronic Votes

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  • Punitive Damages (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ExileOnHoth (53325) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @06:50PM (#24518091)

    If these machines affected the outcome of the election, perhaps it is the American people (and the people of Iraq) who should be seeking punitive damages from Diebold.

  • by TheRealMindChild (743925) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @07:06PM (#24518335) Homepage Journal
    As someone who has had a couple of contracts working with Diebold, it wasn't only Windows, but Windows, VB6, and an Access database. I wish I were joking.
  • by neokushan (932374) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @07:07PM (#24518347)

    But shouldn't there be a law against tampering with elections? Like....a really really really serious, potentially company-destroying law?
    The kind of law that would have fines and penalties so great, diebold is sent to the brink of bankruptcy and it's CEO's are all incarcerated?
    Maybe that's a little extreme sounding to some, but when you consider that the very foundations your country was built on are at stake, you have to take a tough stand.
    I certainly don't agree with the death penalty or anything like that, but I do think this should be a matter of the utmost importance.

  • Punitive damages.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by HockeyPuck (141947) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @07:10PM (#24518387)

    If you assign punitive damages to a vote, aren't you then assigning a value to said vote? Since it's illegal to sell your vote to begin with, what good is it to assign a value to something you cannot sell in the first place.

    If you can't sell or buy something, does it have value? Is it priceless or worthless?

  • Too much variability (Score:3, Interesting)

    by l2718 (514756) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @07:14PM (#24518425)

    Certainly voting technology should be open-source, cryptographically signed etc. But this is not the point. No matter where the software and hardware come from, there must be a unique certified official configuration, well ahead of the election. Ideally, there should be a way to prove that a given piece of hardware is in the certified configuration.

    If there is adverse interaction between Diebold's software and the anti-virus software then the certified configuration should not have included the anti-virus software. Alternatively, once this was discovered. Diebold should have certified a new configuration (without the A/V) and removed the A/V product from the computers. In any case local authorities should not be in charge of making changes to the configuration, or installing software on their own (e.g. choosing the correct A/V product). To the customer, all components of the voting system should behave like black-box appliances -- not like general-purpose computers (independently of the underlying implementation).

  • by Eggplant62 (120514) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @07:15PM (#24518435)

    The one thing that I've never seen Linux do that Windows does extremely well is propagate viruses.

    Again, why Windows? Why the worst of the worst of the worst???

    Antivirus program conflict, my ass.

  • Re:Punitive Damages (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tthomas48 (180798) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @07:19PM (#24518475) Homepage

    I agree that the issue of blackbox voting machines should not be made into a partisan issue. On the other hand the issue of Diebold voting machines being a partisan issue was cemented when the CEO of Diebold said in a fundraising letter that he was committed to delvering Ohio for President Bush. It may have been the most ridiculously stupid comment ever, but it definitely had the effect of making the issue partisan.

  • Done deal, sorry. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cdrguru (88047) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @07:29PM (#24518599) Homepage

    Electronic voting is FAST. Fast to get results. Some folks would be just as happy with results announced after a few days. Sorry, that isn't the climate in the US. You see, the TV News programs are going to announce a winner by midnight Eastern time. They have to. If they do not, nobody will watch their election results the next election and they lose millions (maybe billions) in ad revenue. Therefore it is a foregone conclusion they are going to announce a winner. And it will be by midnight Eastern time.

    This was done in 2000. CBS announced Gore as the winner just before midnight Eastern time. Lots of folks went to bed knowing "their man" had won the election. Turns out, CBS was basing their "winner" declaration on exit polls and trends - just like they all do and have been doing since the beginning of such things. Only this time they were wrong. People woke up Wednesday morning and found out that somehow, after actually counting the votes, their man didn't win at all. Obviously the election had been stolen by the evil Bush.

    Well, in 2008 if the counting isn't completed by midnight the TV News folks are going to announce someone as the winner. Maybe they are right, maybe not. Do you want to be around if McCain is announced as the winner early and it turns out Obama gets the nod two days later? Or, worse, Obama is announced early and McCain turns out to really have won. I see burning cities in November should that come to pass.

    Another thing: with the elections running 50.0001% vs. 49.9999% counting individual votes becomes extremely important. We are way, way past the point where the accuracy of hand counting will lead to consistent results. Every count by hand is going to deliver different results because the accuracy is maybe 0.5% This has no effect when the difference is 10% of the vote. It changes the outcome when the difference is less than 0.5% of the vote total. Hand counting isn't going to get better than 0.5%, no matter what anyone does. There are people involved and that is just a limit on their abilities. So how many recounts do we go through and when does someone (like the Supreme Court) say to stop?

    At this point in the US paper ballots might as well be exchanged for flipping a coin. Same outcome. I suppose paper ballots would feel a little better.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 07, 2008 @07:32PM (#24518629)
    Wow, is there actually anyone buying this excuse? As if a voting system would not also send the grand total as a checksum. It would be immediately clear that something is wrong, as it should. Anti-virus programs or even a virus-infested recipient system should NOT interfere with the actual process. There should be a safe protocol that verifies that the information is sent and received correctly. Seriously, if voting machines can be compromised this easily, then that strongly reinforces the demand for a paper trail. Just have the machines print out a ballot (which should not contain a barcode, just have the voting information), have the voter check to see if it corresponds with his or her preferences and put it in a container. Then count those votes, by machine if you insist, but have them on hand for a recount by hand. Citizens can then challenge the voting tallies and see their votes recounted manually. There is nothing more important than the right to vote, it should not be this easy to lose votes somewhere in the process...
  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @07:39PM (#24518721) Homepage Journal

    Amount of increased national debt (2008 National Debt - 2000 National Debt)

    plus

    Widow's and orphans benefits and social security payouts for soldiers dead in Iraq

    times Ohio's population (2000)

    divided by US total population (2000)

    And then TREBLE DAMAGES.

    Because that's how much it cost us.

    Thank God my state uses mail-in permanent absentee optical scan paper ballots and only uses electronic ballots for disabled and/or elderly voters.

  • by plasmacutter (901737) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @07:46PM (#24518779)

    A family friend of mine is part of an ohio voter watchdog mailing list.

    The MSM has at best mentioned it in passing, but senior diebold officials with heavy connections to the republican party were left alone to perform "patches" on the voting machines which, aside from eye witnesses at the time, went entirely unlogged, and which were entirely unsupervised.

    Shortly after, the 2004 presidential elections took place.

  • by SIR_Taco (467460) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @07:47PM (#24518791) Homepage

    For starters, I may be a dual citizen (US/CDN) but I do not live in the US and have not had the pleasure to deal with such devices. Here it's all pen and paper and people tallying the votes at the end of the day.
    I completely understand the need and want of the voter to have his/her vote cast confidentially. But my biggest wonder, if you want this to be accurate, why not get a receipt from the machine when you're done voting, with say a unique serial-type number on the bottom (not like a counter since someone could watch and figure out who was #42, for the completely paranoid). So the machine would register that you have voted, and that say #55828034 Voted for X but the two would not be associated. Then when the results are uploaded/downloaded/processed you would have a list of people that voted and a separate list of #'s with vote results. Then have a 'secure' government website which you could punch your unique # into and make sure that it matches what you intended to vote. If not there should be a 'contest vote' option to say go to a government office, prove your identity and have your vote changed and possibly the system reviewed (depending on the percentage of error).

    Ok, that idea got away with me haha but I hope you get my drift.

  • Re:End to End (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TeacherOfHeroes (892498) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @07:48PM (#24518805)

    We use this exact pen and paper system in Canada, and TV stations are usually able to make a pretty good prediction by midnight as to who will win. The next morning, the newspaper headlines almost always confirm what the tv stations were predicting the night before.

  • Re:Punitive Damages (Score:3, Interesting)

    by negRo_slim (636783) <mils_oRgen@hotmail.com> on Thursday August 07, 2008 @07:55PM (#24518873)

    when the CEO of Diebold said in a fundraising letter that he was committed to delvering Ohio for President Bush.

    I have often wondered who's genius idea it was to award the voting machines to a private company. I'm against them myself, but here they are. Now the question is why wasn't the design delegated to MIT or NASA or some other organization that could provide some degree of transparency, exemplary technical expertise, and not have a profit to worry about.

  • by Gregb05 (754217) <bakergo@noSpaM.gmail.com> on Thursday August 07, 2008 @07:57PM (#24518905) Journal
    There is no Columbus Post Dispatch. It is the Columbus Dispatch.
    It says "Columbus Dispatch" on the fucking byline.
    It says "Columbus Dispatch" on the publications' title.
    It says "Columbus Dispatch" on the URL. [columbusdispatch.com]

    Cite your fucking sources properly.
  • by Mitreya (579078) <mitreya@gmMENCKENail.com minus author> on Thursday August 07, 2008 @08:01PM (#24518949)
    It is a well known fact that ATM machines produced by Diebold are highly reliable. They are capable of producing a product when they are held responsible for things going wrong. Apparently banks insist on secure and flawless ATMs. Imagine that.

    I am thrilled to hear that at least some places are trying to demand reliability and/or punitive damages. Last I heard in other places, they were going to scrap the faulty systems and replace them by someone else, effectively pouring millions of dollars into Diebold for a crap product.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @08:30PM (#24519199) Journal

    ... the only elections they've affected were purely local ones.

    And they didn't even affect them, since the miscounts were noticed and corrected from the paper audit trail built into the system.

    You don't know that they didn't affect the elections. The miscounts THAT WERE VISIBLE may have been corrected. But that doesn't prove they aren't just the tip of an iceberg - like the mismatch of a few cents in an accounting ledger that may point to multiple errors that nearly canceled - in THAT check - while shorting one account by a bunch and boosting another by almost the same amount.

    The tiny difference tell you something's wrong. They aren't necessarily the ONLY thing that is wrong. And if something else is wrong it may be wrong by a LOT.

  • by AK Marc (707885) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @08:35PM (#24519239)
    If you assign punitive damages to a vote, aren't you then assigning a value to said vote?

    No. If you assign actual damages, then you are placing a value on the vote. Punitive damages are just that, punishment, regardless of the value of the loss.

    Since it's illegal to sell your vote to begin with, what good is it to assign a value to something you cannot sell in the first place.

    I can't sell my life (either to someone that would want to kill me for sport, or for slavery). Yet the government has put a value on human life. It's a couple million dollars. So you can value something that can't be sold. Just because it's statutorially illegal to sell something doesn't mean it doesn't have value. Prostitution is sale of something that is illegal to sell (except in Nevada), yet people manage to agree on a price for that all the time.
  • Re:Punitive Damages (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Joe U (443617) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @08:55PM (#24519453) Homepage Journal

    US Corporations are supposed to be beholden to the people of the US. People tend to forget this, especially people who run large corporations.

    Corporations are a structure designed by the people to better their society. Corporations have no rights other than those granted to them by the people via the government. Corporations are not people. Corporations that do not follow the law can and should be dismantled.

  • by zogger (617870) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @09:35PM (#24519835) Homepage Journal

    Nope, disagree, the old way with paper ballots means anyone can look at the ballots and count them, using any computerized system, closed source, open source, whatever, means you need to be an extremely well versed programmer with years of experience to even start to make sense out of the code and the vote tally at the end of the day. It fails the publicly auditable and verifiable test immediately because of that. We don't need computerized voting at all. We could stand a 24 hour voting cycle though, and simplified ballots, even if it meant multiple election days instead of the kitchen sink on one ballot. And a "none of the listed" option to "vote" for, to help eliminate the "lesser of two evils" phenomenon we all get to enjoy.

  • Re:Punitive Damages (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Praedon (707326) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @10:28PM (#24520195) Journal
    Your signature is great... except for the fact that there are no jobs in Ohio, unless you love working at McDonalds! It's why I'm moving out of ohio VERY soon. South I hear is where the jobs are at.

    My two cents about Diebold, is that I was contracted with them to set these machines up. When I started hearing about all the faults, I told them to take the job and shove it. I can't say what faults I saw, cause I was under contract and that whole NDA bs.. but I assure you that this could have all been avoided if us contractors were able to speak up before the first trieouts with these things.
  • Re:Punitive Damages (Score:3, Interesting)

    by langelgjm (860756) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @10:48PM (#24520339) Journal
    Here's my question. Presumably, those voting machines have to go through a procurement process just like any other government purchase (typically the cutoff is $25k for competitive bids, I believe). Now, if enough governments (state and local) specified in their invitations for bids that they wanted auditable, open-source, etc. machines, you'd think that some manufacturer would step up to the plate. After all, who else is buying the damn things other than the government?
  • Re:Punitive Damages (Score:3, Interesting)

    by i.of.the.storm (907783) on Thursday August 07, 2008 @11:09PM (#24520449) Homepage
    I'd give you modpoints if I had any. Just because some people think the electoral college system sucks doesn't mean they should just ignore it. Personally I think it's a good idea in the way it was conceived, but now it's just an imperfect proxy for the popular vote. The founders had originally intended for the vote to eventually go to the House because they felt Congress was most qualified to choose the president. They didn't really account for parties and tickets though, which completely throw off their plans.
  • by argent (18001) <peter AT slashdo ... taronga DOT com> on Thursday August 07, 2008 @11:35PM (#24520603) Homepage Journal

    All my bank's ATMs run Windows, and they just started pulling them all out of all the convenience stores and replacing them with something less flashy run by some independent ATM company that will probably charge me $5.00 a transaction. Why? Well it turns out that a bunch of similar machines got pwned...

    Embedded Windows ... just say no.

  • Re:Punitive Damages (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DavidTC (10147) <slas45dxsvadiv.vadiv@NoSpam.neverbox.com> on Friday August 08, 2008 @01:10AM (#24521147) Homepage

    Oh, but I'm sure the right will bring up dead voting Democratic, like that's happened anywhere outside of Chicago or in the last three decades.

    Or that organization that was stupidly paid by the Democrats X dollars per person they registered to vote, so some of the employees decided to fake some registrations, which surely was a sign of some attempt at voter fraud despite those registrations not making past obvious checks and absolutely no evidence anyone intended to show up and vote those.

    No, it is sure that the Democrats are 'as bad' as the Republicans, because of a single incredibly corrupt town decades ago and some imagery 'attempts' at cheating that couldn't have worked. This, of course, is equal to fraudulent robocalls, and passing laws allowing them to 'challenge' at the ballot box. And the ID check. For some reason I have to show ID when voting. Why is that, exactly? Has there actually been a documented instance of people showing up to cast ballots for other people? No. But there are plenty of old people and poor people who don't have ID, and guess how they vote?

    Oh, and let's not forget all the precinct laws that operate on space. You have a precinct for X voters, and a precinct for X square miles, whichever comes first. So now that I live in a rural area, I'm a precinct that serves maybe 300 registered voters, and literally do not wait in line at all. When I lived in an offshoot of Atlanta, I waited in line for 4 hours for the 2000 election. There were quite possibly more voters in front of me than even existed for the whole precinct where I am now. (And, of course, the majority of them were black.)

    I'm sure all this is just craaazy coincidence, because everyone knows both the parties are identically bad.

    Well, people, start paying attention. They're not. Looking at the policies, looking at people polled on the polices, and the United States population exists in a bell curve, with most of the citizen's opinion hovering in the middle.

    The problem is that 'middle' is slightly to the left of the Democrats position. I'm not kidding in the slightest. You want to know why McCain is getting no traction in this election, that's it. Well, that and Bush, but honestly, Bush just broke the image of the system...there's a reason it can't get put back together. The Republican party has moved so far to the right, and the Democrats have followed so far, that when people actually wake up from their trance (Thanks to Bush) and look around, they notice they're absurdly far to the left. McCain lists Obama's votes to prove how he's the 'most liberal Senator', and people nod at them.

    But, no, both parties are 'equally bad', and everyone fails to notice they are 'equally bad' policy wise because they are too far to the right. And they certainly aren't 'equally bad' legally...the last four Republican presidents committed impeachable crimes in office. (Watergate for Nixon, Iran/Contra for Reagan and Bush 1, and I don't need to list them for Bush 2 if you've been slightly awake.) Clinton, OTOH, was pursued for years and we know what his sole instance of wrongdoing turned out to be. And Carter and JFK didn't appear to violate any laws I can think of. (It's possible JFK would have also been impeached if his affairs came out, but I honestly think impeachment should be reserved for crimes committed in office by the office, not the person, unless the president decides to run around being a serial killer as a hobby.)

    The only logical way to stop this is to vote for the party on the left, and vote in primaries for people on the left. That will fix the policies, and it will eventually cripple the wrongdoing ability.

    This post got a little more ranty and political than I intended, and I'm sure it will be modded down into oblivion, but whatever. I'm sick of people running around acting like both parties are identical. They're 'identical' because of dirty tricks and apathy resulting in the Republican repeatedly winning when they logi

  • Re:Punitive Damages (Score:3, Interesting)

    by i.of.the.storm (907783) on Friday August 08, 2008 @01:45AM (#24521311) Homepage
    Haha, yeah. The thing is the president was never intended to have so much power, and the Legislative was supposed to be the dominant branch. Of course that kind of goes out the window when parties and career politicians come around, especially recently where everything seems to be divided across sharp party lines, and with the whole either with us or against us mentality.
  • Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jandersen (462034) on Friday August 08, 2008 @01:59AM (#24521375)

    One thing I still haven't seen anything like an explanation of is this: How is it possible to have any, let alone that many, technical and programmatic problems with something so conceptually simple? I mean, we are not talking about a control system for a Mars lander, or the entire Oracle database, or even a simple accounting application. This is a simple enough task: verify the user's eligibility to vote, accept a vote, save a log entry, send results to server. I bet I could make this work in a week in any language, up to and including Intercal. One would have to go out of one's way to create a transmission problem that would lose votes.

    So perhaps the answer is that somebody has gone out of their way to make something that looks like a faulty system, so the result of elections could be manipulated under the cover of "technical difficulties". Or are they just criminally incompetent?

  • by Firethorn (177587) on Friday August 08, 2008 @12:01PM (#24526623) Homepage Journal

    I'm slightly different, in that if I were to reform the USA, I'd simply take away quite a bit of the power of the federal government. Leave it somewhere between where it is now and about where the EU is now.

    For example - I'd give the senate back to the state legislators. That ensures that senators are beholden to the state they come from. I believe that this would tend to act to preserve state powers, limiting federal ones.

    I'd also create a 'house of repeals'. Their job is to balance the budget(by slashing, if necessary), get rid of bad legislation, outdated legislation, etc...

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