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California Panel Recommends Dumping Diebold 526

sdw3u writes "Wired reports that a voting panel urged California officials to stop using a voting machine made by Diebold Election Systems, and recommends that the state consider filing civil and criminal charges against the company." There's also an AP story. We covered the hearing yesterday, with Diebold admitting that their machines had numerous problems.
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California Panel Recommends Dumping Diebold

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  • by mknewman ( 557587 ) * on Friday April 23, 2004 @11:51AM (#8950655)
    After the last disasterous presidential election in Florida would you trust your government to a system that can be hacked this easily? Not me.
  • Figures... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RedShoeRider ( 658314 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @11:53AM (#8950690)
    "But members of the panel appeared to disagree with the company's claims, saying repeatedly that Diebold had been less than forthcoming during the state's nearly five-month investigation into its practices, often producing "frivolous" documents or responding slowly to state queries."

    Perhaps I'm just a cynic of the first order, but why on earth would they be less-than-forthcoming if they didn't have some sort of adjenda of their own? You would think that, as a large business, they'd be as forthcoming as possible to put the voters (and the investigatigators) minds at ease with the new technology. Of course, if you were hiding something.....

    Fudging elections is not a new concept. This is just a new twist on it. /tinfoil hat on

  • Just before I was finishing up High School a couple of years ago, this guy that came into my past job worked for Diebold and some how or another we ended up talking about computers. It later on worked out to where he was going to try to get me an interview when I was almost ready to graduate. By the time that hit they ended up laying off a bunch of people at Diebold in his department. (ATM/Surveilance systems) After a few months of phone tag and other run-around I finally gave up and looked for another job. That was before all of this pain with the voting machines. All I have to say, is thank god I didn't get that job. It would have been doing surveilance system work, so I wouldn't feel any pressure from this issue directly, but I wouldn't want the reputation of having worked for a company that fails like this. It's interesting how the bad things in life, can be blessings in disguise sometimes.
  • by eyegor ( 148503 ) * on Friday April 23, 2004 @11:55AM (#8950707)
    One big stumbling block to wide-spread acceptance for online voting is the possiblity for disrupting an election by launching a DDOS attack against the voting servers.

    Want to skew the results? Attack the servers most likely to be used by a people of a particular political persuation.

  • Re:Good! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kierthos ( 225954 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @11:55AM (#8950711) Homepage
    Given that Ahhhnold became the Governator because of (in part) the shitty budget of California, it's always possible that Diebold has a bigger legal fund. :P

    Actually, if they can prove (and it could be very easy to do so) that Diebold knew about the problems with their machines, then it's practically an open and shut case. Sooo... anyone want to help California out on this? No, no, a nice orderly line please. You'll all have a chance to help.

  • by wayward_son ( 146338 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @11:55AM (#8950721)
    No voting is foolproof. Take your pick of problems.

    Would you rather have Computer errors, damaged punch card ballots, broken voting machines, bad optical scanners, or good old fashioned human error?

  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @11:57AM (#8950744) Journal
    but the bottom line is that if you are going to develop a system that's electronic, follow a system that is alread working: the online banking model.

    That's not the bottom line. The bottom line is that we don't need electronic voting systems. At best they are a political ploy to score cheap points for looking like we are "doing something" about the mess in Florida. At worst (if you are a tinfoil hat wearer) it's a giant conspiracy to rig our electoral system.

    I (and others) have said it before and I'll say it again. What the heck is wrong with paper ballots that are actually auditable? Or mechanical voting systems that don't rely on software that we can't see or understand? Why the heck do we need touchscreen voting? Why are the companies so afraid of putting an auditable paper trail in it?

  • by Kobold Curry Chef ( 692137 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @11:58AM (#8950760) Homepage
    The Diebold disaster is typical of what happens when a massive IT project is rushed forward on hard deadlines under heavy customer pressure. Testing and planning get cut back to meet the "marketing" requirements, and funny, it just doesn't work right. In the end, the project gets scrapped, and a lot of money is flushed down the toilet.

  • by strictnein ( 318940 ) * <> on Friday April 23, 2004 @11:59AM (#8950770) Homepage Journal
    where people have to drive/walk/take the bus to a designated voting station, register, and use a computer to vote. If you're going to have electronic voting, just throw a secure link online and let people vote through a web interface

    It's official, we're lazy bastards. If people aren't voting because they have to "drive/walk/take the bus" then it's a good thing they aren't voting, because if they don't have enough conviction to overcome the miniscule amount of inconvenience involved it's really doubtful they have much of a clue about what is going on around the world.

    Voting shouldn't be tough, but it should at least require a small amount of effort.
  • by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:00PM (#8950778) Journal
    No, the Florida results COULD have been disasterous if Gore had been allowed to block the military votes that had yet to be counted.

    Like Bush trying to block the absentee ballots from Democratic leaning counties? Or the fake mobs of Republican congressional staffers bussed down from DC?

    It's a double-edged sword and I suggest you stay away from it. Both of them acted in the most ruthless manner possible. What else would you expect?

    Posted as AC due to the liberals on /.

    So you don't have the guts to risk a little karma to stand up for what you think is right? It's only karma for goodness sake. Do you think I'm going to go home and cry if this post gets modded down by a Republican?

  • by caffeineboy ( 44704 ) <skidmore.22 @ o s u . edu> on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:01PM (#8950789)
    Problems with this:
    • Coercion: if voting is not provably private, the local hood could have someone make sure that you vote the way that they like by looking over your shoulder
    • DDOS of the voting computers
    • Cracking of the encryption on the computers
    • Further influence of wealth on elections (you think that poor people can just fire up a browser to vote?)

    Perhaps you could have online voting as a supplement, like absentee ballots, but not a replacement.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:03PM (#8950820)
    I'll take practically any other problem over invisible votes that I have no way of verifying. If that is the only way votes are kept, how am I supposed to know if the vote I wanted is the one that is recorded? Or that overall the correct number of votes were recorded?

    At least with any other method, it is easier to determine fraud, which is arguably the most important thing to prevent and detect in an election.
  • by yishai ( 677504 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:03PM (#8950828)
    Sure you'll have criminals trying to break into systems to steal money, and you'll have the same criminals trying to break into voting systems to rig elections, but the bottom line is that if you are going to develop a system that's electronic, follow a system that is alread working: the online banking model.

    Online banking is not anonymous. All of the activity is directly traceable to your account, and you review it all the time. The results from a vote are anonymous, and doing it online is easily subject to fraud.

  • by brutus_007 ( 769774 ) <slashdot@code-jedi. c o m> on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:04PM (#8950840)
    I would trust a machine to count votes or take in the information - it's the humans who tell it how to read and process this information I worry about.
  • Many many problems (Score:5, Insightful)

    by visionsofmcskill ( 556169 ) <> on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:05PM (#8950852) Homepage Journal
    There are tons of issues with this.

    One.. voter verification: the overwhelming majority of voters must present picture ID and face to face with a pollster at their DESISGNATED district for voting.

    Two, DDOS and many other types/styles of web attacks, which dont need to break security can easily be driected at say the midwestern states, or the liberal states... rendering their sum vote count down, thus allowing the other states a greater showing.

    Three, hard break security, with a physical seperation from any public network, it becomes much more difficult for hackers and RICH politcal powers to corrupt the system. With even polling sites seperated by hard breaks it becomes a decentralized and distributed system that is much more difficult to compromise even if a few nodes are compromised.

    Four, anonymity, passwords, and human ID. While we currently have mail-in voting, it is a small portion of our voting poulace, and still reuires a signature far more of a proof that it was cast by said person. With online voting, we would have difficulties verifying voters across disparete hardware, as well as their passwords can be much more easily compromised than a signature for a mail-in. anonymity should only extend as far as the VOTE, not the proof of the existance of the voter.

    finaly... id like to say this idea isnt without merit... there are existing security solutions that are very powerfull... i would suggest using them in a CLOSED network entirely physicaly seperete from any public network, with the nodes also seperated.

    just my thirty three cents worth

  • by bigirondawg ( 259176 ) <> on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:06PM (#8950865) Homepage
    I think it's important to realize that the focus of this problem are personnel who installed uncertified software, and not the electronic voting machines themselves.

    As a pollworker in Georgia, which was the first state to use electronic voting equipment statewide, I can say unequivocally that electronic voting machines have made our precinct's elections run more smoothly. Many people who vote in my precinct comment about how much easier they think the new machines are to use than the old punch ballots.

    Not only that, but electronic voting is actually more tamper-proof then paper voting, since you can't stuff a wad of pre-punched paper cards into an electronic voting machine. In addition, the voting machines are tightly controlled on election day, and the only way to gain "supervisor," or root, access to these machines is to use a special access card that isn't even taken out of its container until after the polls have been closed, and even then it's used under the supervision of at least 3 people. And even if the ballots were somehow tampered with that that time, you can still see the total number of ballots counted in 3 different places on the voting machines, and those numbers all have to be the same as the paper record of the number of voters that have received ballots that day. Personally, I think it's a very secure system.

    Of course, in this scenario in California, if Diebold were using uncertified releases of its software on election machines, that is unforgivable. I don't disagree with the decision to kick Diebold out of these counties based on their irresponsible actions, but that doesn't degrade the validity of electronic voting as a whole.
  • by Bun ( 34387 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:07PM (#8950895)
    You don't have to be sure of individual cases. You just have to know in which direction citizens of the immediate areas surrounding the polling stations are most likely to vote. This is easily accomplished through polling. Then you just knock out the stations in areas where your opposition has a substantial majority of the popular vote.
  • by PMuse ( 320639 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:08PM (#8950912)
    The online banking model depends on verifying the identity of the transactor. And then recording the identity with the transaction.

    Voting models separate the cast vote from the identity of the voter. Looking at a potentially fraudulent electronic vote cast over a network, how can its authenticity be verified?
  • by eyegor ( 148503 ) * on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:08PM (#8950913)
    If you have a state or region that is more conservative than a neighboring state or region, you attack the servers that serves that voting district. You will cause the loss of votes in your favor, but you'll cause more votes to be lost that would have favored your opponent.

    Another method would be to attack the infrastructure that supports a particular voting district (Obviously, you'd want to attack those districts that lean more heavily toward your opponents).
  • Re:Figures... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:10PM (#8950933)
    Meh, I would say they're just scared of people finding out how frickin incompetent they are. If they have a verifiable paper trail, then there's an actual quantifiable way to show that their machines don't work. I imagine it would be pretty embarrassing to have been given so much money and time to come up with these things, and then have it publicly PROVEN that they were really just half-assed attempts.

    What was the quote? "Never attribute to malice what is adequately explained by stupidity"
  • by fizban ( 58094 ) <> on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:11PM (#8950952) Homepage
    You're right, we need paper ballots. That's what everyone is saying who actually thinks about the issue. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't use touch screen voting machines. The benefits are that they create very clearly marked paper ballots, with no room for misinterpretation, unlike the current punch systems or color-in-the-circle-with-number-2-pencil ballots.

    The systems shouldn't be completely electronic, but should be a two-machine system, where the first machine is touch screen and easily used by the population that creates a paper ballot and a second machine that takes the generated paper ballot, reads it and tallies the totals. This is the type of system that the Open Voting Consortium (and probably others) are working on creating.

    So, basically, I'm saying that you should clarify your statement to say we don't need *entirely electronic* voting systems, but we should still look for systems, including electronic ones, that are easy to use and less prone to error, which includes touch screen voting booths.
  • by killjoe ( 766577 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:12PM (#8950961)
    There is a difference.

    Failures in punch cards and broken voting machines etc are likely to occur randomly. They are equally likely to harm or help one of the political parties.

    In this case there is real and ligitemate fear that the voting machines may be rigged to help one party and hurt another one. Look at some of the statements and actions made by the CEO of Diebold and you'll understand why people object so vehemently.
  • Re:Figures... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zathrus ( 232140 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:14PM (#8950985) Homepage
    why on earth would they be less-than-forthcoming if they didn't have some sort of adjenda of their own?

    Never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence.

    I'm not really trying to defend Diebold here, but a lot of their statements really do seem to be incompetence rather than scheming. They may simply be out of their league here.

    Of course, some of the statements made by their CEO and other execs are so inane that we may be faced with a rare thing (at least in corporations) -- malice and incompetence.
  • Be Black (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mfh ( 56 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:14PM (#8950992) Homepage Journal
    > they don't have enough conviction to overcome the miniscule amount of inconvenience involved

    Okay, you be black for a second. Imagine you have to go to the police station to vote. The trouble involved in voting is actually quite a bit more than a miniscule amount of inconvenience, for some. For some people, the very aspect of voting for some white fool in a suit who will likely screw you anyway, makes the whole system bogus.

    With an online voting system, anyone could run for government, because they could freely advertise on the system without having to pay any money. Users could make smart choices based on information present, and therefore a wider use of democracy becomes possible.

    The high costs associated with running for office are only due to the costs of mingling with the people. Let's face it, if policy is all the office is about anyway, why not just let policy makers strive for change in their underwear at home? I mean, really... do they need to spend $5mil travelling all over the freaking world, riding in limos and soaking up the cash with big expensive dinners and giant wardrobes?

    Online voting would make the whole system more honest.
  • by hummassa ( 157160 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:18PM (#8951044) Homepage Journal
    And if you read my other posts, you'll see I'm experienced in the matter [].

    Yes, we need electronic voting machines, because they have the potential to be much more secure than paper trail.

    Some of our /. colleagues think the USofAn electoral system is already rigged.

    "I (and others) have said it before and I'll say it again. What the heck is wrong with paper ballots that are actually auditable?" It's not auditable. An entire "paper virtual" voting district can be created, and millions of votes added. If you trust paper a lot, a lot of phony paper will show up. Besides, as I have already told, no-one wants to count it, no-one wants to recount it (or else in the USofA people would have a recount in the last presidential election -- it did not happen, and will not happen).

    "Or mechanical voting systems that don't rely on software that we can't see or understand?" Now, you have a point. The ideal is that all the software in the machines be public, publicly auditable, every single part of it.

    "Why are the companies so afraid of putting an auditable paper trail in it?" dunno about afraid, but here, the (semi-)auditable paper trail added problems, costs, and no security. real auditable paper trail, meaning a carton-thick ticket containing a written form of your vote [so you can see it] and an OCR'able or barcode representation of it [so it can be separated automatically to be recounted] is just too expensive.

    And if it's not automatically separatable/countable it's just not worthy because people do not want to count/recount votes.
  • by StrawberryFrog ( 67065 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:19PM (#8951048) Homepage Journal
    As a pollworker in Georgia, which was the first state to use electronic voting equipment statewide, I can say unequivocally that electronic voting machines have made our precinct's elections run more smoothly.

    Smooth != accurate.

    Not only that, but electronic voting is actually more tamper-proof then paper voting, since you can't stuff a wad of pre-punched paper cards into an electronic voting machine.

    Which is easier and less detectable to insert: pre-punched paper cards or pre-punched database records?

    In addition, the voting machines are tightly controlled on election day, and the only way to gain "supervisor," or root, access to these machines is to use a special access card that isn't even taken out of its container until after the polls have been closed,

    Only one way to get root, eh? How do you know that? Have you seen the source? Has anyone who doesn't work for Diebold seen the source?
  • Re:Why (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jim Starx ( 752545 ) <> on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:19PM (#8951053)
    Yes, they could keep accounts of everyone who voted. But what's to stop people from crying foul after the results are in that they want to switch their vote. How many people do you think would have switched from a 3rd party to Gore after they learned Bush was gonna win by such a small margin? It's easyer for digital information to be faked and thats only one of the reasons why I think eVoting is a bad idea.

    As for a record of your voting history. I'm fairly sure it's illigal for anyone other then you to access that information (and if it isn't it should be), so if its important to you then just do it yourself.

  • Re:Why (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:22PM (#8951091) Journal
    Micro-auditing is possible if you check your account after voting to make sure the vote you placed was the vote you wanted. Each user can remember who they voted for, and they could easily call out if their account was violated in any way. Any database can tally up votes if they are micro-audited internally, and cross-referenced. Very standard secure database design will always be able to print a receipt. They could mail you a receipt too.

    I'm sorry, but I'm not ready to give up my anonymous ballot just so I can vote online from home. The anonymous ballot is one of the most important features of our voting system. And if you are too lazy to go down to the polling place once a year (or request an absentee ballot) then you probably don't need to be voting anyway.

    Mechanical voting systems are a thing of the past. I really believe that society is ready for online voting.

    Why? They work just fine and any poll worker with an hour of training can understand how they work. They are virtually impossible to sabotage without being detected. And they leave a paper trail.

    Imagine a nice record of your voting history? That would seriously rock.

    Umm??? WTF??? No it would not rock. Do I want my voting record retained forever? That's a great idea. That way there's always the possibility of being harassed/jailed/murdered if my current political party ever goes out of style. Oh, and a nice way of my employer/union leader to blackmail me too.

  • by Esion Modnar ( 632431 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:25PM (#8951125)
    In many 3rd world countries, voting locations are a favorite target of militants, terrorists, etc. But with electronic voting, combined with wireless networks, the voting process could become decentralized, and therefore less vulnerable to a sneak bomb attack.

    Of course, the down sides are the expense of the technology, and the current issues with software security. But, just like with any new technology, it should eventually get better, and more secure, even if it is never 100% bullet-proof.

  • by __aanebg9627 ( 695892 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:31PM (#8951207)

    Human error we're going to get no matter what, so we want a system that will minimize it. Not one that makes it difficult to spot.

    Damaged punch cards are easy to see, bad optical scanners will get noticed. Problems with voting software in black-box voting systems are much harder to spot, if there's no paper trail to audit.

    But the problems with Diebold systems are much worse than this. The vote counts are stored in a MS Access database, which can easily be edited by anyone who knows how. They are not necessarily protected with a password. Even worse, the audit log is also editable, so that it's possible to go into the system, alter the votes, and then edit the log to hide all traces.

    Bev Harris' expose/Diebold memos [] And more of Harris' expose []

    Perhaps Diebold was keeping this backdoor in so that they could edit vote counts when their systems malfunctioned. However, others can also use the backdoor, and perhaps they have. There were some very squirrely results out of Georgia last election, where the pre-election polls were at wide variance with the results.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:31PM (#8951210)
    I was listening to the news on my public radio station a few months ago and they were covering the electronic voting controversy. I was initially excited and impressed because I hadn't seen any mainstream coverge. But that didn't last long because they were very dismissive of complaints and painted them as luddite anti-technology fears. They said that it was true that machines had had problems but they amounted to having to reset the counting devices. They said no votes were lost. This was AFTER the Diebold memos were leaked. They should have known better. People have lost votes. There have been races which were won by margins smaller than the number of lost votes. There have been negative vote tallies. And most of all Diebold has monitored elections illegally and used uncertified software which was changed at the last minute.

    NPR/PRI/Marketplace: Where are you now? Will you admit you were wrong and correct your story?
  • How? (Score:0, Insightful)

    by jwhyche ( 6192 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:37PM (#8951286) Homepage

    How can they fuck this up so bad? It would seem like a prefect example of bring together tried and true technologies and using them in a new manner. I don't see where any new technology would would be deveoloped for this.

  • by plopez ( 54068 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:38PM (#8951309) Journal
    So that the owners and managers of Diebold can stuff thier snouts deeper into the public trough and buy that ranchette near Aspen.

    And make big contributions to politicians who help appoint the election boards.

    Not exactly a direct link of corruption (or 'spoils' as it was once called) but friends help out friends and supporters.
  • by jwhyche ( 6192 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:41PM (#8951348) Homepage

    Seems to me most of this could be fixed with a simple application if printing paper recipes. I know that the ideal would be to get away from paper but I don't think it will ever happen. I would see these machines printing 2 recipes. One to go into a box at the voting office so audit of the machine can be done there. The other would go to the voter. So in an extream case a recount can be done by having people bring thier recipes in for a recount that way.

    The last I think would be extream and there would have to be laws in place to prevent abuse.

  • Re:Be Black (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cK-Gunslinger ( 443452 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:44PM (#8951384) Journal

    Wow. Apparenty this is *no* link between a user's slashdot ID and his or her ability to post a relevant or on-topic comment. =P

    Black people are afraid to vote because some polling booths are located in police stations? WTF?
    Letting anyone/everyone run for office via the internet will clean up politics? WTF?

    As far as I know, any candidate is already able to advertise and campaign via the internet for relatively little cost. I fail to see how "online voting" makes this any more accessible. Are you suggesting that online voting web-sites should support pop-ups with candidate ads? And how exactly does "online voting" reduce the need of policy makers to "spend $5mil travelling all over the freaking world, riding in limos and soaking up the cash with big expensive dinners and giant wardrobes"? That was perhaps one of the most confusing and irrelevant posts I've ever read here.
  • Solving problems? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by abb3w ( 696381 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @12:50PM (#8951434) Journal

    "This doesn't solve the problems," said Tab Iredale, a Diebold developer.

    No, but "If you will not set a good example, you will serve as a terrible warning."
  • by neowolf ( 173735 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @01:01PM (#8951559)
    What I find interesting is that Diebold makes probably MOST of the ATMs that people use on a regular basis, so they actually do know how to make secure and reliable machines on secure networks (at least secure and reliable enough for banks). Not sure why they have such a hard time with voting machines.
  • by mcmonkey ( 96054 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @01:06PM (#8951631) Homepage
    If there were a DDoS attack, the election would just be extended until such time that everyone who wants to vote is allowed to.

    Based on what? Is there any precedent for an open-ended extension of the voting period? Let's go to our favorite recent election and our favorite state. Many people in Florida were not allowed to vote after being mistakenly added to a list of felons.

    What happened after this and the many, many other issues with that election were exposed? One thing that didn't happen, the polls didn't re-open.

    There are cases where polls were left open later than the established hour in cases of technical issues, but why would you think hours would be "extended until such time that everyone who wants to vote is allowed to"? If the DDoS last through the night, do you expect polls to be open the next day?

    The issues with online voting are not insurmountable, but they are formidable.

    With online banking, I want my bank to know who I am every step of the way. With online voting, the system needs to know who I am to confirm I am eligible to vote and have not voted already, but should not know who I am to compromise the privacy of my vote.

    With online banking, if an error occurs, I can clear it up with my bank later. If takes days to supply documentation and sort out an issue, so be it. With an election, once the polls close, they are closed. Something happens and my vote doesn't get cast, I'm SOL.

    Also, I don't have the right to bank. If there are less bank branches or fewer tellers because the bank wants to route more business to their web site, so be it. If I don't have a computer or access to the internet, I may not be able to bank, but sure as shit I better be able to vote. So we're looking at administrating and regulating and _paying_for_ two parallel polling systems.

    If you complain about people not voting, I would argue that it is almost compulsory to support initiatives to establish online voting.

    Can you offer some support for that statement? How does online voting help folks who don't have access to a computer or the internet? Or do you propose voting should be restricted to computer-owners? How do you justify the expense of two voting systems, one online and one at polling stations?

    I am certainly not a technophobe, luddite, or anachronist, and I certainly think everyone who can, should vote. Heck, even if you don't know what going on and pick randomly. Or straight party-line. Or hate all the candidates and write in Stimpson J Cat. Just f'in vote.

    It sickens me the turnout of registered voters in the US of A is as low as it is. But at the same time, it is really such a crime against humanity that once in a while we might have to get out of our cars and step away from the keyboard and be a member of the community for a few moments?

    Yeah, it would be nice to be able to vote online. But it so low on the priority list as to be invisible. And to be on topic of the article for a moment, who do you think will be selling these online voting systems? The same crooks selling the broken, uncertified touch-screen systems. And who will be buying and running these online voting systems? The same idiots who let polls open hours late and disenfranchise random voters by taking their names off the registry.

    I just don't see online voting as a great advance for the republic.

  • Re:Why (Score:3, Insightful)

    by symbolic ( 11752 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @01:09PM (#8951671)
    Imagine a nice record of your voting history? That would seriously rock.

    No, it wouldn't. Large data warehouses (or other organizations) cannot abuse data they do not have. If I want a record of my voting history, I'll keep one, but the last thing I think anyone needs is to be a target of arbitrary discrimination based on the fact that someone got ahold of this information (legally or otherwise), and used it to formulate a response - whether it be a quality of service issue, or something that's more substantive, like a job prospect.
  • by revscat ( 35618 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @01:10PM (#8951680) Journal

    If California, or whatever state you happen to live in, concludes that Diebold electionic voting systems are crap, and yet they are implemented anyway, what are you going to do about it?

    I'll venture a guess: absolutely nothing. Even if these systems are shown to be demonstrably anti-democratic, the American people will accept them. Supporters of whichever party these benefit -- apparently Republicans -- will embrace them and disregard objections as the ramblings of loony conspiracy theorists. But whatever the case, neither the media nor the American public will truly care, certainly not enough to do anything about it.

    This is sad, because I believe this is something that we should be literally up in arms about.

  • Re:Figures... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ralph Wiggam ( 22354 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @01:11PM (#8951701) Homepage
    Only the conspiracy folks are suggesting that Diebold is actively working to rig elections. The president of Diebold's fund raising efforts and promises of delivering electoral votes aren't helping to calm those fears.

    The problem is that Diebold's incompetence and inability to follow even the most basic commercial security practices leaves the door open for other people to rig elections. And since the systems are un-auditable, we would all just be stuck with the winners of a rigged election as our leaders.

    Federal HIPAA regulations use a 2" thick binder to describe in great detail what computer security procedures must be followed for handling private health information. Aren't elections slightly more important?

  • Re:Figures... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thatguywhoiam ( 524290 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @01:11PM (#8951704)
    "Never ascribe to malice, what can adequately be explained by incompetence."

    I love that saying.

    In this case, we cannot adequately explain what has happened with incompetence. Every one of Diebold's machines made before the voting rigs had a paper receipt capability.

  • Six, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cryptochrome ( 303529 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @01:17PM (#8951778) Journal
    And perhaps most import, online voting does not guarantee the anonymity of the voter and allows people to vote on behalf - or rather than - other voters. Specifically, you'll have situations where the head of household is standing over the rest of the family as they cast their votes, or even doing it for them without their permission. "I know you're busy so I voted for XXXX for you. If you were going to vote for anyone else I'd have to punish you." This issue would be even worse in locales without American-style conscientiousness, with local bosses or party officials exercising complete control over the process. In fact they could prevent or preempt people from going to polling stations and casting their real vote to ensure results, and no one would be the wiser.

    So there's no question about it. Polling stations that verify identity and ensure anonymous voting in the booth are essential. Online voting, even of the optional variety, wouldn't improve turnout, it would increase disenfrancisement. If you want to improve turnout, extend the voting period to more than a day (a week seems good, 24/7). And make exit polls illegal while you're at it.

    This does not exclude electronic voting machines. I think a simple modified ATM with privacy curtain and polling monitors outside would be ideal. You could go in, slide in your voting card, get your picture taken for verification, possibly sign or thumbprint for, cast your vote, recieve a printed receipt that you verify your choices and deposit to leave a paper trail, and then leave.
  • by johnjay ( 230559 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @01:23PM (#8951844)
    In this case there is real and legitimate fear that the voting machines may be rigged to help one party and hurt another one. Look at some of the statements and actions made by the CEO of Diebold...

    I'm sure this has been mentioned before, but I don't know where to find original sources for this. Are there reputable sources that quote or describe the diebold ceo saying he would give the election to Bush? There may be, I'm not yet contending that what you are saying is false, but I would like to see them.

    Personally, regardless of the fact that I find myself agreeing with Bush more than Kerry, I am vehemently against Diebold's election machines used in any important election. They are obviously buggy and have been rushed to market for the profit rather than having concerns about reliability. However, I find it hard to believe that the CEO of Diebold was promissing to rig the machines for Bush's benefit. People are stupid enough to say things like that, but it's a rarity.

    Oh, the rest of your point is well made. Random failures are unfortunate, but acceptable. Systematic failures, either by exploits descovered after release, or by original design, are unacceptable.
  • by mcmonkey ( 96054 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @01:27PM (#8951894) Homepage

    Imagine you have to go to the police station to vote.

    Because, of course, the folks that might hesitate to walk into the local police station are the most wired. America's ghettos are covered by DSL. Actually, the folks most abused by our justice system are least likely to have a home computer and access to the internet. Guess online voting doesn't solve that problem.

    With an online voting system, anyone could run for government, because they could freely advertise on the system without having to pay any money.

    What???? Huh?? It looks like english but your words do not make ANY sense. Have the candidates advertise on the polling system? I go to vote, and I get a pop-up saying 'Kerry kicks puppies. Bush loves puppies. Vote Bush.'

    I like the idea that campaign signs and the lot are kept at least some distance from the actual polls. I like voting in a space free of advertising.

    Have the candidates advertise ON the actual POLLING SYSTEM? To make the system more HONEST?? It costs so much to run for office because the candidates MINGLE??? Wrong, wrong, wrong.

    It costs so much to run for office because of the costs of TELEVISION AD TIME! Campaings cost so much because candidates want to reach people without actually mingling with them.

    How about this--you, candidate. Put your pants on, go outside, and actually get to know the people you want to vote for you. And you, lazy ass citizen. Put your pants on, go outside, and just f'in vote.

    Is that so hard?

  • by gclef ( 96311 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @01:51PM (#8952158)
    It's a matter or risk management. Honestly, the banks don't care if the occasional ATM gets stolen, broken into, etc. As long as the rate of theft and the cost of that theft is below the money they're making by providing the service, the banks can write off losses due to certain levels of insecurity.

    Voters, on the other hand, to *not* accept that it's okay for their votes to be lost, changed, stolen, etc. The risk profile for a voting machine is very different from an ATM, in that a voting machine much be *much* more secure than an ATM. Diebold is having problems because they're used to working in situations where some loss is okay, but voting machines aren't one of those situations.
  • by Stephen Samuel ( 106962 ) <samuel@bc g r e> on Friday April 23, 2004 @02:00PM (#8952265) Homepage Journal
    What really galls me is the Diebole executive who apologized for getting caught.

    "We were caught. We apologize for that," Urosevich said of the mass failures of devices needed to call up digital ballots.
    Now, some people may think that he's apologizing for the mess that diebold created, but I honestly think that he was apologizing for getting caught..

    TIme to Sue the Bastards

    In any case, does anybody know what the chances of a class action suit are? I figure that $10K for each disenfranchised voter might give Diebold pause. Can you also get punitive damages in a class action lawsuit?

  • Hardware flaw. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bmasel ( 129946 ) <> on Friday April 23, 2004 @02:12PM (#8952382) Journal
    Contact the election officials and ask about attending any public test. Whack the machine with a sledgehammer. As you are being fitted for handcuffs, explain that they have failed the test, as paper ballots can still be read after the "lockbox" has been whacked with a sledgehammer.
  • by meese ( 9260 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @02:16PM (#8952416)
    I Agree. This is very important, because unless this makes national news, California will be the only state dumping Diebold.

    I would give you mod points if I had any.
  • Re: Funny (Score:3, Insightful)

    by symbolic ( 11752 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @02:23PM (#8952474)
    The move follows the refusal of the provider of the new system to allow the commission examine the confidential "source code" without an assurance of substantial compensation should details of the computer programme fall into the hands of competitors.

    This is hilarious - you'd think they invented water or something. Do they really think it's that difficult to add 1 to an existing number when an on-screen button is pressed?
  • by johnjay ( 230559 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @02:45PM (#8952719)
    Thanks for the link. I had forgotten what he had said and I had become worried that I was believing some anti-Bush propaganda. Being "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes for the president next year" is a remarkably poor turn of phrase for Mr. O'Dell to use.

    But, although it was a pretty stupid thing for him to say given his position, I don't think it points to a conspiracy; it's the kind of energetic, pompous thing that any member of the "party faithful" might write. That being said, I also admit that there's no strong reason to give Mr. O'Dell the benefit of the doubt. It would be nice if he could recuse himself from building voting machines, but that's sort of an absurd thing to ask, since you can't force people to give up all political interests just because they are working on political infrastructure.

    The best way to trust these things is to give them a thorough 3rd-party testing and certification (what the gov't is most useful for!). It may indicate more about the ineptitude of bureaucracy than Mr. O'Dell's possible conspiracy that this hasn't been done to everyone's satisfaction.
  • by t_allardyce ( 48447 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:05PM (#8952916) Journal
    This seems to happen time and time again:

    Idiot leaders: Lets do it like this
    Idiot leaders: Yes! do it like this!
    Expert Geeks: This is very very stupid and will go very wrong.

    BANG: the space shuttle blows up, the nuclear reactor goes critical, the virus gets released, the entire network goes down, the power dies, the system cant be updated without costing millions, the software crashes, false positives and negatives happen, the security is by-passed etc.

    Expert Geeks: See! we fucking told you idiots!

    Anyone care to add some examples here?
  • by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @03:55PM (#8953432)
    "Voting by mail is subject to coercion."

    Yeah ok. I understand that. And it may be a problem in the future. But right now, the country is divided fairly evenly between "status quo", "opposition", and "abstention". There are a significant number of people who actually believe the current government is the result of a coup, and many more were dissatisfied by the outcome of the contraversy.

    The secret ballot is *very* important. The situation it defends against was very real -- you stepped up on a platform, guarded by officers and whatever magistrate, and you "voted". Technically you were free to vote in opposition, but the pressure against doing so was enormous. It often would mean sacrificing your job or even your life.

    However, we need to balance those concerns with more immediate concerns -- We actually need assurance that the democratic system is still functioning. There are people who truly believe that the conservative party has committed treason and sabotage and has installed itself in a dictatorial role. We need to avoid ANY scandal or serious contraversy in the next presidential election, or else we might find ourselves in a situation where domestic unrest is more violent and costly that Iraq! (That's not a threat, mind you. I don't advocate violence, but it surprises me we haven't seen widespread violent opposition stateside.)
  • by Darby ( 84953 ) on Friday April 23, 2004 @04:04PM (#8953544)
    Putting pressure on the press is something that I feel is incredibly important on this and every issue (The $700 million theft is my favorite). Without forcing our message out to the mainstream press, we're just preaching to the choir here.

    I certainly appreciate your attitude, but I don't think it's even theoretically possible for it to have any affect whatsoever.
    What kind of "pressure" do you suggest that we apply that can compare to billions of dollars and the destruction of critical-to-democracy anti-media consolidation laws?
    You see, we are not the customers of these organizations. We are their product. The advertizers are their customers.
    Did you catch CNN last night?
    Did you see the Saudi media blitz?
    They are the customers of the media. They are also the major funders and suppliers of the terrorists who took down the world trade center.
    These terrorists are also deeply allied with the Bush family.

    Now, I'm not saying not to call. I'll be doing that myself, thanks for the numbers.

    I'm just saying don't waste any effort hoping it could make a difference.
    If you can propose some mechanism by which it would even be possible for us to change the media from their conscious decision to ignore any of the stories of the criminal teason of this administration and their terrorist buddies, I'd love to hear it.

  • Re:Maybe in Haiti (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 23, 2004 @05:05PM (#8954306)
    So since noone is going to murder you, it's all just FINE? And who said this all had to be truly government mandated?

    Picture: You get mugged. In the process of this, they find your voting reciept in your wallet. You voted for someone they didn't. The margin of victory for the person you voted for was slim, so they take it out on you.

    Picture: Your boss calls you in. He asks you to produce your voting reciept. You [refuse/produce a record that he doesn't like] and a week later there's a "performance evaluation" on your desk.

    Honestly, people just don't see the bigger picture.

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351