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States Using Cloud Based Voting System For Overseas Citizens 125

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the making-diebold-machines-seem-like-a-good-idea dept.
gManZboy writes "If a ballot was lost in the cloud, would anyone know? Several states are using an online balloting website based on Microsoft's Azure cloud-computing platform to allow U.S. voters living overseas to cast their votes via the Web in 2012 primary elections. In addition to a now complete Florida primary, Virginia and California will use the system for their primaries, and Washington state will use it for its caucus. To ensure the ballots are from legitimate voters, people use unique identifying information to access their ballots online, according to Microsoft. Once received, the signature on the ballot is matched with registration records to further verify identity."
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States Using Cloud Based Voting System For Overseas Citizens

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  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dexter Herbivore (1322345) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @12:51PM (#38820025) Journal
    Why do electoral commissions, or the local alternative, keep attempting to bring in voting systems that have been proven to be vulnerable? (Conspiracy theories aside).
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @12:58PM (#38820123) Journal
      Because 1). People treat voting counting as a basic data collection and management problem, rather than something with particular significance.

      2). Because of 1) they go shopping for a commodity "IT Solution". Unfortunately, humans (on average) are barely better than insentient objects at choosing a "Solution" that isn't a raging clusterfuck(even in those situations where there is such a solution).

      3). Because of 2), somebody is left with an onrushing deadline and a pile of shit, and has to make everything appear to go more or less smoothly on time, working with whatever they have.

      There certainly is reason to be substantially more suspicious of electoral matters, given what's at stake; but organizations of all types routinely build horribly maladjusted systems for all sorts of purposes, so it isn't a huge surprise...
      • by lgarner (694957)
        In item 1, I assume you meant either "vote counting" or "voting", but sadly you're correct either way.
      • by icebike (68054) *

        Reason 0 to add to your list is embodied in the first sentence of the posted summary:

        Several states are using an online balloting website based on Microsoft's Azure cloud-computing platform to allow U.S. voters living overseas to cast their votes via the Web in 2012 primary elections.

        Other than the deployed military or remotely stationed government employees, anyone choosing to live overseas has pretty much given up their right to vote and entrusted the running of the country to their fellow countrymen if you ask me. (Yes, I realize you didn't ask me).

        The idea that every person, where ever they are, regardless of how inconvenient or expensive they have made it for themselves to vote must be given the op

        • by Kalriath (849904)

          Well, your government believes it has the right to exercise its authority anywhere on the planet, and has been caught writing laws for other countries (when it doesn't outright invade them) so in all fairness, the entire planet should get to vote in US elections.

          Slight tongue in cheek aside - these people [US citizens living overseas] are still under the jurisdiction of your government, and still pay taxes (my understanding is for US citizens, federal taxes are based on worldwide income?) so why shouldn't t

          • > Well, your government believes it has the right to exercise its
            > authority anywhere on the planet, and has been caught writing laws
            > for other countries (when it doesn't outright invade them) so in all
            > fairness, the entire planet should get to vote in US elections.

            Kinda like: "No occupation without representation"? :-)

        • Good grief! What a load of bollocks this person is spewing.

          I am one of these US citizens living abroad, and I very much appreciate that the STATE governments of the US enable me to continue to vote. As a citizen, I certainly have that right. And as a US citizen, I have a continuing obligation to pay taxes on my worldwide income to the US government AND to the government where I live, and I do so gladly.

          This new technology use will likely make the process go more smoothly, and lessen the likelihood tha
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheLink (130905) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @01:02PM (#38820187) Journal

      In many countries the voters are unhappy when the vote counting is done behind closed doors- they know something fishy is going on (whether they can do anything about it is another matter).

      One important requirement for a voting system is convincing enough of the losers that they've lost.
      So even if you have an electronic voting system that actually works properly[1], you need to convince the voters that it works properly.

      Of course if most of the voters don't care that much then it doesn't matter.

      [1] There are some electronic systems which seem like they might work properly and be verifiable: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDnShu5V99s [youtube.com]
      But can you convince enough voters of that?

      That said usually the people running/rigging the elections would prefer to use other methods instead ;).

      • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @01:26PM (#38820459)

        Great! In Amerika we've gone the other way so that issue is moot.
        You see, we've developed a system where we take two identical candidates and blow them up until every possible microscopic difference is visible and then we convince voters that those differences matter. Then, after the election, we shrink them back down and show everyone how similar they really are. Everyone from the losing 'side' gets to blame the winning 'side' for everything bad until the next 'election'. It's great fun but not much of a way to run a country.

        • by TheLink (130905)
          There are often more than two candidates. But if two candidates combined get more than 98% of the votes, it just sends a message that those two combined are satisfying most of the voters who actually bother to vote, as much as possible, given the differences in what the voters want, and their priorities.

          If the voters wish to send a different message, they should vote differently. Even if the other candidates do not win, if a 3rd candidate gets 30% of the votes, the "popular 2" candidates may consider chang
      • "Once received, the signature on the ballot is matched with registration records to further verify identity."

        This would only work in fax or mail-in ballots, unless you can use your mouse to "write" your signature which may or may not look like your actually handwritten signature.

        But that aside, I am still not convinced the paper ballots work: Florida re-count anyone?!?!

        So you may need to prove it works, but even then there can be some errors... and the system as a whole still "works"

        • by TheLink (130905)
          If you think the Florida one was tampered with what makes you think they wouldn't be able to tamper with it if it was electronic (especially given the sorts of electronic voting systems they use or are proposing)?

          At least with the Florida one people suspect something is fishy. With the usual "black box" voting, good luck detecting anything unless the perps are idiots (and do a 99% or even 101% win) or a verifiable system is used like the one I linked to.

          In the country I'm in I strongly suspect the elections
    • by jeffmeden (135043)

      Why do electoral commissions, or the local alternative, keep attempting to bring in voting systems that have been proven to be vulnerable? (Conspiracy theories aside).

      Because they decided it was a good idea to replace one expensive vulnerable system with one slightly less expensive vulnerable system? I imagine it's time for a scorecard for e-voting (like the one for "fixing" spam) that starts with "It looks like you are proposing a replacement to the paper ballot. Your idea is bad for the following reasons..."

      I imagine a similar fear must have sank in to the board members of the first pair of banks that decided to start electronically trading transactions with each oth

    • by mr1911 (1942298)

      Why do electoral commissions, or the local alternative, keep attempting to bring in voting systems that have been proven to be vulnerable? (Conspiracy theories aside).

      Is there a voting system that isn't vulnerable? Having people show up in person to vote has shown ineffective at keeping the dead from casting a ballot.

      • Is there a voting system that isn't vulnerable? Having people show up in person to vote has shown ineffective at keeping the dead from casting a ballot.

        Well, you could probably require some sort of picture ID before allowing someone to vote.

        But that idea has been deemed to be reactionary and evil, so I guess the dead will continue to vote at the usual rate (which really isn't all that high).

        • by Pope (17780)

          In most places in Canada at least, we need Photo ID to match the voters' list, and the postcard that the election team sends out that has our name, address, and voting location. Of course every ballot I've cast has been with a paper and pencil and the results are tabulated fairly quickly.

          The biggest issues I've seen with the US federal ballots are that local races are including on the same one that you're using to vote for your Rep, Senator and President. Separating these out would make things so much easi

          • In most places in Canada at least, we need Photo ID to match the voters' list,

            Alas, in the USA, requiring that sort of thing is considered "racist", and therefore reactionary and evil.

            Every State that has proposed such laws has been sued to prevent implementation of same.

            • by hedwards (940851)

              The reason why it's considered racist is that the only reason there's any interest in using such a card is to prevent the poor and those of color from participating.

              But, more importantly, it's not a problem. The GOP continually makes a big deal out of voter fraud, but the reality is that the voter fraud that exists is rare. Only a handful of people are prosecuted in any given year.

              The reality here is that you have to balance the security of votes cast with the right of people to vote. Now in the future if v

              • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

                by mr1911 (1942298) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @02:45PM (#38821431)

                but the reality is that the voter fraud that exists is rare. Only a handful of people are prosecuted in any given year.

                Your second statement is not proof that voter fraud is rare. It merely supports that only a handful of people are prosecuted.

                Speeding tickets are rare in comparison to the number of drivers speeding. Does that mean they were not actually speeding? Or does it show that there are not enough resources to catch each violation.

                Your statement could be true because fraud is rare. It could also be that prosecutors do not want to prosecute or are dissuaded from prosecuting more instances. It could be that the system is so weak producing evidence of the fraud is difficult.

                • by hedwards (940851)

                  The burden of proof is on the people who are claiming that there's massive voter fraud. It isn't up to me to prove that it isn't common. And ultimately the bar is set fairly high because people do have a legal right to vote after they turn 18 unless they have had their rights taken away.

                  • by bondsbw (888959)

                    I have to disagree. The burden of proof should be on those who claim the system is legitimate and free from corruption. They are the ones asking the populous to trust that the system is fair.

                    • You don't have to disagree, it appears though that you wanted to. I think though that you are asking for something to be proven which wholly impractical to prove without massive changes to the system. To illustrate, can you give a somewhat complete description of what proof would be required for you ( a presumed nonbeliever in the legitimacy and incorruptibility of the system) to be convinced?

                    • by hedwards (940851)

                      No, the burden of proof is on the people claiming the positive result. You can never prove that there is no corruption, at best you can fail to find any. OTOH, if there really is a serious issue with voter fraud then it should be trivial to find.

                      You have to balance the rights of the people to vote with the need to enforce the rules. In the absence of any evidence that voter fraud is a problem there needs to be justification for changes to be made.

                    • by icebike (68054) *

                      The burden of proof should be on those who claim the system is legitimate and free from corruption. They are the ones asking the populous to trust that the system is fair.

                      THIS!.

                • by hguorbray (967940)
                  Actually, the bigger problem is with disenfranchising voters, and is (mostly) done by the Rethuglicans

                  From actively discouraging registered voters by only allowing college students to vote in their home town, threatening to check voters for anything from immigration status (how could they vote w/o being citizens?) to outstanding warrants

                  to invalidating registrations or votes for various reasons:

                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Drak3NcRpJc

                  -I'm just sayin'
            • by iluvcapra (782887)

              Reasoning: Because, at the maximum ever recorded in a modern election, about 100 people or about .005% of voters in an election [electionin...ywatch.com] are convicted of casting fraudulent ballots, we should keep about 11% [brennancenter.org] of people who are entitled to cast a vote from making one.

              And we aren't even getting into why we always hold our elections on work days...

              • And we aren't even getting into why we always hold our elections on work days...

                It's to make sure the retirees can outvote the working poor, right?

            • by timeOday (582209)

              Alas, in the USA, requiring that sort of thing is considered "racist"

              My, how times have changed. I remember when suggesting a compulsory national ID card would have sent conservatives running for their firearms.

              • My, how times have changed. I remember when suggesting a compulsory national ID card would have sent conservatives running for their firearms.

                Alas, I'm not a conservative.

                Nor are we talking about a national ID card. Driver's Licenses, which qualify in every State considering the notion, aren't national. And even if you don't need a driver's license, the DMV will issue you a picture ID in every State I've ever lived in.

                Plus there's the University ID, which counts. Military ID. Lots of ways to come up w

          • by Talderas (1212466)

            What's strange is that Indiana requires a photo ID and it's fine and dandy.

            South Carolina requires it and the US Justice Department strikes it down.

            • by hedwards (940851)

              Indiana doesn't have a history of slavery and voter suppression that I'm aware of. There's a reason why South Carolina and those other Southern states are under closer scrutiny.

              Around here we were segregated until the mid '70s as far as the schools go, but opted to voluntarily desegregate and as such we have more freedom than places like MO that had to be forced to desegregate.

    • Every voting system is vulnerable. It's more a question of how easy and how much a system can be exploited.
    • Because these are primaries and waiting a week to a month for absentee voters to weigh in simply is too long since the race could be over by then.

    • As I read the TFA, this is NOT an instance of a new online voting system. Apparently is only a new mechanism for providing ballots to overseas voters. The ballot form will be online, and has to be downloaded, marked, and returned in the mail. The ballot has to be signed, and the voting authorities will check signatures against registration lists. Mainly, this is an attempt to eliminate the uncertainty of mail delivery times on one side of the transaction.

      Again, according to my reading of the TFA there wil
      • The second article says:

        "The system allows voters registered to vote in primaries who live overseas to have access to ballots 45 days before the election. From that time until the election, they can cast their ballot electronically, or print out the ballot and mail it or fax it, depending on the state's election rules. "

        (emphasis mine)

        The first article says:

        "While traditional absentee ballots rely on the postal system, LiveBallot gives voters immediate access to a ballot that they can mark online or on paper and return via mail or fax, depending on state election laws."

        (emphasis mine)

        The first article is more ambiguous, but combined with the second, it seems that at least some states are allowing an entirely-online vote.

        • The first article (from Microsoft) says: "While traditional absentee ballots rely on the postal system, LiveBallot gives voters immediate access to a ballot that they can mark online or on paper and return via mail or fax, depending on state election laws."

          The second article (from InformationWeek) says: "The system allows voters registered to vote in primaries who live overseas to have access to ballots 45 days before the election. From that time until the election, they can cast their ballot electroni
          • I'm sorry, I was wrong. I skimmed the articles and missed important details.

            From the Microsoft PR (to further support your hypothesis):

            Democracy Live deploys LiveBallot in partnership with Microsoft, which ensures that the data required to deliver a voter-specific ballot is available 24/7 and is transferred securely, no matter where in the world voters access their ballot. By securely delivering overseas absentee ballots electronically, jurisdictions can cut the transit time of a ballot in half, allowing overseas voters ample time to research and select candidates and return their ballots in time to ensure they are counted.

            which suggests a return path through postal mail. I stand corrected.

  • pointless (Score:5, Funny)

    by vlm (69642) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @12:53PM (#38820049)

    Peasants, do not revolt. You can select from one 1%er corporate purchased candidate or the other 1%er corporate purchased candidate. They do have slightly different marketing messages/lies and you get to select which identical candidate hired the better PR agency and/or you get to select which lies you prefer to hear.

    • by ackthpt (218170) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @01:00PM (#38820145) Homepage Journal

      Peasants, do not revolt. You can select from one 1%er corporate purchased candidate or the other 1%er corporate purchased candidate. They do have slightly different marketing messages/lies and you get to select which identical candidate hired the better PR agency and/or you get to select which lies you prefer to hear.

      You can vote for [] Bashar al-Assad [] Tank come to your door and blow you up

    • Oh come on, Futurama did it better [comedycentral.com]. (small commercial at beginning of Comedy Central clip)
      • by hedwards (940851)

        A Head in the Polls was great, but I also like that seen from The Day The Earth Stood Stupid when they all go out to join the Reform Party and in more recent airings the TEA Party.

    • by zumajim (681331)
      The folks at Diebold are probably pissing themselves right about now.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Where do you want your voting fraud to go today?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      This is the best argument I've heard lately that demonstrates the reason that *localized* and *representative* government is still the best idea today.
      (I realize you weren't making that point).

      Lately you hear a lot of people theorizing that we no longer need representative democracy, that we can all just vote on our laws via the internet.
      You also hear we no longer need localized gov't: let's just federalize the majority-opinion.

      But the internet is a difficult thing to make perfectly honest.
      Localized and rep

      • representative government is best, seriously? Representative government was created primarily as a means of buffering the rich from the majority opinion (our views tend to diverge unless we're drunk on tea). It still does that. Representatives (the rich then, as the rich now) can listen to what their constituents (the majority) wants, and "balance" it with what the rich want, by and large, the rich get what they want. The only way to get laws that are not bought and paid for by corporate elites is to re

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @12:56PM (#38820085) Homepage

    Barack Obama (D) 38%
    Mitt Romney (R) 37%
    DLL Not Found (I) 15%
    Ron Paul (I) 10%

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Barack Obama (D) 38%
      Mitt Romney (R) 37%
      DLL Not Found (I) 100%
      Ron Paul (I) 10%

      FTFY.

      • Ill go one better, the system gets hacked and the following returns are kicked out

        Barack Obama (D) 0%
        Mitt Romney (R) 0%
        Ron Paul (I) 0%
        Mickey Mouse (M) 100%

        • by ackthpt (218170)

          Ill go one better, the system gets hacked and the following returns are kicked out

          Barack Obama (D) 0%
          Mitt Romney (R) 0%
          Ron Paul (I) 0%
          Anonymous (A) 100%

          With honourable mention for LOL WUT Party candidate

        • Uh, if Mickey Mouse was really on that ballot those would be the real results.

    • by Sarten-X (1102295)
      Only 10% error? That's impressive!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This election has had the largest turnout ever. 280 million people cast online votes alone. The downside is that ants now have control over the free world. I for one welcome our insect overloads.

  • by ackthpt (218170) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @12:57PM (#38820109) Homepage Journal

    I don't understand why Cloud Technology is necessary for something which requires only a secure website and identity validation. Is this a cast of technology for the sake of technology?

    • Because now the IT director of the state can put a cloud project on his CV and double his income at his next job.
      • by ackthpt (218170)

        Because now the IT director of the state can put a cloud project on his CV and double his income at his next job.

        Sounds cromulent. Sommun just remind him/her it's not spelled C-L-O-W-D

    • by Millennium (2451)

      Exactly how does voting require Cloud?

      Well, someone has to carry the huge frickin sword.

    • "Is this a cast of technology for the sake of technology?"

      Letting aside the problems about electronic ballots themselves, voting is as good a case for cloud computing as it can be. "Only a secure website", you say? well, what do you want it for the four years between ballots?

    • by forkfail (228161)

      It's THE CLOUD - the magical answer to everything.

  • by rrohbeck (944847) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @12:58PM (#38820113)

    They pay them anyway, now they run elections? Why bother with this voting thing at all?

    • by sohmc (595388)

      As horrible as the movie was, I believe Jeff Goldblum said it best in "Man of the Year": Perception of legitimacy is more important than legitimacy itself.

    • by forkfail (228161)

      Keeps politician salaries/bribes up.

  • Who decided to award this to Microsoft? Why not a smaller firm?
  • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@gmaiWELTYl.com minus author> on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @01:00PM (#38820153) Journal

    Votes running online on a Microsoft-based system? This would be awesome if there were any candidates worth stuffing the virtual ballot box for :-P

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So you get online voting in exchange for giving up the secret ballot, eh?

    Sorry, but I can't say I find that a worthwhile trade. The secret ballot is one of the most important safeguards a democracy can implement.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      As somebody that's a week out from moving overseas, I can assure you that it's not quite that simple. It typically takes up to 3 weeks for mail to get between here and there and for a $30 fee I can cut that down to a week. During which time the mail may or may not get through.

      Voting online is something that does have risks, but you have to keep in mind that the number of votes that are likely to be eligible are going to be fairly small and that particularly in WA state it isn't easy to tell what the vote is

  • In a move to present itself as being even less evil that Google, Microsoft has announced its intention to decrease its lobbying budget to $0 over the next 36 months.

  • by backslashdot (95548) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @01:23PM (#38820417)

    So now people who don't have to live in it get more convenient ways to decide how people in a particular state should live?

  • This will guarantee Microsoft wins every election.

  • by ThatsNotPudding (1045640) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @01:34PM (#38820557)
    than the GOP trotting out their 'must be this rich and white' voter ID laws wherever and as quickly as they can. Poll taxes are back.

    When demographics give you racially impure lemons, destroy free and fair elections as you see fit.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    If you read the article, its not the actual VOTING that is being done online in most cases, it is having access to an absentee ballot. Oregon does its entire election by mail. It is actually a lot more secure than using polling places. Each ballot is returned in an envelope signed by the voter. The ballot itself is inside a second privacy envelope. Once the signature on the outside envelope is compared to the voter registration card, the privacy envelope is pulled out and put in a pile to be counted so ther

  • buzz word (Score:3, Interesting)

    by alienzed (732782) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @01:55PM (#38820829) Homepage
    Are we replacing the word 'Internet' with 'Cloud'?
  • Is the submitter a time-traveler, or was zie just expecting the /. editors to take a week longer than they did in posting the submission?

  • From punching chits into a piece of paper to Cloud based voting in only 10 years, amazing.

  • Cloud-based voting system? They should have just gone with some internet-based voting system instead.
  • In addition to a now complete Florida cloud, Virginia and California will use the cloud for their cloud, and Washington cloud will use it for its cloud. To ensure the clouds are from legitimate clouds, clouds use unique clouding clouds to access their clouds online, according to Microsoft. Once clouded, the cloud on the cloud is clouded with cloud cloud to cloud cloud cloud.

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