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Touch Screen Voting Trouble in Florida 574

usn2fsu03 writes "Here we go again with another election controversy in South Florida. Touch screen voting was used in a State House election that was won by twelve votes. Unfortunately, there were 134 people who went through the process of checking in to vote, but either did not vote or cast a vote that was not counted. Without a paper trail it is anyone's guess as to what those voters' intentions were. Obviously, there is work to be done in the Election Supervisor's office before November comes around."
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Touch Screen Voting Trouble in Florida

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  • by mgs1000 ( 583340 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:06PM (#7929431) Journal
    It seem quite possible that 1% of the people that went in to the booth just decide that they didn't like any of the voters? It seems like the the moderators on /. are just trying to find problems where none exist. Let's see what happens if a "none of the above" button is added to the UI before we go crying about the inequities of touch screen voting.
  • by Deleriux ( 709637 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:07PM (#7929451)
    If so, whats wrong with the normal voting system. Its not like its ever been that insecure.

    In a way you could call this the eroding of freedom to having your right to vote. I know its a bit of a lame idea though. I have never read the American constitution (as im not American) but im guessing there is no mention of the right to vote in a certain media.

    But, if because you wished to vote using older methods you were denied because using the new method is compulsory is that being denied your right to vote?
  • Christ...why not (Score:2, Interesting)

    by the_2nd_coming ( 444906 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:08PM (#7929454) Homepage
    just have 2 thing printed out...a computer punch card ballot that is punched out and has the names so people can see that the punch is taken out, and a receipt printed so that the person has a record of their vote?

    it is a high tech interface with mechanical precision for the punch.
  • by SexyKellyOsbourne ( 606860 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:09PM (#7929481) Journal
    The way around all this insecure, computerized Diebold mess is simple: absentee ballots.

    All absentee ballots have to be counted by hand, and it also leaves a tangible paper trail. Each state's website has a page on how to vote in absentia, which only requires a quick entry into google of your state's name and the word "absentee."

    If you don't trust your votes to the Diebold corporation and their known political views [], vote absentee in the 2004 election.
  • Quote: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KillerHamster ( 645942 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:13PM (#7929556) Homepage

    She theorized that some of the people who cast nonvotes were among the county's true-blue Democrats who were appalled to find a ballot with only Republicans.

    How hard is it to have "None of the above" as an option?

  • by Guano_Jim ( 157555 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:14PM (#7929578)
    For an interesting exercise in direct democracy, check out the Bush in 30 Seconds [] finalists. These have been winnowed down from some 1500 submitted ads.

    All created by volunteers. Registered users get to vote on which ads they like the best, and the winners will be run on TV this election season.

    Just to be fair and balanced, here's a similar conservative ad []. No voting though.

  • Re:Very good thing (Score:2, Interesting)

    by addie ( 470476 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:22PM (#7929699)
    Honestly, as a Canadian this all kind of blows my mind. Granted, we have 1/10 the population of the States, but whenever there's a federal election we manage to find out who the next governing party and prime minister all within the same day as voting. The same goes for provincial elections.

    This seems like a lot of cost for very little (if any) benefit. The list of things that can go wrong with a paper/pencil system is much shorter than that for an electronic system.

    What's that saying... If it ain't broke, don't fix it? Or perhaps, keep it simple stupid? Don't we listen to our own cliches anymore?
  • Spoil Your Ballot (Score:2, Interesting)

    by xav12 ( 602450 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:28PM (#7929779)
    In the UK any ballot that is considered "spoiled" - left blank, more than one vote, incorrect or badly placed marks - is counted, and the total number of spoilt ballots is recorded and reported.

    At the moment this is the only way to legitimately record a vote for "none of the above" and have it reported. Simply not voting is dismissed as "voter apathy".

    So when I'm not happy with any of the candidates I turn up and spoil my ballot. I suggest that more people do the same, until there is a valid "none of the above" option on all ballot papers.

    Perhaps some of the failed votes were simply people's attempts to "spoil" their touchscreen ballots for this reason.
  • by frkiii ( 691845 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:30PM (#7929798)

    I live in one of the counties in Florida where 1) the touch screens were piloted and 2) where I have voted with them in two elections.

    There is a print out that is produced as a running record as each person votes, which is the "backup" of data stored in the voting machine.

    The voters that "did not vote" or "voted but it was not counted" should be able to be located and queried regarding that happened at the polling place. Unless there is no way to determine, from this paper printout, which exact registered and present to vote cvoters did not vote or had a problem voting, for some reason.

  • by nosphalot ( 547806 ) <> on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:45PM (#7930024) Homepage
    Even better than the layered approach is the cryptographic one suggested by Davd Chaum here [] as mentioned previously on Slashdot [].

    There is a way to do this right, but you wnoder if those in power would invest in a truly secure system.

  • Arrogant SOB's (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Microsift ( 223381 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:46PM (#7930037)
    It amazes me how confident people are about their ability to vote. Especially since they have received no validation of this.

    For instance, I know who I intended to vote for in 2000, but I have no proof that my vote was counted that way.

    I assume that I voted correctly, just as all the people who accidentally voted for Buchanan instead of Gore believed they voted correctly.

    The problem, and challenge is providing the voter with some verification that does not lead to corruption(vote selling)

  • Jello has it right (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:48PM (#7930069)
    According to Jello Biafra, among others, elections should be declared null and void if the turnout is less than 50%, with new elections being called with a completely new slate of candidates. That way, people might get to vote for people with new ideas, instead of having to vote for the same old choice of dumb or dumber then running for the nearest toilet.
  • by rusty0101 ( 565565 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:48PM (#7930072) Homepage Journal
    The requrirement that a persons vote be annonymous implies that if their vote shows up on a paper trail, it be impossible to trace it back to the person who voted.

    If you happen to choose to vote for the Nazi party candidate (Note I am not talking about Republicans, even though that association has been bandied about recently), or the Communist party, (Again, not the Democrats), Voting law (varies by district to be sure) is generally there to prevent someone from taking a baseball bat to your car, or you knees.

    In the district I vote in, there are three steps involved. Make sure you are in the registered voters book, usually a sign in. Go to next table and get a chit allowing you to collect a ballot, or in an electronic ballot case, a number you enter into your electronic ballot. This is unique, but does not identify you. The last step is to collect your ballot, and vote.

    As a result, once you vote, you can't vote again, (your register name is already signed) and they can confirm that the number of chits and the number of ballots counted match. With the electronic ballot, you may be able to say that chits 74, 583, and 1097 did not actually vote, but you can't say that John, Mary, and Bill were the voters who decided to vote, but were incompetent.
  • Electronic voting... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by eclectic4 ( 665330 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @01:49PM (#7930077) ill-fated on many levels. If you have the time please, PLEASE listen to "The Annoying Gap Between Theory and Practice" audio found here []. Just do a search for "The Annoying Gap Between Theory and Practice" in the search window in the left column. It fills many gaps as far as understanding the fundamental "problems" with e-voting, and it's quite an eye opener.

    Good luck.
  • Uneducated decisions (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Ralman ( 103115 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @02:00PM (#7930218)
    What is it with people? Be they educated or uneducated in terms of schooling, politics, or their chosen occupation.

    It continues to amaze me that people with NO COMMON SENSE get put into high ranking positions. Yes they may be book smart, but when it comes to actually thinking about something (aka thinking outside the box) they just can't do it.

    These are the people more likely to make snap decisions without wieghing the pros and cons and actually thinking about the impact of their decision might be. Most of them never even do any research about the decisions they are making. Hell whenever I buy a new car, computer, home product, I spend my time looking around to see if the item is any good at all. Will it last, are there better products out there, are the items that will accomplish the intended goal better than others.

    Obviously the people who decide to implement crap like these voting machines without doing their research are going to get what they deserve.

    Hell look at all the problems with these machines. Has there been one test of these machines yet that has actually yielded correct or even close to correct results yet. If so I would like to hear about it.
  • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @02:07PM (#7930330) Homepage Journal
    There is a simple reason you won't see a "None of the above" option in an election.

    There are 2 ways you can implement a NOTA - non-binding and binding.

    For the sake of discusson, assume an election is held with Larry, Moe, and Curly as candidates, and the results are:

    Larry: 10%
    Moe: 10%
    Curly: 10%
    None of the above: 70%

    The Non-Binding form works like this:
    Since NOTA won, run a new election with the same bunch. Remember the definition of insanity - doing the same thing, and expecting different results? The only way things change is if the people decide that Larry is better than elections ad infinitum.

    The Binding form works like this:
    Since NOTA won, Larry, Moe, and Curly are out - here's your years supply of Rice-O-Roni and your copy of the home game, bu-bye, mind the door.

    OK, now we have to pick a completely new slate of candidates, and have another round of campagning, and another election.

    Now, Binding NOTA scares the hell out of the big parties, as it gives the smaller parties a real chance to win - during the first campaign, don't have your guy in the election, and run attack ads against the big boys. If you get the people to vote NOTA, THEN run your guy in the new election.

    Since Binding NOTA would force the big 2 parties to be more responsive to the people, you can rest assured it will happen shortly after water freezes on a hot stove.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 09, 2004 @02:09PM (#7930359)
    Unfortunately things are not always so simple. Senior citizens have every right to vote and in many cases are probably considerably more qualified to do so than your average arrogant twenty something. The problem being that they may be intimidated by technology and too embarrassed to ask for assistance. I can totally picture my grandfather signing up going over to the machine and saying the hell with it... I am too old to put up with this and walking out. Perhaps it's time we all put away our obsession with youth and give a little more respect to those who have gone before us. You'll appreciate the change when you are old and gray some day.
  • by I'm Spartacus! ( 238085 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @02:17PM (#7930459)
    It was largely a joke, but personally I feel that humans are inherently more error-prone than computers are. Heck, computers are error-prone only because humans are.

    There are simply more efficient methods of tabulating results than having 100 people sit down and count stacks of ballots one at a time. For instance, here in Arizona, we use the "connect the lines with a black marker" method of voting. It's simple and easy for the voter to see how they voted after the fact. The voter then inserts the ballot into a machine that reads or rejects the ballot immediately. This integrates the best of both worlds. It automates the counting process while maintaining an easy-to-read paper ballot that can be counted by hand if necessary.

    I remember seeing all those poor sods hand-counting punch cards in Florida three years ago wondering to myself what the error rate was using that method. I do agree with many here that touch-screen voting without a paper trail is a horrible idea rife with opportunity for mischief.
  • by DavidinAla ( 639952 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:42PM (#7931478)
    You've been reading way too much of the Weekly World News and other supermarket tabloids if you're ignorant enough to believe that machines were programmed to cheat black voters in this way. There is ZERO evidence to support this crazy notion, unless you're part of the left-wing equivalent of the black helicopter crowd.

    LOCAL officials control these things, not some centralized state official who might have the power to do as you claim. To the extent that the machines in predominantly black areas were technologically inferior (a point which I'm not necessarily conceding), it is a reflection of decisions made by the local election officials. In the black areas, those officials are Democrats. In order to believe your crackpot idea, you have to believe that the Democrat election officials in those counties were trying to rig the system to give votes to Republicans.

    I'm rarely dismissive about someone's intelligence just from such a short post, but your acceptance of this makes me question your ability to reason and to gather relevant facts.
  • by Red Rocket ( 473003 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @03:49PM (#7931562)

    That's not quite the same sport, let alone in the same ballpark.

    You'll probably not be surprised that I disagree.
    • Group A (racist whites) decides that there is a group B (blacks) whom they would rather not be allowed to participate in the voting process, even though they are citizens and will have to be governed by the winner of the election. Group A creates a litmus (literacy test) to filter group B from the polls.
    • Group A (elitist ranting Slashdotters) decides that there is a group B (people who they arrogantly assume to be of lower intelligence) whom they would rather not be allowed to participate in the voting process, even though they are citizens and will have to be governed by the winner of the election. Group A creates a litmus (intelligence test) to filter group B from the polls.
    What makes you guys think that you're qualified to tell people that they won't be allowed to select their representatives in a democratic government? I can see your intelligence test now:

    1) How did Bill Gates acquire DOS?
    God, you're stupid! Give me that damn registration card!

    I would imaging that if Eskimos created an intelligence test that you would fail it quite dramatically. It's not your, nor anyone else's right to be able to tell another citizen of the USA whether they are qualified to vote or not. Do you not realize how that makes you sound like a fascist?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 09, 2004 @04:37PM (#7932306)
    "I would imaging [sic] that if Eskimos created an intelligence test that you would fail it quite dramatically."

    How can you think that? On what evidence/facts do you base that assumption? Are you an Eskimo, and do Eskimos have different intelligence levels than Americans? Are Eskimos even such a homogenous race that they all share a uniform intelligence level?

    What if a moron developed an intelligence test? Would either of us pass the moron's test?

    You sir, are an asshat.
  • by workindev ( 607574 ) on Friday January 09, 2004 @09:41PM (#7934944) Homepage
    Here [] is a reminder of what happened to you last time you tried to bring this up. Some Democrats never learn....

    Here is what the inquiry acually found []:

    The report does not find that the highest officials of the state conspired to disenfranchise voters. Moreover, even if it was foreseeable that certain actions by officials led to voter disenfranchisement, this alone does not mean that intentional discrimination occurred. Instead, the report concludes that officials ignored the mounting evidence of rising voter registration rates in communities.

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle