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CA Secretary of State Bans Diebold Machines 278

Etcetera writes "The CA Secretary of State has just announced that they're pulling the plug on the use of Diebold voting machines (thank you KNSD) as a result of the flaws that came up where they were used during March's elections. More background on the issue (not updated yet) from the Secretary of State's perspective is available here."
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CA Secretary of State Bans Diebold Machines

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  • THANK GOD.
    You know its scary when legions of geeks are overwhelmingly against a new form of technology....
    • by cliffy2000 ( 185461 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @03:36AM (#9026302) Journal
      The last time we had a geek uprising of this size, Quantum Leap had just been cancelled! ...ha... ha... yikes. *ducks*
      • Heh, i actually attended the same middle school / high school as Scott Bakula, and i was pretty crushed when they canceled the show :(. I've seen torrents of the shows floating around though....
        • I really think the show went downhill ever since that episode where Sam leapt forward in time into the life of a starship captain on the Earth's first deep exploration vessel. I mean, Come On! It was an interesting premise but they've been milking it for over a year now, an I still keep waiting for that guy to show up with his neon PDA and take him to the next leap.
    • I wonder given the litigious society we live in how long it will take until diebold attempt legal action over this.

      A small cruddy company suing the CA state government over banning their machines? Couldn't happen...

      could it.
    • by Monkelectric ( 546685 ) <slashdot@@@monkelectric...com> on Saturday May 01, 2004 @05:05AM (#9026521)
      I know you are being funny -- but I have a very serious theory. We all know its possible to design secure and tamper evident voting machines -- its probably not even that hard. We know about the gaff where the president of diebold who promised to deliver the votes to Bush... we know the republican shenanigans in florida won the presidential election.

      What if the insecure voting machines aren't the result of incompetent programmers -- what if they've been made insecure on purpose so they are easy to manipulate. You can't tell me right now some republican hitman doesn't have a machine and isn't figuring out how to walk into a polling station and cast 5,000 votes at once. After all, this is the most important job in the world we're talking about here.

      And if anyone ever finds out -- theres no paper trail, no audit, no log, no way to know what really went on, and it was done on purpose by a company whose president swore to deliver electoral votes to bush.

      • by samjam ( 256347 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @05:38AM (#9026585) Homepage Journal
        We all know its possible to design secure and tamper evident voting machines -- its probably not even that hard.


        What rubbish you speak. Election counting is and always has been simple.

        When you get a complex system like a computer you need to be sure thats all its doing and thats all its ever doing.

        When steel ballot boxes are being stored they can be stored in a warehouse. Its hard to tamper with ignorant steel boxes in a meaningful way.

        To subvert thousands of humans who count ballots manually leaves, lets say, thousands of human witnesses.

        When electronic voting machines are being stored they need to be watched carefully to make sure they aren't modified, don't have their guts swapped out, etc, this between-election security is also very expensive.

        Its expensive before you start, its expensive to run, and expensive to store with many possible points of subversion.

        It will do humans good to count votes and realise they don't want to delegate safeguarding their democracy to fickle machines.

        Sam
        • by Anonymous Coward

          When steel ballot boxes are being stored they can be stored in a warehouse. Its hard to tamper with ignorant steel boxes in a meaningful way.

          Heh, obviously someone who wasn't alive to see Richard Daley's shenanegans.

          Ignorant Steel Boxes sitting in said warehouse can not only be opened and tampered with, they can be wholesale replaced. This has been done countless times in past elections. Crap, there were enough physical ballot related shenanegans going on in Florida last election to point out that that sy

        • You miss the point; anyone who can say "Donkey" or "Elephant" can insert their drivers lisence, press a button with associated picture on a touchscreen, and vote. It doesn't matter how technologically retarded or just plain dumb they are or weither or not they can read or write.

          Personally, if you can't fill out a scantron form or write your own name in english or some language, you shouldn't be voting. Older people are the exception, since all this tech is so new to them that telling them they have to
        • When electronic voting machines are being stored they need to be watched carefully to make sure they aren't modified, don't have their guts swapped out, etc, this between-election security is also very expensive.
          It's not all that expensive. In the small New Hampshire town where I work, we store our machines behind a locked door in the basement of Town Hall.
          John Sauter (J_Sauter@Empire.net)
        • by gnu-generation-one ( 717590 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @08:19AM (#9026917) Homepage
          It's not just one massive replacement machine you need for voting. It's incremental improvement over paper voting.

          [a] Design a machine which helps voters to tick a voting card. Uses whatever touchscreen display is fashionable this month, and spits out a card with that box ticked.
          - If it fails, voters can tick the box by hand.
          - If it misvotes, voters can bin it and ask for another card
          - It can be verified as the voter takes the printed card and sees the tick in the right box

          [b] Design a machine which takes poll cards and sorts them into piles, depending on which candidate is ticked (plus an "invalid selection" pile)
          - If it fails, the cards can be sorted by hand.
          - It can't misvote because it has no knowledge of which box represents which candidate.
          - It can and should be verified by people flicking through the sorted piles of cards to confirm they're all for the same candidate.

          [c] Design a machine which can count how many cards are in a stack (similar to banknote counting machines)
          - If it fails, the number of cards can be counted by hand.
          - It can't misvote because it has no knowledge of which candidate's cards are being counted at any one time
          - It can and should be verified by people randomly selecting piles of cards to count by hand, as many as they can manage, and checking the accuracy of their answers against the counting machines.

          How hard can it be? Why do people insist on votes being recorded electronically? Why do people insist on votes being sent by modem, rather than announced by the returning officer? Why do people trust machines to count their votes, when it's trivial to do so with a hall full of volunteers? It's not even much faster to use a computer, especially not when the machines are untrustworthy and the result can't be announced until the lawsuits subside.

      • by mrdogi ( 82975 ) <mrdogi@NospAM.sbcglobal.net> on Saturday May 01, 2004 @07:51AM (#9026856) Homepage
        we know the republican shenanigans in florida won the presidential election.

        I am getting so tired of reading this. As I understand it, Gore shot himself in the foot. If he had asked for a recount for the whole state, he would have won. Instead he decided he only wanted a recount of the counties where he thought he should have won, but didn't. Ironically, those counties Bush would hve won anyway.

        I could be wrong on some of those details, but that is how I remeber the whole thing.

        • by Monkelectric ( 546685 ) <slashdot@@@monkelectric...com> on Saturday May 01, 2004 @02:09PM (#9028592)
          I am getting so tired of reading this. As I understand it,

          Well, it was the shenanigans BEFORE the election that really hurt Gore. Katherine Harris, the florida election comissioner took pains to rig the election *before* anyone knew that florida would choose the president. One of the strangest things they did -- they wanted to remove felons from the voting roles (illegal), but there was no way to do this for some reason. So they took the list of felons, and deleted EVERYONE who shared a birthday with any of them -- some 40,000 people.

          Other strange things -- the counties that did have electronic voting machines (some did), in white counties, the machine wouldn't allow you to form an incorrect ballot, it would warn you and ask you to recast the ballot. In black counties, the SAME machines accepted the ballot and threw it away letting the person think they were voting.

          That's just the begining of the weird antics in florida -- the problem is it demonstrates an unwillingness to play fair in the democratic process

          • Florida did not scrub all the voters who shared birthdays with felons. They scrubbed all voters who shared names AND birthdays from any felon, FROM ANY STATE! Therefore if John Jones was a convicted felon in New York then ANY John, Jonathan, Johnny Jones with the same birthday in Florida was prohibited from voting. To make sure this disenfranchised more Democrats than Republicans, this rule was only applied to black Floridians with similar names and birthdays. White voters with similar names were not sc
      • Right. And no member of any other political party would even consider such a thing, right?
    • by AvantLegion ( 595806 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @05:57AM (#9026628) Journal
      You know its scary when legions of geeks are overwhelmingly against a new form of technology....

      Not so. It happens all the time.

      Stairmaster, NordicTrack, Bowflex, elliptical trainer...

  • by dotslasher_sri ( 762515 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @03:33AM (#9026287)
    According to wired

    http://www.wired.com/news/evote/0,2645,63191,00. ht ml
    • by Anonymous Coward
    • Hmmm, multi-billion dollar company with close connections to Bush Administration. Anyone care to give odds on criminal charges?
    • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @05:39AM (#9026591) Journal
      This guy gives a nice twist on things, when confronted with the possibility of criminal charges, after uncertified software was installed on 'production' voting machines. (from the Wired article:)
      "This doesn't solve the problems," Iredal said. "It just sets a tone of confrontation at a time when we should be working together to address issues with the certification process."
      Soooo... there is a problem with the certification process, rather than with the business practices at Diebold. Of course Diebold should be allowed to install whatever software they deem neccesary on the machines, we can trust them, right?

      Electronic voting with this level of security and accountability would be as safe as doing a paper ballot vote, then giving all the ballots to me for counting. Of course I'd promise to count accurately, wink wink, nudge nudge.
    • by Triskele ( 711795 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @07:16AM (#9026793)
      I'm surprised there has been so little reaction like this in the US. Over here in England, gerrymandering or interfering with the ballot is a very serious offence comparable to treason. Given how seriously you lot take your 'democracy' I'm surprised you don't jump on Diebold from a very great height leaving nothing but a few jailed execs and bankrupt investors.

      We fined Dame Shirley Porter 30m for rigging the sale of council houses in her constituency to Tory rather than Labour buyers.

      We still hand count things cos we're a quaint backwards country but I'd rather that than trust a machine who's owners I don't trust.

  • by guru zim ( 706204 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @03:34AM (#9026291)
    Wouldn't it be easier just to build some sort of error checking device for paper ballots, and have that at the polls when you submit your ballot? There's got to be a better way to fix the problems with paper ballot voting than moving it to computers.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2004 @04:14AM (#9026405)
      The basic problem here is that, in 2000, the public was shocked, SHOCKED, to learn that if you ask a person to "choose one", there is about a three percent chance that he or she will attempt to make an invalid choice, such as two candidates (overvote), or 1/10 of a candidate (unintentional "undervote"). Sometimes this is a mechanical problem (e.g., hanging chads) and sometimes it's just a combination of poor directions and voter stupidity.

      Prompt ballot scanning can prevent some overvote problems. If two ovals are obviously marked, or two chads are obviously punched, then the ballot can be rejected, and the voter can have a do-over. (Prompt scanning is common for optical ballots, and rare for punchcard ballots.)

      But this does not solve all problems. For optically scanned ballots, a voter can make a faint mark that is apparent to a human but not readable to the machine. Or a voter can make a circle around an oval that the machine disregards. (The "fill-in-the-arrow" style largely avoids this problem.) For punchcard ballots, a chad can be incomplely punched due to some defect in the card, the stylus, or the voters.

      Electronic voting machines and lever voting machines prevent these problems. With these, it is not only impossible to cast an invalid vote. It is also impossible for anyone to look back at the evidence and say, "Well, it looks like the voter meant to pull this lever / touch the screen here, but didn't try hard enough."

      Of course, certain voting errors cannot be prevented by any scheme. If the voter indicates a different choice than he or she intended, and then does not check the results, then the wrong vote is cast.

      I would guess that (on average) voters have this kind of core logic fault at least a few percent of the time. People tend to vote in a hurry, and many do not take it very seriously. This is inherently uncorrectable.

      Of course this has nothing to do with the basis for this particular decision regarding Diebold. The stated basis of this decision was the set of serious problems experienced in getting their machines operational. Unstated, but probably about as important, was the fact that Diebold has been demonized by every liberal and semi-liberal mouthpiece in the country for the last two years. No other voting machine manufacturer is going to be held to the same level of scrutiny as Diebold at the moment. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing...
      • by bm_luethke ( 253362 ) <luethkeb&comcast,net> on Saturday May 01, 2004 @06:11AM (#9026665)
        "The basic problem here is that, in 2000, the public was shocked, SHOCKED, to learn that if you ask a person to "choose one", there is about a three percent chance that he or she will attempt to make an invalid choice, such as two candidates (overvote), or 1/10 of a candidate (unintentional "undervote")."

        Can't say I was particularly shocked at this - sorta expected it. If I think about my (and most likely our) field of expertiese look at e-mail worms/viruses. Wow, how can someone be so stupid to open said attachemnt. Given that the overwhelmingly do, how can we expect them to vote correctly. Then take into consideration 9as the parent notes) mechanical failures and what do you expect?

        And no, I do not intend this as "funny". Just think about the level of stupidity that has someone opening a "I love you" attachment (or even "I'm a virus" which people where I worked opened) and ask how you would design a fool-proof voting mechanism for them. Especially given that there is a certain amount of error from even competant people that you can not avoid.

        And I will agree with the parent that this doesn't exclude Diebold from being incompetant.
      • After reading from a small sidebar article in the November 2003 issue of Popular Science magazine, it appears that the best method is something akin to the Scantron sheets used on the SAT and ACT college-entrance exams.

        Remember the controversial ballot punch card machines? Well, instead of punching holes in a ballot it allows a small space for you to put a small ink stamp mark on the ballot at certain point. I emphasize the use of an black ink stamp mark because it makes it very unambigious what you chose
      • by innerweb ( 721995 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @11:27AM (#9027587)
        So, we switch out one set of problems affecting a small percent of votes for a larger set of issues affecting a larger percentage of votes...

        The basic problem is ensuring that the vote is correct and not tampered with. How can you trust a company to not tamper with something as profitable as a vote when you can not trust them to keep to the terms of the contract?

        Diebold has proven beyond a doubt that they can not be trusted. They not only did not fulfill their contract, they tried to sneak a patch into a certified machine (thus de-certifying it) before an election. Hmm... If they had not been caught at that, what else could they have gotten away with. How much are local elections worth in bribe money? How much are national elections worth? If all you have is a small number of people to work with in the bribe, how hard is it? Oh, and they have a vested interest in seeing people get elected who support them. They may not use it today, but what about when times get tough and they are comfortable?

        I love using computers for work flow. I help companies manage work flow for a living. Yet, there are those who have no business using these technologies at this moment. I would not trust my voting to any computer system yet.

        My reasoning has to do with complexity. The more complex a system is the easier it is to pull something off. Complexity hides errors and cheats. A voting system would need to be based on something very simple. It would need to have very strong security safeguards. And, it would have to be completely open to inspection, by anyone at anytime. Anything short of this simply allows mischief to be hidden more easily.

        Look at all the fallout in the Florida presidential elections. Most of it was introduced by a company that "messed up" buy disallowing people to vote in the elections. All computer based with little or no over site, tied directly to the winning family. There may be nothing to be seen in this case, but the appearance of impropriety is bad enough to damage the operations of government.

        The problems with elections is not liberal or conservative. It is American. People who are drawn to power tend to do what they can get away with to keep power. Why give them one more option to illegally wield power by putting an untrustworthy system into place?

        InnerWeb

    • In the bar code industry we have a device that is called a bar code verifier. It is actually very similar to a normal bar code reader, but not as forgiving wrt printing parameters. In other words, if the verifier accepts a label, you can be sure that it's readable by a normal scanner.

      It should be quite possible to make ballot readers and verifiers in a similar way. The verifier can be operated by the voter (so the vote stays secret) to verify that the ballot will be read correctly.

  • by cowmix ( 10566 ) <mmarch&gmail,com> on Saturday May 01, 2004 @03:35AM (#9026295) Homepage
    I thought this would never happen..

    How CA goes so goes the nation..
  • by ProgressiveCynic ( 624271 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @03:35AM (#9026296) Homepage
    We may actually have an election, just like a real democracy!
  • Finally... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lindec ( 771045 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @03:35AM (#9026298) Homepage
    Myself and my family are from Napa, CA (one of the cities that had some serious problems with Diebold) [wired.com], and I can't explain how frustrating it is to not be sure if your vote was counted properly or not. For democracy to work, you must have faith in the security and validity of the elections. Diebold has seriously undermined this, especially in my hometown. The jokes and grumblings have been raging, not to mention the rumors of the end of our Registrar of Voters' career. Although "no harm, no foul" has been claimed, confidence has been undermined, which IMHO, is one of the most important aspects of a good democracy.
    • Don't worry (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2004 @03:49AM (#9026343)
      It was only Diebold's machines that were banned, not black-box voting machines in general.

      Diebold will spin off its voting machine division, and it'll be bought out by some other manufacturer like Sequoia or AccuPoll. You'll see these machines again. They'll just have another name on them.
    • Re:Finally... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @04:17AM (#9026413)
      Myself and my family are from Napa, CA (one of the cities that had some serious problems with Diebold), and I can't explain how frustrating it is to not be sure if your vote was counted properly or not. For democracy to work, you must have faith in the security and validity of the elections.

      Well said. This is a subtle but critical point and it goes straight over most people's heads. "Our county didn't have any problems!"

      A common rule of legal ethics states that the appearance of a conflict of interest is a conflict of interest. It creates unaddressable concerns about impartiality and undermines faith in a process that depends on it. Voting is the same way. The appearance of voter disenfranchisement is voter disenfranchisement. It deprives us of our rights as citizens to know for certain that our votes are being counted, which is what disenfranchisement is. Perfectly reasonable voter concerns about touchscreen voting have not been alleviated, nor can they be alleviated. So you voted touchscreen? How do you really know? You really don't, and what's more, you really can't. Worst of all, in some counties, it turns out you really didn't.

      Thomas Jefferson said the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. I bet wasn't even considering pretty flashing lights as a threat to the republic.
      • Re:Finally... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Saturday May 01, 2004 @05:52AM (#9026618)
        Worse than just having an apparent interest in the outcome of the elections, Diebold managed to trip over the safety valves that are supposed to make sure no company can tamper with the results for any reason.

        The software they ran, everywhere in the state, on election day was not the version that they submitted for certification. [wired.com] You just can't skip these kinds of checks and expect to be treated like your software is honest, because these reviews exist because we're just not going to take anybody's word for it.

        At best, they cut a corner they weren't allowed to. But worse yet, they undermine their credibility in claiming that we can trust that they're not going to attempt to fix what is likely to be an extremely close election in November.
    • Re:Finally... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )
      I am from the USA, and I can't explain how frustrating it is to not be sure if the election was railroaded or not. Dubya and his cuz have seriously undermined this, especially in this country.

      etc etc.

      It's not that i'm not worried about diebold - I am. It's not that I'm not worried about the safety of e-voting, because again, I am. But really, I don't have any faith that my vote will mean anything whether it's counted properly or not.

      Frankly I think it's that loss of faith the reps were going for when

  • by hfis ( 624045 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @03:37AM (#9026305)
    I'm an Australian, so I'm not particularly sure what the 'status' of the election is/was, but could this mean the result may be overturned? This could lead to undesirable consequences such as new state/country level laws being made defucnt couldn't it? Please enlighten me if it was overturned, as this is the first that I've heard of them.
    • by FrYGuY101 ( 770432 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @03:45AM (#9026332) Journal
      No it wasn't. It's my understanding that Schwarzeneggar won by a large enough margin that the votes which were thrown out were irrelevant to the outcome. Similarly, if outstanding absentee votes are less than the margin of victory, they are discarded. The outrage is that the mistake *could have been important* and changed the outcome, not that it did, or was large enough to possibly have done that.
    • The only elections that this flawed system had been used for in California were the presidential primary elections. The Republican Party had no credible challenger to Bush, so his renomination will be nothing but a formality. The Democratic Primary was contested, but the eventual nominee of John Kerry has enough support to still be nominated even if California's votes turned out to be unacceptable.

      Diebold's systems haven't yet had an election of enough importance to cause much trouble yet. And it looks lik
  • Kevin Shelley (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mikeophile ( 647318 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @03:43AM (#9026326)
    If it's on paper, you'll have my vote next election.
  • by ralphmyers ( 551567 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @03:44AM (#9026327) Homepage
    I can only hope that MD is next in line to dump Diebold. Don't get me wrong, I love technology, and I'd really like to see the voting system automated, but lets do it the right way. Now if I were a true geek, I'd have a link to the John's Hopkins study on the Diebold machines.
  • by Rupan ( 723469 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @03:52AM (#9026352) Homepage
    I live in San Diego and was one of the guinea pigs in the last vote. Although there was no "start" button, the machines had all the hallmarks of Windows... the buttons and navigation system, the data entry fields, everything. The interface was basic, just a few colors, radio buttons, and text boxes (much like one of those demo machines with IE in full-screen mode). There was a card reader/writer on the side that you stuck your card into. They were actually quite large too, perhaps twice the size of a standard laptop and looked to be quite heavy.

    The part that really scared me was that you just put your card in the machine and take it out when you're done. There is no physical change on the card itself to indicate that anything was written to it. It is one of those smart-card type things, not the magstripe kind. There should be, at a minimum, a changed color on the outside when data is written, and in a perfect world there would be some sort of e-ink or lcd on it that displayed your choices when you took it out.

    Based on all this, how am I supposed to know that my vote was cast? Even if the data was written to the card and there was a vote cast, how am I to know that the data written to the card is the same data I entered? Why is there no paper receipt? I really hope these machines are premanently banned. They really do scare me.
    • Ever since I was a little kid I would go into the voting booth with my mom to watch her vote. Obviously I'm a little too old for that now. :)

      Even back then, there was a big paper sheet printed and placed over a series of buttons. You pressed the people you wanted, and the colored light would change to the person you had pushed.

      You hit vote, and you leave. Nothing changes. You don't even have a card you insert into the machine.

      This has been going on for 10 years in South Carolina, at least. What is s
    • I agree whole heartedly with this.

      Honestly, why is it so hard to print out a paper receipt. I'm not a tin-foil hat type of guy, but this just REEKS of conspiracy. What possible reason is there NOT to print out a receipt and put it in a box JUST IN CASE?

      I mean, wouldn't the easiest system simply be a touchscreen vote that printed out a receipt and also did vote1+=1 ? How is that so hard to mess up?

    • by guru zim ( 706204 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @04:20AM (#9026420)
      I used one as well.

      I was in a hurry, as I was voting before heading off to work. After I finished voting, I was walking to the table to hand the card back when my cell phone vibrated. I walked outside with my phone to take the call, away from the other voters... with the card still in my hand.

      Ok, so that would have just meant that ~I~ didn't get to vote... which would have been bad, but not the end of the world. That's not the interesting bit though! What I later heard was that there is only one card per voting machine. Had I not returned the card, that machine would have been out of order for the rest of that election. I can't confirm this to be true, but if it is, that's really scary!

      I think any third rate magician wouldn't have a problem substituting a card of their choice for the community card in this system.

      Actually, come to think of it, you could swap the card out in private right at the booth.

      I wonder how long it would take for someone to come up with a pirate card for this (assuming tha the machines ever see the light of day again)? A read-only card that would cast the same set of votes over and over again...
      • not only that , but if you had access to the RIGHT hardware making a smartcard with a 16F84 pic processor in it also would be easy. now subvert the card by writing simple code to convert votes as they are written.

        One card can convert all or some percentage of votes to a desired outcome and certianly would not be detectable for a really long time and IF they knew where to look.

        Poo poo ing my idea as far-fetched? Many older Sat H-cards had 16f84 pic based cards available. now simply having the money to fo
    • And you didn't even get how it worked. The card you were given is a token, nothing more. the machine stores the votes internally, on a flash card that is behind a little locked door.

      That card is reset with a password to allow you to access the machine and tells the machine what your party affiliation is, if you want english or spanish, if you are blind, etc.

      Of course, without a receipt or some sort of printout, you don't know if your ballot was recorded. You don't even know if you get a receipt, but at

  • bans for a while (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wellmont ( 737226 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @04:01AM (#9026368) Homepage
    The've banned it for the next elections, and only in certain counties....they're in the only counties that had the machines up and running, but that doesn't mean another county couldn't push for it that isn't on the list of banned.
    Personally Diebold should have taken initiative and just attached a printer to the machines and used the printed ballots as proof-of-vote/voting-means. But it seems like they get the money and then they don't think to fix their problems...initially when this whole fiasco came up I was supportive of the whole electronic initiative because it made it SO much less confussing and set a standard for the entire state. But i guess they screwed that up.
  • RTFAHeadline, at least.

    Unfortunately, and I speak as a California resident, they are not being banned in all counties...yet.

  • On behalf... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gerardrj ( 207690 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @04:19AM (#9026419) Journal
    of all the intelligent and objective people on Slashdot, and in so many other forums, who saw all of these issues two years ago:

    WE TOLD YOU SO!

    Now... if you're ready to implement a reliable, trackable, scalable and secure electronic voting system, I think we're all still willing to help you. If you'll just listen this time.
  • by rock_climbing_guy ( 630276 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @04:21AM (#9026425) Journal
    I seriously don't get what the big idea is. Most people I've spoken to agree that the Diebold machines are almost as reliable as the system that the slashdot polls are run on, and we all know that slashdot polls are top-notch scientific polls!
  • by Helpadingoatemybaby ( 629248 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @04:44AM (#9026488)
    Here's how this will play out:

    Diebold will appeal this to the 9th circuit court, which will uphold the law... The supreme court will then overrule the 9th circuit, as usual, and also as usual allow the plaintiff free reign to not only disregard the new law but to throw out any common sense related to the law and set a precedent for wide open fleecing of the American voter. Don't believe me? Here's a couple of examples:

    9th Circuit Rules in Favor of Medical Marijuana (overruled by SC)

    9th Circuit Votes that Recall Election must be postponed (overruled by SC)

    Well, you get the idea. They are the most overruled court in the land.

    By the end of this case, the Supreme Court will have Diebold sitting on the board of the California Elections commission and charging voters $5 to vote. Okay, that's an exaggeration, but forgive my cynicism -- this isn't nearly over yet.

    • Mind you the 9th circuit is the largest out of any district, and definitely the most liberal out of all of them.

      Some of non-9th circuit folks are somewhat glad that the 9th circuit pushes the limits on regular basis. For someone has to, and for each time the Supreme Court over-rules them, they have to justify why, which becomes even more interesting.

      Sunny Dubey
    • CAN Diebold appeal this? I know the Supreme Court currently (and Justice Bush-Is-God Scalia in particular) tends to be very business-friendly, states-hostile and... Liberal in their interpretation of the law. So if it does get to them, I have no doubt that they'll rule that CA cannot, in fact, use any voting machines other than Diebold's. But this was a direct order by the (Republican!) CA Secretary of State. I'm not sure Diebold can appeal that.

      Or, at the very least, don't they have to work their way up?

      • "CAN Diebold appeal this?"

        No. An appeal is for trying to change a judicial decision, this is an executive action. So they could sue him if they think he's overstepped his authority. But even then it would be in the CA courts, the federal circuit and/or supreme courts don't enter into it.

        How to run elections is entirely up to the State. Heck, WHETHER to run elections is up to the State. If the State constitution/legislature wants to specify a coin-toss, the Federal courts have no jurisdiction to objec
    • that ruled against California's open primaries [ca.gov], leaving several other states with open primaries struggling to come up with some variant that will pass constitional muster. Wahington state's open primary was subsequently also thrown out, but by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
      • So the Supreme Court said that the first amendment guarantees the right of association in political parties. I don't see why Democrats or independents should have a right to vote for my Republican nominee. I am sure you would hate to see non-Democrats choose the Democrat nominee.

        For example, I would've chosen Zell Miller as the Democrat presidential nominee. That would've left a competition between Zell Miller and President Bush. What choice would people have then?

        The open primary system was flawed from t
  • In other news... (Score:3, Informative)

    by mritunjai ( 518932 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @04:50AM (#9026496) Homepage
    electronic voting machines are being used successfully (ie. w/o any major incidence) in largest ever task undertaken in history... namely, general elections in largest democracy - India!

    Oh and Brazilians have been successfully using electronic voting for a decade, and India has been using them on and off for half a decade.

    You know, sometime over-engineering sucks.
    • Re:In other news... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @06:05AM (#9026649) Journal
      Oh and Brazilians have been successfully using electronic voting for a decade, and India has been using them on and off for half a decade.
      The real problem isn't the reliability of the machines. Electronic voting has existed in the Netherlands for decades, using fully proprietary hardware and software. The voting machines [nedapspecials.com] are very reliable and easy to use. These are the machines Ireland would have used for their electronic elections. The state of NY is interested as well.

      Quess what, I'm still against electronic voting of this sort. The machine doesn't produce a paper trail, and there is now way to find out, ever, if fraud has taken place by the machine's supplier or operators. The fact that a paper ballot system is unwieldy ,slow, and requiries many people for collecting and counting, is a fact that works in the system's favour! It means that anyone trying to commit fraud on a large scale, will have to face a similarly unwieldy task, and he will have to get past all of these people as well.
      • Re:In other news... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by jsebrech ( 525647 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @08:03AM (#9026878)
        We use papertrail-less electronic voting in Belgium too, and there was an incident where a spontaneous bitflip in the counting machine's memory caused a miscount of 8192 votes. It was blamed on cosmic radiation. And no, I'm not kidding.

        Still, the vote gets recorded to a separate magnetic card for each voter, so it is possible to retally, even though you have to take the voting machine's word for it that your vote was recorded correctly.
        • Re:In other news... (Score:3, Informative)

          by amorsen ( 7485 )
          Cosmic radiation is a pretty frequent cause of bitflips. Another frequent cause is alpha-emission from the chip packaging material. Lots of articles about the problem, like this one. [eetimes.com]
  • The Real Reason (Score:4, Interesting)

    by The Kow ( 184414 ) <putnamp.gmail@com> on Saturday May 01, 2004 @04:57AM (#9026509)
    The reason for this ban was not so much the mechanical failures, but the way in which Diebold went about doing business with the State of California. The San Jose Mercury News has this article [newsbank.com] (Reg. Req.'d), as well as this suggestive but somewhat spartan article here [mercurynews.com] (no req req.d).

    I'm not registered, but per the second article:

    Shelley also told reporters at a press conference in Sacramento that he urged the state Attorney General to pursue criminal and civil charges against Diebold for installing voting machines that had not been certified by the state and then misleading government officials.

    In fact, I recall reading the first article in the San Jose Mercury News when it was printed, and evidently the machines Diebold installed were a second-generation set. Their first-gen. machines had been approved a while ago, and so they evidently tried to cut corners, assuming the second-gen. ones would certify as well, and went ahead and installed the machines before they were certified.

    On the other hand, I think it's interesting to wonder whether or not they really would've certified. Is it possible that the circumstances that led to the failure of these second generation machines may've also lead to the failure of the first generation machines, as well? I suspect the CA Gov't officials are dodging a bullet here, since Diebold seems to come out as the only fall-guys here (and rightfully so, as far as they're concerned).

    I defer to anyone who has read more about this than I, which isn't much to begin with.
  • by wizstan ( 52463 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @05:10AM (#9026536)
    I am fulltime techie for a California election office, and one who fully supports the measures taken today. I attended all three days of hearings the last couple of weeks, felt like i had fallen into watergate.

    There were many conspiracy nuts there, however as one who is closer to the situation I can tell you that it is a lot simpler than that. It is a story that most people in the high tech industry have seen played out many times.

    Diebold bought a company a couple of years ago that was on the verge of bankruptcy. This company (Global election Systems) was a typical high tech startup, they spent a tiny bit on engineering a product, a little more on making it LOOK good, a little more on sneaking it past certification, a little on marketing it to election officials, and a LOT on trying to sell investors. And then the Vancouver stock market scandal hit. And took some of the founders to jail.

    Diebold released that the product stank, but also that the timeline for getting a better product certified would cost them big in the marketplace.
    So they shuffled the unfinished, untested, uncertified, glamourous new product with the kludgy, limited, but certified old product. Always answering a question by referring to the product that would give the best answer. It was an elaborate shell game of trying to misdirect the responsible agencies until they could finish the new product. And in an old high tech story, product delays left them high and dry, with all of their marketing lies exposed. The engineers just could not keep up with the marketing peoples card tricks.

    They will almost certainly be prosecuted, and almost certainly will be out tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars in California alone, just in false claim lawsuits.

    All of this was almost a given on March 2nd, when their untested tech crashed and burned on them.

    The bigger news is that it looks like most of the other Counties that used an Electronic Voting System in March will opt to NOT use one in November, as the requirements to use the DRE voting systems are so onerous as to be impossible in this day of tight budgets and tight deadlines.

    For a very good, balanced, view of this from the election officials point of view look at:

    http://www.electionline.org/site/docs/pdf/EB7_ne w. pdf
  • Good. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2004 @05:14AM (#9026545)
    What do you know? The system works.
    Dodgy company does dodgy things. This goes unnoticed at first but eventually enough people take notice and the powers that be move to make amends.

    I'm always amused by the hysterical ranting of, slashbots. Take this example...
    Headline: "Corrupt politician introduces bill that gives excessive power to corporation X"
    Slashbot response: "It's the end of democracy as we know it!"
    Reality: The bill hasn't even been debated and has zero chance of passing.

    Basically, there always have and always will be people who try to subvert the system. Eventually, they get noticed and changes are made to stop them from doing it. This, my friends is the endless cycle of human existance.

    I know that Slashdot is a media outlet and likes a beatup, but do try to chill out a bit more; we're supposed to be more intelligent than tabloid readers.
  • by Handyman ( 97520 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @05:21AM (#9026552) Homepage Journal
    Diebold has been a frequent target of such groups, though most California county election officials say problems have been overstated and that voters like the touch screen systems first installed four years ago.


    That's what they say, the problems are overstated because voters like the machines? Hell, I like a lot of things that are easy to use, but that doesn't mean they're good for me! Think about these:

    * beer
    * cola
    * sweets
    * credit card
    * slot machine
    * M$ software
  • Good vs. Bad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NoSuchGuy ( 308510 ) <do-not-harvest-m ... dot@spa.mtrap.de> on Saturday May 01, 2004 @06:04AM (#9026647) Journal
    Good for democracy
    Bad for Diebolds Business

    Which one do you prefer?

  • by beforewisdom ( 729725 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @07:36AM (#9026820)
    Remember those achievment tests in school?

    You get a number two pencil and blacken in the dots for your choice ( no hanging chads)?

    Why not use those? You would get the best of both worlds: electronic voting...and an easily verifiable paper trail.

    Listening to the radio last night ( Air America ) some congressman introduced a bill offering a similar ( but not the same ) alternative in a bill.

    ( about time ).

    He said out of 400 members, 140 jumped on the bill with him to cosponsor it.

    Guys, Gals, if you care about your vote and your country now is the time to write your US Representatives to get them off their ass:

    http://www.congress.com/
    • by Anonymous Coward
      As someone who actually was a reject checker for the SATs, I state without equivocation: #2 pencils are subject to smear. Roughly 2% of SAT tests had to be hand-checked (circa 1986) because they were rejected by the IBM-manufactured collator for smearing between circles. The result? Everyone's lazy and doesn't really care if you go to CMU, Pitt, or Lehigh and so smeared SAT answers were marked wrong: an "overvote" in the election parlance.

      Mayhap the optical technology has improved in 20 years, but I doubt
    • Nice try, but I would NOT allow the use of pencils in filling out the blank spots. That's because you can have a situation where the pencil mark may not be dark enough to read for both machine and hand counts.

      Now, fill in the blank with a small black ink stamp marker (where the mark on the ballot is unambigious) is something else altogether.
  • PAPER? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 01, 2004 @08:31AM (#9026950)

    Well I get a Paper Receipt for my $0.99 Slurpie
    at 7-11,
    why can't I get a Paper Receipt when I am voting
    for THE LEADER OF THE USA ?!?!

    Is that Too gosh darn much to ask for in a Democracy?
    • Re:PAPER? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by tuffy ( 10202 )
      why can't I get a Paper Receipt when I am voting for THE LEADER OF THE USA ?!?!

      Because someone might like to pay you for that receipt.

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 )
    That California will use to determine its politicians works thusly:

    1) Each voter is provided a special "voting bean" which resembles a football.

    2) On election day, said "voting bean" is inserted into the anus of a politician.

    3) The last politician to be filled with "voting beans" wins the election.

    Elegant in its simplicity, really.

  • The optical scan aka "bubble sheet" ballot method works very well in many states but suffers from one major problem: flexibility. My idea is to redesign the currently used optical scanner container to contain a LED printer that would print each "bubble sheet" ballot as they are needed. On the printer there would be a few fixed buttons that would allow poll workers to print ballots in different languages, large print, disability access (except braille of course), etc. Each ballot would have the standard uniq
  • I predict... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @10:52AM (#9027469)
    ... that Diebold will now attempt to sue the state of California for one reason or another.
  • by SysKoll ( 48967 ) on Saturday May 01, 2004 @12:01PM (#9027716)
    It's very interesting to see that the Diebold debacle pinpointed the lack of security and reliability of a machine that is primarily a Windows 2000 embedded system.

    The Wired article shows that many of the system's vulnerability were due not to the GEMS software itself, but to the W2k operating system.

    So from now on, if anyone insists on choosing MS over other solutions for mission-critical system, and says "nobody ever got fired for choosing MS", we can point them to the Diebold debacle. Not only were they fired, they got it rubbed in and on national headlines!

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