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Overheated Voting Machine Cast Its Own Votes 378

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-the-machine-vote dept.
longacre writes in with the results of a report on voting machines that malfunctioned in NY during the 2010 mid-term elections. "Tests of a number of electronic voting machines that recorded shockingly high numbers of extra votes in the 2010 election show that overheating may have caused upwards of 30 percent of votes in some South Bronx voting precincts to go uncounted. WNYC first reported on the issue in December 2011, when it was found that tens of thousands of votes in the 2010 elections went uncounted because electronic voting machines counted more than one vote in a race. A review by the state Board of Election and the electronic voting machines’ manufacturer ES&S found that these 'over votes,' as they’re called, were due to a machine error. In the report issued by ES&S, when the machine used in the South Bronx overheated, ballots run during a test began coming back with errors."
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Overheated Voting Machine Cast Its Own Votes

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  • Scrap them all (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Fned (43219) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @10:09PM (#39949745) Journal

    It's clear we're just not ready for electronic voting. Let's stick to paper ballots and re-visit this idea in twenty years or so.

  • Re:Scrap them all (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TubeSteak (669689) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @10:13PM (#39949767) Journal

    It's clear that we hired the wrong people to build our electronic voting machines.
    Instead of the guys who build ATMs, we should have hired the guys who build slot machines.

  • Wrong Approach (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sincewhen (640526) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @10:14PM (#39949777)

    This reminds me of what I was thinking after yesterday's article about Java security problems.

    I think society has taken the wrong approach to deploying computers. We execute untrusted code we receive from the internet. We build complex, computerised devices to perform a simple task.

    I think that sometimes we should accept that less is more.

  • by Baloroth (2370816) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @10:15PM (#39949785)

    Seriously, why the hell are people even trying these things? No permanent record of any kind, little to no public oversight of the process, and of course glitches and the possibility for "glitches" on a massive scale that can completely overturn the entire election process. At least with paper voting, cheating is a) moderately easy to catch and b) moderately difficult on a large scale. Mistakes can be corrected afterwards, by examining the paper trail. An e-voting machine? No trail, and a single alteration the code can allow anyone to change the result in absolutely any way they want, with almost zero possibility of detection, and with a single commands.

    They are a terrible idea, and honestly any politician/bureaucrat who pushes them should be regarded with strong suspicion, if not of attempting downright fraud, then of bowing to special interests (i.e. the machine manufacturers). Possibly both. And, even if they are really clean of both the preceeding, then they are technologically stupid and shouldn't be trusted to make decisions about these kinds of things anyways.

  • Re:Scrap them all (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @10:20PM (#39949827)

    Especially on the news that at least one bank, (Citizens) has been keeping money owed it's customers who make math mistakes tallying up their checks when they deposit them (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/09/citizens-bank-class-action-lawsuit_n_1498123.html). Funny how when you make a math mistake in YOUR favor they always catch it....

  • Re:Scrap them all (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @10:24PM (#39949861)

    No. We should have hired the guys who print money and other secure papers. Paper voting is superior in every way to electronic voting, except possibly price - and shouldn't we be willing to spend what is ultimately a pittance compared to what we spend on everything else to ensure one of the cornerstones of democracy is eroded away?

  • by SlippyToad (240532) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @10:34PM (#39949929)

    Why do electronic voting systems seems to have so many problems?

    I think the employ of Occam's Razor would be quite useful here. There is an un-holy appeal to any designer of such a machine to be able to artificially control the output. We already have the CEO of Diebold publicly promising to deliver votes [google.com] to George W. Bush, so any protestation of "naw, people who build these things are so trustworthy, nobody would ever actually think to rig an election by deliberately designing a machine to do so.

    My very first thought when I read this rigamarole about how the software conveniently malfunctioned to create new votes was, "oh, my god, what a complete bullshit explanation. Overheating CPUs do not malfunction so specifically as to merely add valid data to the processes they are executing. They STOP WORKING COMPLETELY when they overheat, as anyone who has ever spent even a year working with them would know.

    So, I'm calling bullshit immediately, and after being fed an incredibly stupid lie about why these machines generated extra votes, I'm inclined to believe the very fucking worst possible alternative explanation. Why else would someone make up such a fucking ridiculous fib?

  • Re:One More Thing: (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @10:38PM (#39949961)

    Move Voting Day to Saturday. The only reason it was on Tuesday was to allow for travel time and to avoid the often-strictly observed Sabbath of the still quite Puritan colonial USA. Make it a Saturday, and make all businesses except essential service and emergency personnel close on that day period, so the people can take their time to vote.

    There. That's the last one.

    Most of Saturday is the often-strictly observed Sabbath for a significant number of people. If the Christians don't observe Sabbath anymore why not make it Sunday?

  • Re:Scrap them all (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darinbob (1142669) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @11:05PM (#39950105)

    There is a fundamental problem with elections in the US and many other places, regardless of electronic versus paper. The problem is that once the election is over it is OVER. There is no re-do if someone finds a mistake. In this case the cause of the mistake is discovered 18 months late and the next election cycle has begun! But even in a normal case in the US we have elections early in November and winning candidates take office in January. That leaves no time to invalidate results and hold a brand new election if something goes wrong. We don't have wiggle room like calling for early elections or rerunning them if there are problems. Generally when there are disputes they're not resolved until after it is too late, so we just cross our fingers and hope it doesn't happen again. The cases where a result is held off for more than a couple of weeks is very rare, and always because the counts are very very close. I've never heard of anything being delayed merely because someone thinks there were far more invalidated votes than are statistically expected (or because of evidence box stuffing for paper ballots). The election is a juggernaut and is not slowed down by inconveniences.

    So how do you resolve problems like this. It's been 18 months, do you pull the elected officials from that district out of congress and have the state assign a pro-tem replacement? The governor of the state would just appoint whichever candidate belongs to the same party. But we've had 10 years of these problems without things substantially getting better.

  • by Darinbob (1142669) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @11:15PM (#39950167)

    Elections in the US are messy. They were messy before these machines too. Essentially all the elections are run at the local level; not at the state but in each individual county and district. These election districts have very little funding and they're always being beat on to do better, have fewer errors, report results faster, reduce number of complaints, and save money. There is no national standard for how elections should be run, and not all states have standards either.

    With the Bush v. Gore circus in Florida a lot of people panicked. Suddenly there was an urgent desire to upgrade the paper ballots even though almost nobody used systems similar to Florida's. At the national level some political pressure came to change things and there was even some funding. So in the madness of "omg fix it!" tons of districts purchased electronic voting machines with very little in the way of rigorous evaluation. But then the money dried up. In the absence of a national emergency things were back to the way they had always been. Problems cropping up here and there were disasterous enough to capture the nation's attention, these were just "glitches", and besides there was no money fix the machines or get new ones. Add to this that the elections were faster and recounts took seconds and no one had any incentive whatsoever to pull out the old dusty paper machines.

  • Re:Scrap them all (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @11:23PM (#39950213)

    Your statement is unproveable because, as the previous poster said, you don't get a paper record of your vote. With paper, you can do a re-count of the actual ballot papers used to determine the result, you can do it any time you like. You HOPE Brazilian elections are clean, but you don't KNOW.

  • Re:Scrap them all (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @11:31PM (#39950265) Homepage
    Or laziness and a problem of incentive. These companies get in a lot of trouble if their ATMs are hacked or broken into. They don't have to pay much if their voting machines screw up or are easily hackable.
  • Re:Scrap them all (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @11:32PM (#39950267) Journal

    Paper voting means a physical verifiable record. As to hanging chads the issue is complex and poorly designed ballots.

    As to the speed of counting ballots, so what? You have to wait a few hours, or on tight races, a few days. Sounds like a reasonable sacrifice for not having fucked up elections due to equipment failure.

  • Re:Scrap them all (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Wednesday May 09, 2012 @11:42PM (#39950305) Journal

    Really? How is it easier to alter the result of a paper election? You have the ballots watched at all times, locked up when the polls close, it's damned hard to stuff. The problem in the States is, of course, that no one seems to have struck the bright idea that other democratic jurisdictions did decades ago that you don't let political parties run elections, ever. You create independent departments that are specifically non-partisan in nature to run your elections, instead of whatever Republican or Democrat jackass somehow lucked into basically overseeing the vote.

  • Re:Scrap them all (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ClickOnThis (137803) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @01:15AM (#39950763) Journal

    Have you never been to a magician's stage show? He gets 500 people to all look at the wrong thing at the same time with close to 100% accuracy. And you are claiming that a well timed car backfire won't make people look. Really? Really? All it takes for voter fraud to be easy is for stupid people to think they have a fool proof system, when they are the ones that are the fools.

    Your speculation pales in comparison to the kinds of hey-nonny-nonny that can be committed with binary bits on a computer system by someone with a malicious intent.

  • Re:Scrap them all (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mitreya (579078) <(mitreya) (at) (gmail.com)> on Thursday May 10, 2012 @01:44AM (#39950883)

    Instead of the guys who build ATMs, we should have hired the guys who build slot machines.

    ATMs are very reliable! Because if an ATM were to spontaneously spit out money, you bet that owner bank will hold the manufacturer responsible and make them pay! So ATMs don't really screw up, ever
    This is a symptom of no one holding them accountable. If every lost/wrong vote cost, say, $1000 to the manufacturer, such crap would not happen.

  • Re:Scrap them all (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ClickOnThis (137803) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @02:44AM (#39951139) Journal

    No, it doesn't. But there's nothing I can say to get any of the lying idiots to compare a reasonable implementation of paper vs a reasonable electronic solution. It's always the best paper vs the worst electronic. So there's no reason for me to argue the points, other than tell you that you are wrong.

    Even the worst paper vs. the best electronic still puts paper on top. Because with paper, there is macroscopic evidence of what has taken place. No matter how well you design an electronic system, it's still too easy to hide tampering in the ghostly phantoms of ones and zeros within computer systems. Go ahead and tell me I'm wrong, it doesn't matter. Anyone who truly understands both systems knows who is right.

  • Re:Scrap them all (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mwvdlee (775178) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @02:52AM (#39951173) Homepage

    Does anybody ever read /. journals?

  • Re:Scrap them all (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 10, 2012 @07:05AM (#39952157)

    This means another line of fraud.

    I was with you until you said that. Voter fraud is a complete non-issue, and voter-ID initiatives are only meant to disenfranchise the working poor that cannot afford to take a day off to get the ID in the first place. The 'fraud' that is so rampant as to warrant this has never been proven, not on a scale to justify it at all, but if you talk to the mouth breathers on the far-right in this country, the fact that we haven't caught the massive fraud just "proves that the fraud is widespread"...

    Of course, we all know the real reason they think there's fraud...they picked the wrong horse and don't like being on a losing team...

    Posted AC because, while everyone knows it's true, I will get modded down by the right-wing whackjobs anyway...

  • Re:Scrap them all (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sique (173459) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @07:57AM (#39952403) Homepage

    Pen-and-Paper-voting is the one system that can be made secure quite simple, and that can be verified by about everyone without actually tampering with voting secrecy.
    There are (at least) three conditions which are not easy to align: equality and secrecy of votes.

    Equality (each vote counts the same) is only possible if one guarantees that the counting process is open and verifiable.
    Secrecy (no one except the voter knows how he voted) is only possible if no one else can watch the actual act of voting.
    Integrity (no one can tamper with the vote once the voter cast the vote) is only possible if the votes can be watched without actually knowing the votes.

    And here pen-and-paper-voting shines, and no other voting system comes close. Nearly each part of the voting process can be in the open: the ballot box can be opened to the public, controlled by everyone to be completely empty, sealed and be watched all the time by everyone who likes to watch. The breaking of the seal and the counting can (and should) be performed in public, and again everyone who wants to can watch it. The result for the local election office is announced publicly, and publicly written down into the forms and sealed, the votes are put back in the controlledly empty ballot box and sealed again, and the ballot box is then transported (and accompagnied by whoever wants) to the central election office, where the votes according to the sealed forms are tallied and the complete result is announced.
    And the actual act of voting can be performed in the voting booth, no one else can watch it, the ballot is folded by the voter, which preserves secrecy and personally put in the ballot box, which preserves integrity. So all three: Intregrity, Equality and Secrecy are preserved.

    No electronic or mechanic voting system can come close to this. Each of them has at least one element which should be open closed (for instance counting with a computer is actually a closed process, because it is much faster than anyone can control count, so you have to trust the system to count correctly), or one element which should be closed in the open (the paper record which allows backtracking to the ballot).

    tl;dr

    Each voting system which performes at least one act of the voting process faster than the human eye can watch it can be tampered with and should not be trusted.

  • Re:Scrap them all (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jimbolauski (882977) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @09:24AM (#39953139) Journal

    This means another line of fraud.

    I was with you until you said that. Voter fraud is a complete non-issue, and voter-ID initiatives are only meant to disenfranchise the working poor that cannot afford to take a day off to get the ID in the first place. The 'fraud' that is so rampant as to warrant this has never been proven, not on a scale to justify it at all, but if you talk to the mouth breathers on the far-right in this country, the fact that we haven't caught the massive fraud just "proves that the fraud is widespread"...

    Of course, we all know the real reason they think there's fraud...they picked the wrong horse and don't like being on a losing team...

    Posted AC because, while everyone knows it's true, I will get modded down by the right-wing whackjobs anyway...

    How many of the working poor do not have a driver license? How many of the working poor that do not have a drivers license, work M,T,W,Th,F,and Sat the days when they could get the ID. You talk about few cases of ID fraud being brought to light, but how many people does this law really affect? I'm betting that the percentage of people that will be excluded from voting due to lack of identification, is about the same percentage of voting fraud that occurs.

    Not posted AC, because I am not a coward and I don't care if I get modded down by the left-wing whackjobs anyway.

  • Re:Scrap them all (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cpu6502 (1960974) on Thursday May 10, 2012 @11:13AM (#39954637)

    The politicians knew EXACTLY what they were doing. Why do you think the e-voting machines are still in place, even though we've been aware of the problem for 10 years? Because the politicians, and more importantly the party bosses in each state, want an election they can control.

    They don't want paper ballots. They don't want e-voting machines that print-out paper ballots. They don't want accountability or traceability. They want a rigged election, just as they rigged the Iowa election (ballots were "lost" and they were counted in secret without oversight).

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