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Evoting in the News 218

key45 writes "Just a few days after California rejects Diebold E-Voting machines, and Ireland bans e-voting too, the Information Technology Association of America (which represents election equipment makers and other technology companies) released a poll showing that the majority of Americans trust those machines. The war for public opinion is on!" Reader theRG writes "The U.S. Election Assistance Commission held hearings on May 5 about the pros and cons of electronic voting machines. They debated whether or not machines should have paper trails, and what standards should be set. Meanwhile, NPR reports on California's recent decertification of Diebold machines and on one Ohio county's switch from punchcards to electronic voting." And finally, our own OSDN has a report from the election commission meeting: Joe Barr writes "Thom Wysong has a report at NewsForge this morning on the first public meeting of the new U.S. Election Assistance Commission. Questions like whether or not a voter verifiable audit trail and open source should be mandated for e-voting solutions were the order of the day."
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Evoting in the News

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  • Why, why, oh WHY? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Saeed al-Sahaf ( 665390 ) on Friday May 07, 2004 @12:05PM (#9085263) Homepage
    What I find amazing is that in the face of arguably questionable performance, security, and auditing issues with e-voting machines, the vast majority of elections officials still want to move full steam rather than wait until a solid solution is developed. Remember, these are the same people that will be developing the ulcers on election night when their systems start shitting out garbage. They have to realize that they will be under extreme scrutiny. Why put yourself and your staff through this? Makes me think of payola, but that's not really realistic. Maybe the executive elections staff training is in Bermuda or Hawaii?
  • I E-Voted in FL (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 07, 2004 @12:08PM (#9085291)
    An election or two ago, I voted with a touch screen voting machine. It had a red button that flashed after you voted. You just went through and picked who you wanted, were prompted for review, then on the screen, it says "HIT THE RED BUTTON". It flashed, so I pressed it and my vote was off.

    I can't see how people can't figure out how to use the voting machines around here.
  • by plsuh ( 129598 ) <plsuh AT goodeast DOT com> on Friday May 07, 2004 @12:12PM (#9085345) Homepage
    If you're in Maryland and want to help out, come join us at []. We have a lawsuit going to force the state to decertify the Diebold machines, and we're also planning a number of other public actions to raise awareness and put pressure on our elected and appointed officials. Linda Schade, one of the co-directors, was a speaker at the press conference that MoveOn held outside the EAC hearing.

    --Paul Suh
  • Would you need a fingerprint scan to verify that you only vote one time?

    How would the Voter Verifiable Audit Trails (VVAT)work? Could I check online to see that my vote was recorded correctly?

  • by crow ( 16139 ) on Friday May 07, 2004 @12:20PM (#9085431) Homepage Journal
    My favorite voting method is paper ballots where you fill in ovals with a black marker and then feed them into a scanner. You get the advantage of nearly instant results after the polls close with the advantage of a full paper trail for a manual recount if necessary. And when they did a recount when the vote for our new high school failed by 29 votes, it changed it by 6 votes, indicating that some people didn't fill in the ovals correctly, but only a very tiny percentage.

    And, of course, our public education is increasingly geared towards teaching kids how to properly fill in ovals.

    Of course, if we had had fully-electronic voting, I might not have lost the town election on Tuesday (I was a candidate for Selectman, which is roughly the equivalent of city council). :)
  • by wwest4 ( 183559 ) on Friday May 07, 2004 @12:24PM (#9085483)
    I think successful machines might yield greater turnout, which might clarify where people stand at any given time and provide a more accurately appointed set of leaders. In that sense, I hope we CAN implement more accurate voting, but I think we need to do it in such a way as to minimize the chance of corruption. Even if Diebold doesn't intend to leave the door open, so far they have and that shouldn't be ignored if we want this technological advancement to succeed.

    > Your one vote makes little difference in the final outcome of the election.

    I've always thought that this was an unfortunate existential conundrum. From a certain view, yes - in the end, the ordinary voter is just a speck of dust on the political landscape - but you could view every action you take in life the same way from the appropriate perspective.

    I am only responsible for my vote, no one else's - and even if it only matters to a tiny degree, that is infinitely more than zero, which is fine for me right now. America is still an adequately free place in the sense that there are other forums besides the voting booth with which I can increase the awareness of my position if I wish. My vote and my actions can "matter" in this sense as much as I choose.

    > Just consider all the dolts who blew Gore's chance in 2000 by voting with their
    > heart for Nader.

    Maybe if Gore had been more liberal he would have gotten Green votes. I wouldn't have voted for him in either case, but the moral is that this is just the way the cookie crumbles (ignoring the closeness of the results for simplicity).

  • by Ra5pu7in ( 603513 ) <ra5pu7in AT gmail DOT com> on Friday May 07, 2004 @12:27PM (#9085523) Journal
    If a completely random selection of several thousand people occurs for every one of these polls, why is it that no one I know of has ever been a participant? I suspect it is more like the Nielsen ratings, where specific individuals who are supposed to be representative are involved each time.

    The other thing that wasn't clear is whether trusting e-voting in general means anything related to trusting companies like Diebold. The very action California took to reject Diebold, while not rejecting e-voting in general, sends the message that it is possible to have trustworthy e-voting.

    We have come a long way toward getting paper voting to be relatively secure and reliable. In spite of that, we heard all about dimples and miscounts in 2000. We can't expect the first few trial runs of e-voting to instantly be problem free.
  • by Poor College Student ( 657160 ) on Friday May 07, 2004 @12:36PM (#9085620)
    I think people not in IT have a perception that large quality software projects are easy to do. Plus, the general public probably has not followed this particular story (or probably at least outside of California).

    Yeah, maybe a Windows app might crash every now and then, but it doesn't entirely alter that non-technical person's perception of industry.

    On the other hand, we know that flaws exist all the time. Many of us here feel that at least of any software, that the software used in voting machines outght to be available. We know that software needs plenty of testing before its put into production.
  • by tsg ( 262138 ) on Friday May 07, 2004 @12:47PM (#9085802)
    If the machines are not rigorously trustworthy, and provably so, they should not be used. End of story. What Americans think is irrelevant.

    You are absolutely correct, but the problem is that what Americans think tends to drive public policy. People vote for those who support their views, even if their views are demonstrably wrong. That so many people trust the machines means that not enough people know how bad they are and is an indication that the people need to be educated, not that the machines should be used.

    So, yes, what Americans think is irrelevant to whether the machines should be used, but is compeletely relevant to whether they will be used.
  • by GPLDAN ( 732269 ) on Friday May 07, 2004 @12:47PM (#9085803)
    Instead we have men like Jeb Bush who cajole Disney into stifling free speech, and who just yesterday removed 40,000 felons from the voter rolls - even though it was proved in 2000 that many of the people he removed were, in fact, not felons. Just Democrats. Mostly Black Democrats.

    Ol' Jebby is ALREADY starting to throw the election, and we are 6 months away from actually voting. He must have to wipe the drool off his chin when he reads about E-voting.
  • by G27 Radio ( 78394 ) on Friday May 07, 2004 @12:56PM (#9085939)
    I caught a decent chunk of this radio show a couple weeks ago, and it really made the whole push for non-verifiable e-voting here in Florida seem pretty shady:

    An estimated 28% of U.S. voters will cast their ballots on electronic voting machines next November, but questions about security remain. A panel discusses the on-going concerns.

    Joe Andrew, lawyer in private practice and former National Chairman of the Democratic National Committee

    David Dill, Professor of Computer Science, Stanford University

    Bev Harris, author of "Black Box Voting"

    Mark Radke, director of marketing,
    Diebold Election Systems

    Congressman Robert Wexler, D - Florida, 19th district []

    It's a very interesting conversation no matter how you look at it. Unfortunately in Realaudio only :(
  • by budgenator ( 254554 ) on Friday May 07, 2004 @01:24PM (#9086400) Journal
    I just completed a poll of the League Women Voters member and in a sampling 1000, 77% +- 5% always get a paper reciept when making an ATM financial transaction

    Ok the poll part is made up, but my experience is that there is a trend, the more a person knows about computer programming and or administration, the more likely he or she is to want a paper trail for transactions of any type.
  • Paper (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WPIDalamar ( 122110 ) on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:22PM (#9087160) Homepage
    I understand why a paper trail is good... but why are people arguing against it?
  • by gkuz ( 706134 ) on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:28PM (#9087228)
    I happened to watch most of Wednesday's hearings on TV (thank you, C-SPAN!) and was quite impressed with the nature of the questions the chairman was asking. He certainly gave the impression of being quite well-informed (or at least well-briefed), and asked quite a few really pointed questions, particularly of the vendors.

    The moment I enjoyed the most was when he very harshly dressed down one of the vendors, which had sent a board member who wasn't involved in day-to-day operations (having retired) and admitted he couldn't answer some of the questions posed to him. At the end of that segment, the chairman said something like "If we hold further such hearings, I would hope your company will see fit to send someone who actually goes to work every day."

  • by tsg ( 262138 ) on Friday May 07, 2004 @02:42PM (#9087408)
    E-voting won't increase voter turnout. Voting can't get any easier than it already is.

    Truth be told, I'm not so concerned about increasing voter turnout as I am informing voters. I'd rather the people who can't be bothered to vote stayed home and left the decisions to people who care. Increasing voter turnout simply increases the number of uninformed voters. Make people care, and they'll find their way to the polls all by themselves.

    Action is the only thing that's going to fix the system, cuz it aint fixing itself. Regardless of the philosophical constraints in our systems, concerted action is the only thing that makes things happen.

    I agree, but sometimes the system is so fouled up that you can't fix it from within the system. In the election process, the only people who have the power to change it are in power because of it. They have no desire to change it because they will likely suffer from the change. The system has no way to change the system, so the change has to be made from outside.

    There are arguments for changing the voting process itself, but I think the main reason people have lost faith is because of the end result. Choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil, and voting for an independent, or worse, writing in a candidate, has little to no chance of doing any more than not voting at all.

    The election process is a paralysing feedback loop all of its own. If everyone voted, regardless of their feelings about why voting doesn't matter, how would we know there was a problem? Say what you like about "voter apathy", but it's at least got us talking about how to fix the problem rather than not knowing there is one.

    Personally, I think we need to fix what our choices are before we fix how we make them.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 07, 2004 @04:47PM (#9088901)
    Please accept my comments on your position paper.

    | Electronic Voting Machines and Voter-Verified Paper Trails (VVPT)
    | ml
    | The League of Women Voters strongly supports full and equal
    | voting rights for all eligible Americans, including persons
    | with disabilities. The League also supports voter
    | verification of ballots, including the requirement in the
    | Help America Vote Act (HAVA) whereby the voter verifies the
    | ballot before it is cast and counted. However, the League
    | does not support proposals for a new requirement for
    | paper-based voter verification - the voter-verified paper
    | trail (VVPT) system that would require Direct Recording
    | Electronic (DRE) voting machines to provide an individual
    | paper confirmation for each ballot for each voter to verify.
    | A VVPT requirement undermines voting access for people with
    | disabilities or limited English proficiency, raises costs,
    | fails to guarantee security, unnecessarily complicates the
    | voting process, undermines federal certification standards,
    | and slows the replacement of outdated voting machines.

    To be clear, VVPT would require DRE equipment to print out a
    physical paper receipt that the voter could review and then
    stuff in the ballot box. These printed ballots would then
    be the official record of the election.

    These printed ballots would:

    - be printed out when the user has completed selecting all
    of their choices via the DRE's touch screen interface

    - would only print out the individuals selected, and thus
    is very simple to understand and uncluttered

    - would be printed in the language used by the DRM machine,
    cross-language support on paper is quite easy

    - be in large font for reading impaired and could be handed
    to an election worker to read for those who are blind

    - would have an encoded version of the votes via a bar-code to
    make scanning in the votes for semi-automated recounts easy

    - would be printed on card stock using your average laser
    or inket printer; thermal paper does not last long enough

    To be more concrete about this, and to make it absolutely clear what
    we are discussing, there is an open source application [1] with an
    on-line demo [2] that produces this sort of printed receipt [3]. Be
    advised that the user interface for making the selections is not
    important to this discussion, the only thing that is salient is the
    final receipt printed.


    With this background, let me address your specific concerns. Before
    you continue with this statements, I ask you to download the
    referenced PDF file above and print this so that you can see exactly
    what is being requested by the VVPT community.

    | * The voter-verified paper trail requirement undermines
    | voting access. DREs make it possible, for the first
    | time, for persons with visual disabilities or limited
    | manual dexterity to cast secret and independent ballots.

    The VVPT does not replace DREs. People would still use touch screens
    to make their choices. The printed 'receipt' would be in the
    individual's language and printed in a large enough font so that it is
    absolutely clear.

    | Because DREs can be programmed in multiple languages,
    | voters with limited English proficiency can participate
    | fully and equally. The millions of Americans who face
    | literacy challenges also can take advantage of the audio
    | features of DREs to cast independent votes without
    | embarrassment.

    There is no reason why the printed receipt cannot print out results in
    the voter's choice of language. During an official manual recount, it
    would be a very small task to teach each person recounting the very
    small subset of the languages they encounter when recounting.

"Oh my! An `inflammatory attitude' in alt.flame? Never heard of such a thing..." -- Allen Gwinn, allen@sulaco.Sigma.COM