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Los Alamos Reconsiders Touch Screen Voting 305

goombah99 writes "Los Alamos county, which boasts the highest geek PhD per capita in the world and considerable clout in secure computing, has voted to rescind its previous plans to purchase Touch Screen voting systems and will ask the New Mexico's secretary of state to address its concerns regarding an imminent state-wide purchase. They may get forced by the Clerk's office to use them anyway if the state makes its bulk purchase of Sequoia AvcEdge touch screen systems with a Windows-based WinEDS database. The Los Alamos position is welcome news since it casts the rejection of these systems in a more sober light; widespread right-wing conspiracy theories have done great harm by galvanizing election officials to be dismissive of re-opening their consideration of the issue. What won the day was convincing the county they had until 2006 to comply with HAVA, and that better machines with voter verifiable audit trails and even open source, were on the way. There is also more in the local newspapers."
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Los Alamos Reconsiders Touch Screen Voting

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  • What won the day (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Space cowboy ( 13680 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @11:59AM (#7528683) Journal
    was that the local officials saw a way to keep their skin intact. Defer the decision and allow a (new! in-depth!) study to recommend something else because the time-frame allows it.

    Simon the cynic.
  • by The Terrorists ( 619137 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:00PM (#7528686)
    They aren't conspiracy theories. There is plenty [scoop.co.nz] of evidence about the Bush-Diebold connection. The theories are based on solid, classical campaign finance skulduggery and not on the technical merits of the system at all. There was a good SecurityFocus article on the register about it as well, focusing on the technical aspects. I propose the establishment of independent technical federal commissions to review all voting technologies.
    • by puppet10 ( 84610 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:06PM (#7528750)
      And the only reason they have any traction is because the voting machines don't have a voter, human readable, verifiable audit trail to track the votes. Thus you open up all sorts of conspiracy theories because theres no way to prove to a reasonable person that the votes have not been tampered with either through error or design.
    • by h4rm0ny ( 722443 ) * on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:13PM (#7528814) Journal

      First step in concealing your conspiracy is to make it sound stupid. The moment a few TFHs (Tin Foil Hatters) appear and start raving about every voting machine in the country being rigged or the banking system being controlled by the Elders of Zion, then more moderate critics and theorists coming afterwards get lumped into the same category.

      Essentially, the loonies lay claim to an issue and then you can no longer support the issue without being seen to support the loonies.

      Not saying that this is the case here - just a general principle.
      • There's nothing stupid about any of this.

        Once we lose our right to vote, then it's gone. Period. Good bye. It will take nothing short of a blood bath to bring it back.

        That is why this issue is so important. It is not possible to overstate the importance of what is going on here.

        To dismiss people who are concerned for the fate of their democracy as Tin Foil Hatters is disgusting, especially when you consider all the lives sacrificied throughout history so we can have democracy.

        Bush stole 2000, and no
        • Either that, or emigrate to Canada before the Canadians wise up and close the border on *their* end.

    • Evidence? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by siskbc ( 598067 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:30PM (#7529012) Homepage
      They aren't conspiracy theories. There is plenty of evidence about the Bush-Diebold connection.

      Read your link and missed anything that could be construed as evidence. The only fact is that there was a technical glitch. Everything else is complete speculation.

      I mean, even think about it: if they were going to rig 16,000 votes, where would they do it - in a precint with a population of 600, or a population of 100,000? Which would make more sense? There's no way they "get away" with it the way it went down, and it was so blatant that there's no way it would have even had the presumably desired effect.

      I'm not saying to believe everything "the man" says, but fuming over evidently nothing denies credibility to real causes.

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

        by Noren ( 605012 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @01:00PM (#7529307)
        It's not much more reassuring to think that there is no conspiracy at all- and the machines make random, unpredictable errors in the amount of 16,000 votes. For all we know, they did just that in precinct(s) with a population of 100,000 and no one caught it because it wasn't blatantly obvious.

        I still don't find that to be an acceptable voting tabulation method, even given the large assumption that no one is guiding the 'errors'.

        • It's not much more reassuring to think that there is no conspiracy at all- and the machines make random, unpredictable errors in the amount of 16,000 votes. For all we know, they did just that in precinct(s) with a population of 100,000 and no one caught it because it wasn't blatantly obvious.

          Great point. Let me clarify for sure, my first post wasn't a defense of the proposed electronic scheme, as I don't trust anything without audit possibilities. These electronic voting schemes aren't ready for prime-

      • Re:Evidence? (Score:5, Informative)

        by wytcld ( 179112 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @01:14PM (#7529449) Homepage
        if they were going to rig 16,000 votes, where would they do it - in a precint with a population of 600, or a population of 100,000?

        What the evidence shows is that it is easily possible to rig these machines. What historical evidence shows is that people who can rig elections sometimes do. For instance, Lyndon Johnson first got into the Senate because of ballot box stuffing in one Texas county; and there were a lot of people in Cook County, Illinois who managed to vote for JFK despite their graveyard residences. There were some stuffed ballot boxes in Kansas City when Truman first got into the Senate too.

        So we can conclude from history that given the chance, Democrats at least will sometimes rig elections. Are Republicans more pure? How about those Republicans who cheated California on electricity, or the Republicans who have cheated mutual fund holders out of what's looking to add up to billions (okay, there may be a few Democrats among executives in those industries - perhaps 5%)? With the Republicans particularly adept at cycling people between public and private office, we should assume that their ethics in public office are uniformly different than when they're in private "enterprise"?

        You can't deny this about individual Republicans: they're enterprising. And so, history shows, have been the Democrats. It's not a conspiracy theory that's the problem here, it's the notion that history has been repealed and our current vote counters are angels.

        Yeah, right.
        • Exactly. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @01:36PM (#7529653) Homepage
          Thank you for disecting the heart of the "conspiracy theory" issue. How can normally skeptical people call this a "conspiracy theory"?

          Fact: A company is producing voting machines which are easily tamperable and which allow such tampering to go completely undetected except through observing anomalous results.

          Fact: There are people who would benefit greatly from utilizing this ability.

          Fact: The company in question has given a good deal of money to one of the groups of people who would benefit from exploiting the flaws in the company's system. Even stated that they want to help said group win.

          How could a rational, skeptical person look at this and not think "something isn't right here"?

          Perhaps you are right, and alleged skeptics have suddenly become convinced that everyone in politics (or just their favorite politicians?) have become saints.
        • You can't deny this about individual Republicans: they're enterprising. And so, history shows, have been the Democrats. It's not a conspiracy theory that's the problem here, it's the notion that history has been repealed and our current vote counters are angels.

          Wow, you don't have many /.'ers who will admit that the 1960 election was a fraud. Don't get me wrong, I'm NOT supporting internet voting or any such thing (guess I should have made that clearer) In fact, I agree, there are about 2.5 politicians in

    • by pavon ( 30274 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @01:14PM (#7529450)
      Bull. All this "evidence" is mearly circumstantial.

      Fact: The Diebold Machines have horrible design and implementation.
      Fact: Diebold has done some shaddy things to cover their buts when they make a mistake.
      Fact: The CEO of the company has donated money to the republicans.

      How does this imply that there is a great conspiricy? Lots of people give money to the republicans. Lots of people write crappy software. Lots of businesses try to get away with things that they shouldn't. Where is the proof that the reason for their actions is that they want the hand the election over to the republicans? It is just as likely that they are just incompetent and greedy, not conspiratal. Repeat after me: Correlation does not imply Causality.

      Now is it possible that Diebold really is doing this to hand the election over to Bush? Sure. Is there any proof? No. But there is proof that some people framing this issue as a conspiricy theory has made the rest of us loose alot of credibility. And doing so is completely uneccisary because there are so many (factual) reasons why we shouldn't use these machines. So do everyone a favor and stick to the facts.
  • Right wing? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    he he he...

    I think this is the first time that I've ever seen CBS News, home of Dan Rather, called "right-wing"

    • Re:Right wing? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ncc74656 ( 45571 )
      I think this is the first time that I've ever seen CBS News, home of Dan Rather, called "right-wing"

      Someone whose politics lie somewhere to the left of Lenin would be likely to make that mistake. This site [ratherbiased.com] is a fair bit closer to the truth.

      (/me awaits the Troll/Flamebait down-mods from the Slashbots...fsck 'em.)

    • I think this is all a Vast Left Wing Conspiracy perpetrated by the unholy alliance of PETA and KFC, created to spread MS-like FUD (F**ked-Up-Devices) so that people have even less of a clue as to what's happening in the world than they already do.
    • Re:Right wing? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by bussdriver ( 620565 )
      Actually if you know some actual liberals, you'd realize CBS News is right wing. Dan Rather probably leans to the left; however, he MUST lean to the RIGHT to keep his job, he even said so in an interview with the BBC. (I'm surprised he is still employed after that one...)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:02PM (#7528711)
    Imagine the fun you could have selecting a president by poking a picture in its belly, and being rewarded with a Pilsbury-esque "Tee hee! Thanks for voting for me!"
  • Better to do it right and build trust in the system than implement something with known flaws.

    This is the future. It's only a matter of time until it's perfected. Let's be patient.
  • by southpolesammy ( 150094 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:07PM (#7528756) Journal
    the ultimate irony would be if the Los Alamos council used the Sequoia voting system to take the vote....
  • What won the day was convincing the county they had until 2006 to comply with HAVA, and that better machines with voter verifiable audit trails and even open source, were on the way.

    Sounds old doesn't it? Hey Bill, I'm still waiting for Trustworthy Computing to start providing me with a secure OS. ;).

    But seriously, this has been one of the major sticking points of e-voting besides security. I can't understand why the major players in this industry don't get it. Governments want traceability and backup

  • Thank GOD! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:09PM (#7528782)
    Touch Screen systems just aren't reliable, there's no paper trail, they're closed source, etc. How Diebold has managed to penetrate so deeply is amazing to me. Are our elected officials really that stupid, or has Diebold really swindled them?

    I believe electronic voting systems can work, but only highly secured, rigorously tested, and open source systems that leave a paper trail. If nothing else, a piece of paper that the voter can use to verify the votes he or she cast.

    For now, I'll stick with punch cards or penis pullers, thank you very much.
    • Are our elected officials really that stupid, or has Diebold really swindled them?

      I'd say that if anybody is being swindled, it's you. The politicians who allowed Diebold access in the first place are probably a little richer.

      Nice to see Los Alamos is going with caution, amazing how many areas jumped on a bandwagon even when this wagon seemed to only have 3 wheels.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:11PM (#7528792)
    ...to change the way they vote? Only in geek county would you have recursive voting.
  • Dismissive (Score:5, Interesting)

    by krysith ( 648105 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:13PM (#7528815) Journal
    I don't know that it was the conspiracy theories that made the election officials so dismissive of concerns about electronic voting. It seems to me they were dismissive of the concerns about e-voting before any of these conspiracy theories began to propogate. I think the main reasons why election officials like electronic voting so much is that it makes their job easier, and it seems all high-tech and modern. The concerns about it seem like the typical luddite worries about change to them.

    If anything, I think that the conspiracy theories will do more to get their attention - after all, it's their job to make sure that people have confidence in the election results. Having a bunch of backwoods farmers saying "I don't trust the results from your damn computers" is one thing. Having Los Alamos computer scientists saying "I don't trust the results from your damn proprietary software" is quite another, and I think they are waking up to that.
  • by Eraserhd ( 21298 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:15PM (#7528838) Homepage

    We need your help!

    HR 2239 [loc.gov] is a bill which requires all touch-screen voting machines to produce a paper receipt which the voter can read and verify, then drop in a lock box. The receipts in that lock box are used in a recount. This bill also mandates a recount in 0.5% of districts chosen at random to verify that the touch-screen voting machines are reporting the results accurately.

    Sign the online petition [thepetitionsite.com] to support the bill. Contact your representatives [verifiedvoting.org], educate them and demand they support the bill.

    We also need legal help with injunctions against the machines, starting with the 37 Diebold states. The organizers of BlackBoxVoting.org [blackboxvoting.org] have 65,000 documents to make the case.

    • The receipt should never come in to the voter's hands. It should scroll underneath a clear window, where it can be viewed and checked. Pressing 'OK' should scroll the paper out of sight. Pressing 'Error' should lock the paper and screen so that a voting official can verify that the information on the paper does not match the information on the screen, and take that machine out of service. This would be so easy.
      • The receipt should never come in to the voter's hands.

        Uh... why? Seriously. You make this statement, yet you give no reasons to support it. It's apparently not obvious, as I can't figure out why this is important.

        • "The receipt should never come in to the voter's hands."

          "Uh... why? Seriously."

          Under the colonial rule, it was common for elections to be held like this:

          On election day, the voters would gather to vote.
          Each would, in turn, step up on a platform and state his vote to a magistrate, and everyone in the community would know how he had voted.

          The magistrate in charge of this was often the person being re-elected. The pressure to vote the status quo was enormous.

          This situation is one of the big deals that th
    • Is that an ironclad lockbox? Because we all know what happened [cbo.gov] to that!
  • by John Jorsett ( 171560 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:17PM (#7528859)
    The summary implies that it's conservatives who oppose these systems. Read the linked story, and you'll see that the "conspiracy theory" is one that Republicans are behind some sort of sinister plot to fix the vote. If anything, this makes it conspiracy theory on the part of the left wing. Personally, I'll be happy if these machines never see use. Punch card ballots seem to be usable without major problem everywhere but Florida. Let them have the electronic voting machines if they want, and leave the rest of us with systems that've worked just fine for decades.
    • > Punch card ballots seem to be usable without major problem everywhere
      > but Florida. Let them have the electronic voting machines
      > if they want

      Florida is the fourth largest state in electoral votes. If their election is corrupted (particularly if it's corrupted from outside their state), most of the other states effectively lose their franchise in the selection of the president.

      That's why each state, but particularly the large ones, has to have honest elections when selecting the president. Ot
      • The 2000 Florida "problems" were largely a construct of the losing side to justify the involvement of the courts. Unfortunately, the notion that undervotes and overvotes constitute unacceptable "errors" (when in fact, for all we know most could be deliberate) has gotten enshrined in the national consciousness, and is now being used to justify wholesale revamping of the system through the use of these new machines. My own state of California has stampeded down this path, I expect to its future regret.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:19PM (#7528877)
    Headline News
    Council yanks voting machine funding

    By ALLISON MAJURE, lareporter@lamonitor.com, Monitor Staff Writer

    Revisiting a motion that had narrowly passed by a 4-3 vote last month, Los Alamos County Council rescinded funding for the purchase of 17 Sequoia Pacific "Edge" touchscreen voting machines by a vote of 7-0 Tuesday.

    Councilors Nona Bowman, Diane Albert and Mike Wheeler opposed the original motion on Oct. 28. At a meeting Nov. 4, Councilor Fran Berting asked councilors to support her motion to revisit the issue. They voted 5-2 to do so with Councilors Geoff Rogers and Jim West opposed. In light of newly received information, Berting sought an opportunity for further discussion on the voting machines, as well as an opportunity to change her vote.

    The 17 machines would have been purchased by the county as back-up machines for each of Los Alamos' precincts. The State of New Mexico has already funded the purchase of 19 "Edge" touchscreen voting machines for Los Alamos through federal funding received as part of the Help America Vote Act.

    The HAVA was enacted shortly after the presidential election of 2000 when discrepancies in Florida called the count into question. Among its requirements is the provision of voting machines for the visually impaired so that they may vote independently without personal assistance.

    During public comments, Kathy Campbell read her letter to the editor to the councilors and highlighted the fact that the proprietary software that tabulates the votes is not failsafe. Any tabulation errors indicated, would need to be researched by Sequoia Pacific technicians, because the software is proprietary, she said.

    "Australia, Canada and New Zealand use open source software for their voting machines, which are reliant on an open source operating system such as Linux or UNIX," she said in an interview today.

    Charlie Strauss also provided information for the councilors, saying the state deadline for the use of these machines is 2006, not 2004 as was previously asserted. He said, "There's no need to rush, we're going to have good machines soon," indicating that machines with a ballot-level voter verification capacity might be on the market shortly.

    Strauss urged councilors to send a letter to the New Mexico Secretary of State expressing concerns about the validity of the "Edge" machine's output. He referred to New Jersey Rep. Rush Holt's bill, HR 2239, which is sponsored by 61 other congressional representatives, as useful for its language which objects to touchscreen machines made by Diebold, Sequioa-Pacific, ESS and others.

    The councilors unanimously endorsed a motion to rescind funding for the voting machines and to draft a letter to the New Mexico Secretary of State, articulating Los Alamos' concerns.
    • by 0xA ( 71424 )
      While I agree with the article's point of view I'd like to mention that I have never seen anything more complicated that a pencil used in a Canadian election.
  • by FunWithHeadlines ( 644929 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:21PM (#7528898) Homepage
    "widespread right-wing conspiracy theories have done great harm by galvanizing election officials to be dismissive of re-opening their consideration of the issue."

    I read the CBS News article in the included link, and I don't see the "great harm" anywhere in that article. I'm wondering if the submitter is showing a bias by his comments.

    I am not aware of any solid proof that the right-wing has used electronic voting machines to ensure election, but it stands to reason that it has and will happen. Why? Because politicians on both sides have tampered with election results and methods for decades (centuries, millenia). So it would be quite naive to think that the right-wing wouldn't try to use whatever advantage it had. The left-wing too, when they are in power, would do the same thing. Power corrupts.

    This is a non-partisan problem. Either side is likely to try to use closed-source technology to their favor. It is short-sided to think this is only a right-wing problem -- it's not. Whoever is in power will use whatever means are accesible to maintain that power. Therefore it is imperative that the voting method being used does not give them an obvious tool to corrupt in maintaining that power. Diebold (and other manufacturer) machines are bad news, no matter which side you are on. Elections are stolen routinely throughout human history. Don't give them another tool to do the job, for they will most assuredly use them.

    Think about it: Do you really want to give politicians a method to hide voting result confirmations? To be able to say, "Here are the results and, hey whaddya know? I won!" and have no possible way to verify that? That's called power without accountability, and we all know where that leads.

    • I'm wondering if the submitter is showing a bias by his comments.

      On SlashDot? Say it ain't so!

      This is a non-partisan problem.

      Precisely. I'm about as right-wing as you can get, and I see this as essential legislation. I'd even go as far as saying that those who oppose this must have their own agendas, and shouldn't be trusted. A true conservative loves democracy more than power.

    • It does great harm because the words "conspiracy theory" are instantly linked to untrustworthy nutcases in the public mind.

      I'm guessing this article appeared in some form on CBS news. So it would reach a whole lot of Average Joes who may have otherwise never heard of the controversy, or known anything about the issue besides that the government wants to use electronic voting booths to prevent another November 4th debacle.

      So the first time they hear about this issue, the take-away message they get is, "

  • by mark2003 ( 632879 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:25PM (#7528937)
    The very fact that the officials have signed contracts that forbid any investigation of the equipment and that there are no verifiable audit trails makes me think that there is some truth in these "conspiracy theories".

    When government is not open and transparent it is usually because those people who make up the government are trying to hide something, usually fixing things in their own self interest.

    Would you trust your money to a bank that had no audit trail and whose systems and accounts were not open to independant audit?
  • Paper trail now! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dr_Marvin_Monroe ( 550052 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:27PM (#7528957)
    I just don't see why the voting machine folks can't get the message. Simply include a cash register tape, just like most stores have!

    Everywhere across the country, hundreds of millions of people get paper receipts with their purchases at the store. This happens, because Republican (and Democratic) store owners "Don't trust" the electronic tabulations in the machines and demand a verifiable "paper trail" from each of their cash registers. If store owners don't trust a $0.99 purchase to be recorded electronicly, why should we trust voting machines. It's simple, effective, and not expensive either. It happens HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF TIMES PER DAY.

    Why can't everyone simply get a printout of their votes?...Why the foot-dragging...other than proving the conspiricy theories!.... To the voting machine folks, just add a paper tape, just like an ATM or cash register!....It's the right thing to do.
    • This is not a thought I'm origonating, but other people on other e-voting threads on Slashdot have said that requiring (or even allowing) the VOTER to have paper evidence of their vote would allow votes to be bought. Your local crime syndicate could pay people to vote for whatever official is in their pocket, and have proof that you voted how they wanted. Anywhere from "$10 for a vote slip that says so-and-so" to "We'll break your legs if you don't bring us the vote slip."

      That said, I _DO_ agree there need
      • You get around vote-buying by requiring people to turn in the paper receipt before leaving. This way they can check the receipt after e-voting and then turn in a paper record in case a recount is needed.
  • why not ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by *weasel ( 174362 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:28PM (#7528972)

    Touchscreen station sends vote to database. writes one record to a 'has voted' table, indicating voter registration number. writes a different record in a 'vote' table indicating the actual vote. (no common index, no datestamp).
    touchscreen prints out scantron styled paper ballot.

    you record 'has voted' in the database simply to indicate if anyone is gaming or circumventing the software. not only can you detect the problem, you can id the perp.

    and if you think that's too much, then hell - just drop the 'has voted' table. it'd only be an 'early warning' widget anyway.

    the paper forms would be collected in traditional ballot boxes for manual recounts should problems be seen. simply run the forms through a scantron reader for a machine recount, or count by hand. easy peasy japanesey.

    no pregnant, dimpled, hanging chads - no worrying about ruined elections via computer hax0r1ng... simplified interface for the voters, hardcopy backup.
  • by hethatishere ( 674234 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:28PM (#7528975)
    The fact that these machines are designed so carelessly and without regard for security is a danger, not to Liberals because of a vast right-wing conspiracy but to us all. These machines were designed by people with little regard for Democracy. The Diebold Memos more than show that. What endangers the sanctity of Democracy hurts us all.
  • I am normally somewhat dismissive of the argument that a license fee for windows is not worth the price...but only in the case of workstations and servers where the human and other costs are so much higher as to dwarf the software cost.

    However, I can't for the life of me figure out why they would use Windows in a voting machine. When you sell a hardware solution where the buyers probably don't care either way you are just reducing profit by using a piece of software you need to license. UNIX is easy to

    • Doesn't matter which Diebold chose. They appear to be so incompetent as to muck it up no matter what the operating system.

      Windows and the specific voting application, just like any other OS+application, can be made secure. Just not by these clowns.
  • by bigpat ( 158134 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:30PM (#7528997)
    Hopefully now people in the press are beginning to realize that the concerns of engineers and scientists are fundamental concerns about the ability of these tools to be used to support free and fair elections. This isn't a terribly complicated problem that is hard to understand. People understand quite easily the issues of accountability when paper ballots are used in simple way.

    Heck recently there was a story that made the local papers about an election worker that improperly broke the seals on some ballot boxes is some election. It turns out that the worker probably did nothing to change results and was just trying to find some papers, but people were rightly indignant that an elections official wasn't following an agreed upon procedure wich left the boxes open to tampering after the fact... With some of these computer system designs that same election worker could have physically done the same thing thousands of times without any one being able to tell. Of course, there wouldn't have been any newpaper stories since there would have been no evidence of the tampering unless the elections worker had come forward herself.

    Computers are physical things. Similar rules should apply computers as they apply to paper ballots.

  • I find it funny that all that is required to put to end the crap is a print out or allow all source code to be examined. Personally, I would take an english printout that a voter could check, over source code reading until we have been on electronic systems for a while.

  • The question isn't whether the machine should print out a paper copy of the ballet. I think that the answer to that is a given.

    The REAL question is what to do when that paper receipt doesn't agree with what the voter claims they entered. How do you "erase" the voters previous vote? And how do you ensure the integrity of a recast vote? Without answers to these questions, creating a paper trail is moot.

    • The simple answer is that the paper trail is the definative vote. Optical scan of visible cards is the best way, as it's easily and quickly verifiable, countable, and re-verifiable.

      • That's if there is a difference in the electronic versus paper count.

        What if I walk up to the machine and select a vote for person X and the machine spits out a receipt saying I voted for person Y. Now what?

        • The same thing that happens if I accidentally mark the wrong name on my paper ballot. I walk up to my election official and say, "Excuse me, I've made a mistake on this ballot." My ballot is destroyed and I am given a new one. In the case of this system, each paper recipet could have a unique identification number. The election official takes your reciept, types in the number into his terminal, and the vote is discarded. The paper reciept is then destroyed and you are allowed to go back into the voting
  • by bee ( 15753 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @12:44PM (#7529149) Homepage Journal
    Man, all these conspiracy theories going around about the right wing taking over the world just suck. They don't even have any of the standard conspiracy theory elements:
    • The complicity, at the very least, of the Pope
    • Evidence that the moon landings were faked
    • Involves the real people behind JFK's assassination
    • the Illuminati
    • black helicopters
    • space aliens
    • the Men in Black
    • Area 51

    and plenty more-- I'm sure you can come up with more than me.
  • by lakema ( 725966 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @01:00PM (#7529312)
    When the CEO of one of the largest voting machine manufacturers (Diebold) sends out a fund raising letter saying he is "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President next year." you have to be at least a little skeptical. http://www.portclintonnewsherald.com/news/stories/ 20030827/localnews/140871.html
  • by jmichaelg ( 148257 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @01:14PM (#7529459) Journal
    There are so many different ways to hack a machine's output that you can never know for sure that the machine's product is correct. Ordinarily, it doesn't happen because you need access and motive to do it. Your spreadsheet results are acceptably reliable because there isn't someone who has an interest in skewing the spreadsheet's output. You recover from the occasional hardware glitch and go on.

    A vote is something else...there's lots of motivation to steal an election. There isn't any way of knowing, given today's operating systems, that no one has either hacked the code in ROM or loaded a hook that'll modify the vote as desired. For every measure you propose to thwart theft, there's a counter measure. That's just the intentional attacks. There are hardware failures to contend with as well. There isn't a straightforward way to backup a vote and know for certain that the backup is accurate. Distributed tallying/backup just introduces another error source.

    Voting is an activity that is best left to humans doing the tallying. When properly implemented, it's trustworthy unlike what we're currently doing. I know this is /. heresy but there are tasks where a technological solution should not be applied - voting is one of them.

  • by Dr. Mu ( 603661 ) on Friday November 21, 2003 @01:24PM (#7529543)
    As much as many of us would like to see open source prevail in the electronic voting system market (as the Aussies have decreed it must), it is not, by itself, a cure-all for the kinds of abuses it tries to address. Who's to say, for example, the the code that's published matches the firmware in the machine. I know my county auditor wouldn't know the difference. No, what's needed beyond open-source is a verifiable chain of trust from the published code to each individual machine. I don't know how to make that happen, but I'll bet there are some crypto gurus out there who can figure it out.
  • From the summary:
    ...widespread right-wing conspiracy theories have done great harm by galvanizing election officials to be dismissive of re-opening their consideration of the issue.
    The submitter has not given one scrap of evidence to back up this claim. The story in the link does not point to any "election officials being galvanised into being dismissive" of anything. This is nothing but empty rhetoric.