Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
The Courts Government News Politics

ACLU of Ohio Sues To Block Paper Ballots 243

Apu writes in to inform us that the ACLU is trying to block an Ohio county from moving from touchscreen voting machines back to paper ballots. While it may seem like Cuyahoga County — which includes Cleveland — is moving in a good direction from the perspective of ballot security, the system chosen tabulates all votes at a central location. This means that voters don't get notified if their ballot contains errors, and thus they have no chance to correct it. The ACLU of Ohio is asking a federal judge for an injunction against any election in Cuyahoga County it they move to the new system.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

ACLU of Ohio Sues To Block Paper Ballots

Comments Filter:
  • by benzapp ( 464105 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @06:31PM (#22227908)
    If someone cannot take the time to devote a minimum amount of effort to fill out a ballot properly, perhaps they should not vote at all.

    A frivolous lawsuit.

    Disenfranchising the minuscule number of people who cannot fill out a paper ballot pails in comparison with the threat posed by computerized voting systems. The ACLU has their priorities all wrong.
  • Oh Bother (Score:3, Insightful)

    by arizwebfoot ( 1228544 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @06:34PM (#22227960)
    Like the ACLU is the shining torch bearer for all that is right and good in this country. How is someone's "civil liberties" encroached by using a paper ballot? Next they're gonna be gluing chicken feathers on bullfrogs and trying to teach them to fly.
  • by Coopjust ( 872796 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @06:37PM (#22227996)
    With paper, if you didn't vote for the candidate you intended to...it's your fault and visible if you follow the directions.

    With a compromised e-voting machine, you could walk in and have the machine say "Thanks for voting for candidate A" while it adds a vote for candidate B.
  • by bytta ( 904762 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @06:41PM (#22228034)
    Of course voting is serious. But traceability is a big part of a fair election.

    Why American voters put up with a system that does not give them the chance of a recount (or even confirming that the terminal cast your vote correctly), is beyond me...

  • by Microlith ( 54737 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @06:43PM (#22228066)

    If someone cannot take the time to devote a minimum amount of effort to fill out a ballot properly, perhaps they should not vote at all.

    No, they should be notified of their error immediately and be allowed to correct it. You are wholly wrong here.

    A bad system vs. a bad system. Except the paper ballot system is likely easily corrected by pulling the scanner machines out of the centralized location and placing them in the polling venues. In stark contrast the systemic flaws seemingly designed into most electronic voting systems.
  • by Icarus1919 ( 802533 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @06:44PM (#22228074)
    Wait, I can't remember anymore, are we for or against paper ballots, or for or against touch screen?
  • by SuseLover ( 996311 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @06:48PM (#22228136)

    ...is moving in a good direction from the perspective of ballot security, the system chosen tabulates all votes at a central location.
    I don't think "central location" is a good way to tabulate the votes though. It would be easier to manipulate votes at a single location by a few people than it would if the tally is distributed across many people and locations, plus it distributes the work load in parallel so that sub-totals are quick. At least it would be much harder to hide with so many different personnel involved.
  • by Rayonic ( 462789 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @06:53PM (#22228186) Homepage Journal
    Indeed, paper can't lie! Unless your paper ballot gets thrown away or vandalized, or more ballots get stuffed into the process at some point. Where do you think the phrase "ballot stuffing" originated from?

    It is simplistic to think that PAPER = SECURE, just because it's paper.
  • by riseoftheindividual ( 1214958 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @06:56PM (#22228228) Homepage
    I have to agree. Centralized vote counting? Forget people trying to correct their mistakes for a moment(I do think that's important though), how in the hell can people independently validate the vote tallies? In my state, the vote tallies for each precinct at the end of the day are posted outside of the voting stations. There are numerous individuals representing numerous interests who go around and count those tallies. I'm not saying my state's system is perfect or anything, but there is a degree of transparency in our system that I just can't see a central counting system ever having. Is it as "efficient"? No, but this isn't mass production in a free market for christ's sake, this is the vote of the people of our republic deciding the future of our government.

    Getting back to the error getting corrected at the polling place... I saw this on several occasions having grown up in a neighborhood with a lot of seniors. When you have trembling hands, mistakes can be made. I don't see why having trembling hands should mean their vote gets disqualified as if that means they're stupid or something. There's a lot of valid physical ailments people can have that might lead to a mistake, and I personally have seen optical scanners onsite at polling stations catch them and allow the person to correct them.

    Voting is indeed a serious activity, serious enough to warrant a system that concerns itself with making sure that everyone's vote gets counted accurately whether they make a mistake or not.
  • by Rakishi ( 759894 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @06:57PM (#22228240)
    And lots of security experts disagree, I trust security experts to analyze security over five political science majors and one user interaction computer scientist.
  • by Qzukk ( 229616 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @07:02PM (#22228334) Journal
    Sorry, your X wasn't dark enough and the scantron machine didn't pick it up. "Tuffit" indeed.
  • by eviloverlordx ( 99809 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @07:07PM (#22228394)
    We're for and against paper ballots, and for and against touch screens - As long as the outcome is the one we want.
  • by Zymergy ( 803632 ) * on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @07:09PM (#22228422)
    "People" are not who should be the ones to determine "security" no matter how Warm & Fuzzy they feel about said technology.
    I want a unique timestamped paper receipt which I can look up later to verify my actual votes! NOTE: This *IS ALREADY IN PLACE* with retail credit/debit card sales.

    I want the NSA (yes, them. http://www.nsa.gov/home_html.cfm [nsa.gov] ) to certify ANY electronic voting apparatus used in the US and to further guarantee its accuracy.
    This means they would be one the ones doing the recounts along with an certified third party (or two) paid for by each region/state choosing to use electronic voting.

    I would like all records including the evidence (in-situ timestamps generated printed paper vote ballot recipts) be available for and dispute review.
    Each electronic voter would be issued a unique identifier number on their receipt at the time of their voting, that way they could login into a secure web server with that number to review their vote selections. There would also be a dispute console available for any discrepancies. Metrics revealed from the 'disputes' submitted would indicate a problem. This would be a more ideal way to merge the speed of 'paperless' electronic voting technologies with the exacting re-countability of 'paper' voting methods.
    I get a receipt that is both unique and timestamped when I purchase a single pack of gum at the grocery store with my Debit Card.
    Why are there no accountable unique and timestamped receipts provided to every electronic voter and some secure method with which they could later review them?
    I believe that the NSA has both the technical knowledge and resources to set up said secure verification of-your-vote web servers.
    If it works for retail transactions, why not for voting? Heck... Mastercard/Visa and the NSA could team up and develop a FAST *and* far more secure electronic voting system with paper receipts user verification. I'd even pay the Card companies their 1%-3% cuts for that kind of reliability!
    The real problem here is that there are too many cooks with too many agendas in the voting methodology kitchen!!!
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @07:11PM (#22228450) Homepage
    Is it really too hard to imagine what it's like not to care about things like voting? It has long been observed that the people of the US regard themselves as powerless to change anything at all. Commonly spoken expressions such as "you can't fight city hall" have dated back more than four decades and probably more. The fact that the US civil war and the American Revolution war of the 18th century happened shows that many things have changed but not the least of which is where the center of power actually lies.

    We just don't have the correct amount of oppression or corruption from our government yet. We're actually quite a long way from that point at the moment. But one sign of that tipping point approaching is when hundreds are made to suffer when a few act. That is to point out that when the Revolutionary war happened, there really weren't that many people acting in revolt. But when they did, the oppressive and corrupt government was to come down on everyone which ACTUALLY made the war start. There were plenty of people loyal to England and the British Empire. There were lots more who were indifferent and only cared about their daily lives. But that all changed when these indifferent people became victims of war, then they had to fight or die.

    So you see, we're rather far away from that point. To make revolution even more unlikely, our educational system churns out products good enough to be workers, but not quite good enough to think for themselves, and there is certainly no real emphasis on history because if there were any, even the 'workers' would be able to realize there are some pretty big problems going on.
  • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @07:19PM (#22228572)
    The problem is, the computerized system ALREADY centralizes the vote counting, and in a MUCH less transparent way. The memory cards containing the vote tallies from the machines are brought to the board of elections and the votes downloaded to the server there (the server that repeatedly crashed during the last election causing the switch to scantron ballots). Now both parties have numerous people there overseeing the process and if they think there is something wrong they will of course ask for a hand recount where the ballots are tallied twice by a representative from each party. My problem with the ACLU petition is that NO system can be idiot proofed and so demanding a perfect system before we can switch off the damned electronic machines is asnine. Sure if there was time and money ideally they could get scantron machines for each polling station and train the poll workers to use them but there isn't and I think it's MUCH less dangerous to a fair and transparent election to go with the proposed scantron method. If this lawsuit proceeds it's likely I will be disenfranchised from the primary election (because I seriously doubt there is time to lineup all the technicians needed to oversee the electronic machines in time) and I am pissed about that.
  • by Scudsucker ( 17617 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @07:38PM (#22228806) Homepage Journal
    If someone cannot take the time to devote a minimum amount of effort to fill out a ballot properly, perhaps they should not vote at all.

    Voting is a serious activity, and votes should not be thrown away over trivial errors if they can be easily corrected. And unless you never make mistakes, perhaps you should not be throwing stones in glass houses.
  • by lenski ( 96498 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @07:45PM (#22228866)

    The implication that any digital system is inherently less secure than any paper system is inherently Luddite, all the way down.

    Your focus is too narrow. Nobody says "paper ballots are secure". We say "it's far more difficult to swing an election with paper ballots without it being detected and corrected than with electronic systems."

    For an individual precinct, it can be argued that paper is subject to (within an order of magnitude) similar levels of manipulation for particular insiders as electronic systems.

    However, to really swing an entire election, the decentralized nature of paper ballots requires the concerted cooperation of a far larger population of manipulators with inside access to the ballots' chain of custody. On the other hand, a single easter egg in one version of voting system software can allow one *voter* in each of several, possibly many, precincts to secretly engage the easter egg's incantation to swing that machine's vote totals.

    So paper requires concerted effort by many insiders with the concomitant increase in likelihood of one of them screwing up and spilling the beans. Electronic voting systems require a collection of non-insiders to engage a secretly emplaced easter egg to modify entire elections. There is a possibility of detection there too, but it is significantly more difficult.

    Electronic voting systems have already been used to affect an election: In central Ohio where I live, districts and precincts with a statistical democratic bias (metropolitan and progressive districts) had reduced allocation of voting machines, while outlying areas that tend republican had appropriate allocation. The result, widely reported, was lines of multiple hours in one case and rarely more than minutes in the other. Voting occurred on a work day, and many people simply could not or would not wait to vote because they had to get back to work.

    To claim that people like me are luddites is entirely stupid, by the way. My code has been working in the signalling and switching systems (both STP and NCP) the long distance network for 15 years, has been running cockpit avionics communications for 25 years, and I am at present involved in several autonomous UAV flight control projects.

    There are people who really want to manipulate elections and are trying to establish a context in which their manipulations could be done with the minimum probability of detection. The people who run and monitor elections are not embedded system developers with years of experience in authentication and security. They would be very hard pressed to detect, much less respond to, a situation where sophisticated election system developers could be manipulating the process. Note further that the election system vendors steadfastly refuse to show their code to anyone. That makes me very suspicious.

    During the late 90's, the Nevada Gaming commission's slot machines were hacked by an insider who used his diagnostic validation unit to insert easter eggs in slot machines. His hack was not discovered for many months (I forget exactly how long it lasted). The Nevada Gaming Commission is loaded with money, expert developers, and a strong economic desire to avoide even a hint of dishonesty, and were hacked. Compare that to Boards of Elections who are overworked, underpaid, have very limited budgets, and absolutely ZERO experience in system security.
  • by uncqual ( 836337 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @08:01PM (#22229032)

    I want a unique timestamped paper receipt which I can look up later to verify my actual votes!
    they could login into a secure web server with that number to review their vote selections
    Allowing a voter to verify their vote "after the fact" from any location (or by direct examination of a receipt that leaves the polling place with them) makes vote-buying (or coercion) much too easy. Albeit, this is already a problem with absentee ballots, but we should not make it worse. However, there are schemes that would allow a voter to verify their vote privately at centralized secure locations (and allow them to contest the counting of their vote based on their receipt if they are willing to give up their "private ballot" privileges to do so) using encryption and election judges where various bits of key material are provided by (1) the voter, (2) randomly (and printed only on the voter receipt), and (3) by "election judges".
  • by STrinity ( 723872 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @08:22PM (#22229206) Homepage

    No, they should be notified of their error immediately and be allowed to correct it.
    Sorry, but anonymous voting is more important than disenfranchising people who can't follow instructions.
  • by nguy ( 1207026 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @09:06PM (#22229590)
    I think voting should be on paper ballots that are hand counted. There is no more reason to mechanize voting than there is to mechanize kissing.

    Obviously, if you want to vote anonymously, you can't get feedback about whether you filled it in correctly. But, then, you aren't in elementary school anymore.
  • by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @10:02PM (#22230058)
    No, they should be notified of their error immediately and be allowed to correct it. You are wholly wrong here.

    With old-fashioned paper votes, you never got feedback if you fucked up. I worked as a poll clerk in a few elections in Australia. The "spoiled votes", invalid for whatever reason, were 1 or 2%. Many of these were obviously deliberate -- no numbers or ticks at all. Only a very small number looked like real errors. And these were on quite complex senate voting forms with 50 or more candidates.

    Anyone who might have a problem filling out a form, because of visual or physical disability, can ask for help. Voting clerks aren't supposed to do this, but if asked they usually will help you fill out the form. Or bring a relative or friend.

    My personal opinion is if someone can't work out how to put ticks in boxes correctly, tough. Take it seriously or stay home.

  • by ChromaticDragon ( 1034458 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @10:10PM (#22230122)

    I think you need to practice some (self-)education yourself.

    Go back and investigate literacy rates in the New England colonies circa 1750. You'll very likely be surprised. Hint - it was very likely the highest anywhere in the world at that time.

    Next, go and grab a handful of the essays and debates of the time. It shouldn't be difficult. People were debating the merits of rebellion in person and in print all over the place back then. Once you have a good number of these treatises, essays and debates, I want you to ponder whether the son of some (average) working class family today would even be able to read these at all, much less properly analyze, criticize or "think at that level". Again, I imagine you'll be rather surprised.

    The Revolutionary War was NOT the result of a few thinkers manipulating the crowds, although I think you can make a strong case of that sort of thing happening here and there (cough.. cough... Boston Tea Party... cough.. cough..). Many people in many corners of the colonies were very ready for independence. Indeed, it was almost certainly inevitable.

    As an example, go and research the origins of the Declaration of Independence. You'll find it's hard to do so since there were many, many such declarations being passed all over the colonies by various representative bodies.
  • by 1u3hr ( 530656 ) on Tuesday January 29, 2008 @10:16PM (#22230164)
    Getting back to the error getting corrected at the polling place... I saw this on several occasions having grown up in a neighborhood with a lot of seniors. When you have trembling hands, mistakes can be made

    I worked as a poll clerk a few years (decades....) ago. Any elderly people who had a problem marking their ballot could ask for help. They would be allowed to take someone into the booth to help them, a friend, family, or even a the poll clerks might help, though thay were not striclty supposed to. In any case, if they made a mistake they could just ask for a new ballot.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @12:11AM (#22230870)
    When I was in highschool (and a few random courses early in undergrad) we answered multiple choice tests using scantron cards. Immediately upon handing them in, they could be run through the machine to determine your grade.

    At least the ones I saw in highschool tended to be pretty picky. Entire box had to be filled in, right kind of lead had to be used, absolutely no smudges over any of the other boxes (forget about using an eraser!). However once you handed the card in, whatever the machine reported as your mark was your mark. Use a pen or wrong kind of pencil? Too bad. Fill in a box incorrectly? Too bad. Accidently offset all the answers by one? Really, too damn bad.

    It didn't matter if the card was filled out incorrectly. It didnt matter if the reason the machine didn't like it was blatently obvious. You filled it out correctly or your mark suffered; simple. Because of that policy, I and the kids in my classes quickly figured out that we needed to be careful when filling the little buggers out.

    The point is if we can expect teenagers to fill in several dozen boxes flawlessly when their grades are on the line, we can sure as hell expect adults to fill in a handfull of boxes flawlessly when they are helping to decide the future of their country.

    If someone messes up on a driving test than they have to wait before they can take it again. It doesn't matter if it was obvious that they just overlooked a stop sign, and probably would notice it if they immediately took the test again - they have to wait. Similarly if someone screws up while voting, they should have to wait until the next election to try again.

    As an aside I'm not sure you even understand what elitism is. Rejecting the idea that people should have their hand held throughout the entire election process is not elitism in any sense of the word.
  • MOD PARENT DOWN (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Smordnys s'regrepsA ( 1160895 ) on Wednesday January 30, 2008 @01:35AM (#22231316) Journal
    (not that I often say that)

    Our education system sucks for anything other than churning out workers. Read up [thememoryhole.org] on the gents that kick started our current system. They freely admitted what they were doing and why (what they weren't doing was churning out intelligent individuals). Then go out and ask your teacher friends (high school or below, if you have to pay for college it isn't truly public) what they think of the system. You'll get an ear full, and a new understanding of the world.

    Honestly, the students may be able to add, subtract, multiply, read, and write but they sure as heck can't understand. Try sticking their faces in front of an essay with more than 5 paragraphs, and see what you can get out of them (hint: it will come out exactly like a form letter, have bad grammar and syntax, and make you want to blow your brains out!) God forbid you try this with a serious text, they would skip straight to Spark Notes or Wikipedia!

    Now, ask them their opinions on anything. Sorry, that's a trick question - they don't learn to form their own opinions until after they leave their cookie-cutter school.

    We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forego the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.
    -President Woodrow Wilson

    Our system is nothing less than brainwashing, aimed at the children of the masses, to make them easier to control when they are grown. We are defective by design.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982