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Researchers And Registrars Debate E-Voting 153

Posted by timothy
from the stay-on-the-line-for-a-customer-representative dept.
Paper Trail writes "There's a fascinating discussion going on right now over at SiliconValley.com. A group of computer scientists, journalists, voting activists, and county registrars are discussing the e-voting mess in an online forum that runs all this week. The panel is a who's who of e-voting: Avi Rubin, David Dill, David Jefferson, and registrars from San Bernadino and Riverside, CA. They've even got Scott Ritchie from the Open Vote Foundation. The question they're hoping to answer: "What's your assessment of the risks related to the use of electronic voting machines -- in the areas of verifiable voting, errors, recounts and manipulation -- not in the computer lab, but in a real-world setting? And how do those risks compare with current voting systems and other low-tech options?""
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Researchers And Registrars Debate E-Voting

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  • by Shakrai (717556) * on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @10:01AM (#10513678) Journal

    Would somebody please tell me what exactly is wrong with the lever operated mechanical machines still largely used in my state (New York)? The machines are sealed and verified by comparing counter numbers that are tamper-obvious. At the end of the voting day the machine is sealed by the poll workers who write the numbers down and send them to the Board of Elections, who later collects the machine itself.

    They are next to impossible to tamper with (it would be glaringly obvious), they work if the electric fails (try that with your touch screen), they keep voters from overvoting just as effectively as a touchscreen does and at the end of the day they can be tallied in a few minutes. What is so wrong with the concept behind these machines that we need to all rush out and buy touchscreen systems? What advantage does a touchscreen offer? It is a closed-source solution that's infinitely easier to rig then a mechanical counting system.

    Isn't this one case where we don't need to reinvent the wheel people?

    • You just raised the most important issue about evoting. Why the hell should we use them?
    • What is so wrong with the concept behind these machines that we need to all rush out and buy touchscreen systems? What advantage does a touchscreen offer? It is a closed-source solution that's infinitely easier to rig then a mechanical counting system.

      People want pretty colors and instantaneous stats. People don't want to worry about counting and recounting. People want to have the voting booth be available in 1000 different languages. People want to have their tax money spent on something that is ever
      • by Shakrai (717556) * on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @10:07AM (#10513735) Journal

        People want pretty colors and instantaneous stats. People don't want to worry about counting and recounting. People want to have the voting booth be available in 1000 different languages. People want to have their tax money spent on something that is ever-changing.

        You can get near instantaneous stats out of these machines. And what multiple languages do you need? They see the names of the people running -- if they don't know "George W. Bush" is running the President and not the local Assembly seat that's their problem. Besides (in NY anyway) any voter can be helped by anybody else except for a boss or union official. The poll workers themselves can even enter the booth with him provided you have one poll worker from each major political party enter the booth at the same time.

        • You can get near instantaneous stats out of these machines.

          No, not like you can when you're watching Survivor or an NFL game. Remember that's what people want... Monday Night Football commentary with tickers. Flashing lights and shiny metal. Oooh.

          And what multiple languages do you need? They see the names of the people running -- if they don't know "George W. Bush" is running the President and not the local Assembly seat that's their problem.

          You have negated any credibility you might have had with
          • No, not like you can when you're watching Survivor or an NFL game. Remember that's what people want... Monday Night Football commentary with tickers. Flashing lights and shiny metal. Oooh.

            I want to know who these "people" are. Personally, I would give up all of those bells & whistles for a system that is reliable, accurate, and fraud-resistent. Certainly, the integrity of the election process is more important than marketing fluff.

            "And what multiple languages do you need? They see the names of the



        • In my part of the country in addition to just elected positions, we tend to have a large number of ballot issues that need to be voted on. Thus you need to be able to read the description to know if you are voting on allowing a state income tax vs increasing the number of dog catchers allowed to communities under 5,000 population. It is required by law that we have at least english and spanish. In California, IIRC, by law they have a large number of languages that must be accomodated, Chinese, Japanese,
      • People want pretty colors and instantaneous stats.

        When they watch TV, not necessarily when they vote. People don't care if they vote by pulling a 20 year old lever. They only care that it's quick, easy, and counts.

        The masses aren't screaming for computer graphics on the windshield to aid in driving or a drive-by-wire joystick. People experiment with it, but the flashy stuff isn't what people call for in practical situations.

        And making it colorful won't get more people to vote. People aren't running
    • by JUSTONEMORELATTE (584508) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @10:09AM (#10513766) Homepage
      Ok, I'll start:
      • They break, and spare parts are expensive since they're not in current production
      • The numbers on the counters are manually recorded, then manually transferred to a central registrar. That's two places with human intervention, and opportunity for error or, more remotely, fraud
      • The manual processing takes time, and like it or not, people want to know results sooner than the morning paper.


      --
      What would it take? [slashdot.org]
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Also, they can fail to rollover from 999 to 1,000 (or similar counts) because the machine requires additional leverage to turn all of the counter wheels (just like an old analog odometer), and if the parts are worn, there might not be enough force.

        So it's easy for votes to be lost due to mechanical error.
        • So it's easy for votes to be lost due to mechanical error.

          I could say the same thing about a touchscreen system that suffered a hard drive or non-violate memory failure. Even if you use top of the line name brand components (think Diebold is doing that?) think about a large enterprise network -- how many hard drives will fail when you start taking about thousands of systems? Now expand that scale to tens of thousands of voting machines and you start to see the problem.

          Any election system we use (elect

      • by Shakrai (717556) * on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @10:35AM (#10513997) Journal

        They break, and spare parts are expensive since they're not in current production

        Then put them back into production. And if they go out of production what do you suppose is cheaper? To contract some local guy in a machine shop to make a part or contract some coder to try and figure out a closed source system because you needed a replacement part and it broke something?

        The numbers on the counters are manually recorded, then manually transferred to a central registrar. That's two places with human intervention, and opportunity for error or, more remotely, fraud

        They are phoned into the Board of Elections by the poll workers (at least one from each party) after the polls close. This isn't the "certified" tally but it's the one that is released to the news media for the nightly news/morning papers. Once the Board of Elections receives the machine back they open it up (again with a supervisor from both political parties present) and certify the tally. With at least two people doing every task the odds of error are small -- and fraud is damn near impossible.

        The manual processing takes time, and like it or not, people want to know results sooner than the morning paper.

        This is why you have the unofficial count from the poll workers and the later certified results. Electronic touchscreen systems will not change this. The count isn't "official and certified" until they manually count the absentee and challenge ballots.

        And as far as fraud goes -- which system do you trust more? The system that relies on two public servants sworn to uphold a scared trust or the system that relies on private vendor companies with lovely quotes like "I'm committed to delivering Ohio's electoral votes to the President". This is a no brainer people.

        • [...] the system that relies on private vendor companies with lovely quotes like "I'm committed to delivering Ohio's electoral votes to the President"

          First, let me state that I think electronic voting in its current form is horribly broken. The best solution is a paper printout that gets deposited in a lockbox before the voter leaves.

          That said - I am so sick of hearing the above quote bandied about as though it unmasks some voting conspiracy. Let's go over this one more time for the slow kids:

          Whoever wi
        • by Anonymous Coward
          How is it that one can say something like "both political parties" as if they're codified in the Constitution somehow and STILL think the political process is fair and working as intended?
        • And as far as fraud goes -- which system do you trust more? The system that relies on two public servants sworn to uphold a scared trust or the system that relies on private vendor companies with lovely quotes like "I'm committed to delivering Ohio's electoral votes to the President". This is a no brainer people.

          This question presents a false dichotomy.

          The correct answer to the question is "Neither". We should trust no one to be in a position to manipulate our votes. That ideal may be unachievable, b

          • You missed a step. After the paper ballot is printed, put it in whatever will be reading the ballot and verify that it is reading it the way that you expect. This ensures that the vote is understandable (and can count the votes so that the end of night count can be read off the reader).

            Note that this step was what was missing from the problematic Florida ballots. No one ever verified that the vote was being read properly before the voter left. If they had, they would have caught both problems: votes t
            • You missed a step. After the paper ballot is printed, put it in whatever will be reading the ballot and verify that it is reading it the way that you expect. This ensures that the vote is understandable (and can count the votes so that the end of night count can be read off the reader).

              That's a reasonable thing to do, but it's not necessary. The authoritative version of the data is the human-readable portion of the printed ballot, so in that sense "whatever will be reading the ballot" *does* verify that

              • "The authoritative version of the data is the human-readable portion of the printed ballot, so in that sense "whatever will be reading the ballot" *does* verify that it reads the way it should.."

                That doesn't guarantee that the official reader will read the ballot in the same way as the voter did. For example, the hanging chad issue was one where the voter thought the vote was going to be recorded in a certain way, but the actual vote was discarded as unreadable. "Human readable" is very vague. The main
                • "Human readable" is very vague.

                  Sorry, I should have been more explicit.

                  What I meant by "human readable" is something like the following, printed in an easy-to-read font on the ballot:

                  Votes:
                  US President: Michael Badnarik (Libertarian)
                  US Senate: Gary R. Van Horn (Constitution)
                  US Cong. Dist. 1: Charles Johnston (Constitution)

                  There's no way for anyone to confuse the meaning of that.

      • And I'll add one often overlooked:

        It was hard for some older folks to simply pull the lever.

      • I agree on the in general except on the time issue. We just had an election, entirely paper. The polls closed at 6pm and it was evident who had won by 8pm.

        So what if it took a week, it's not like anyone is advocating Citizen's Initiated Referenda where you could vote as often as monthly?

        When there are institutional problems in the system like grey money or low voter turnout, complaining that the most accountable process is expensive and time consuming is very irresponsible for both the citizens and poli

      • Here's a thought...
        Why don't we enact legislation to pay 5 year olds in Asian sweatshops to to make new voting machines for us.

        Secondly, one thing I don't think we need is instantaneous vote tallies. It's already bad enough that the press can sway election result by reporting on the east coast evening news that so and so candidate is winning the election while polling places on the west coast still have 3-4 hours of voting time left. I think this could be a real issue if the press can base their predicti
      • The numbers on the counters are manually recorded, then manually transferred to a central registrar. That's two places with human intervention, and opportunity for error or, more remotely, fraud

        Amazing -- 'cause that's how we count ballots in Nova Scotia. I would never trust a machine to do a count. [votescam.com] How we get around human intervention/error/fraud at the count:

        There are at least four witnesses to the counting: the deputy returning officer and the poll clerk, who are nominated by the two leading parties, a

    • by Anonymous Coward
      People want an instant result. Also, the IT industry has managed to convince the world that machines, unlike people, never make mistakes so an electronic vote tabulator would be more accurate.
    • Who needs a lever-operated machine when pencils are available? (I've been told before that US elections often involve casting about 20 ballots at once for everything from municipal dog-catcher to President, but I don't see how hole-punches make counting easier or quicker than with pencils).
    • Trust to mechanical (or electrical) things always involves trust of the person behind it. There is nothing wrong with your system, except that it might be possible for it to break down during an election without the operator (voters) knowing it.

      Maintainence on these machines must be certified, etc.

      Pen and paper (drawing an X in the appropriate square) have worked for years, but again trust is given to the people tallying the votes.

      Your system to me sounds like a better solution then the touch screens. M
    • by Martin Blank (154261) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @10:16AM (#10513839) Journal
      I can give you some reasons. They're not necessarily good reasons, but they are reasons used.

      1. Virtual elimination of mechanical breakdown. This can be an issue with some of the older equipment. It doesn't address the electronic systems breaking down or crashing, though.

      2. Rapid collection of stats. This has less to do with anything useful and more to do with people getting impatient. In most cases, the results are pretty obvious within hours of the polls closing. In other cases, we get a little tension for a few days as things come down to the wire. (In still other cases, we get a lot of political infighting for the next four years.)

      3. Standardization of interfaces. I've only seen one e-voting system, so I'm not entirely sure how possible this is, but it seems to me at least theoretically possible that the presented screen can be relatively standardized across a state, at least in terms of basic layout (since county- and city-specific issues will be different, of course).

      Personally, I miss the lever system that I used for about ten years. The 'ka-chunk' feeling of the ballot being marked seemed to give a tactile and auditory sensation to the emotional satisfaction of having expressed my opinion.
      • Tick the box next to your favourite candidate voting which is hand counted & hand scrutineered.

        The trouble with the Yanks is they vote on a work day which means there isn't the availability of thousands apon thousands of volunteer scrutineers from the political parties to stand over hand counters' shoulders & watch them count.

        I myself has said many times that simple, keep it stupid 'tick the box' paper ballots are best, but that's too simple & easy for those who like to wank off with unnecessa
        • Why they don't change to voting on a saturday like most people? Who knows?

          The most common fight against putting it on the weekend comes from religion. Christians argue against putting it on Sunday because that's their holy day. Jews argue against putting it on a Saturday because that's their holy day. Businesses complain about making the day a national holiday (my preference), even though there's no requirement that any company gives a particular holiday off. Companies in some states are required to g
    • by abb3w (696381) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @10:19AM (#10513867) Journal
      Would somebody please tell me what exactly is wrong with the lever operated mechanical machines still largely used in my state (New York)?

      My current state doesn't use them. I used to live in NY, so I'm familiar with those machines. They were excellent. A trivial update of the design could allow electronic reading of mechanical vote tallies, if anyone cared to, while still keeping the old "seal" method for recounts. They are substantially better than the punchcard methods (used locally prior to last years touch screen purchase) or the electronic scams^H^H^H^H^Hschemes being suggested (and currenlty in use locally).

      And I would say they are MORE effective than the touch screens for preventing overvoting. They give tactile feedback; you try it, and you realize the lever can't move.

      • I was trained as a poll worker in NYC a few years ago (I was a student at the time, and had nothing better to do with a random Tuesday), but let me tell you, after going through the process, I have way less faith in the lever machines than I did as an innocent yet ignorant voter.

        First off, as people pointed out above, the numbers are manually tallied at the end of the evening. The poll workers use a key to unlock the machine, and little windows appear with the individual tallies. These tallies are transc
        • This illustrates one of the most important things for fixing the election process.

          I'm an appointed poll officer again this November. As site supervisor, I get information on the primary voting records of the other workers at the site. This is regrettable, in that it intrudes on their privacy to tell me this information, but it's done so, in cases where voter assistance is needed, I can make sure two workers from opposite partys are assisting the disabled voter.
          Right now, whenever, a volunteer can't mak
    • by Zeveck (821824) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @10:25AM (#10513921)
      The advantage is not to the voters, but to the company supplying the new systems. There is a ridiculous amount of money to be made by reoutfitting the entire United States with new voting technologies.

      Hell...look at Diebold. They made their voting machines without a confirmable printout. Why? Just about everything else they make (from ATMs to cash registers) has a confirmable printout. But hey...look at that...now they can get paid AGAIN to go "upgrade" all the faulty machines they've already deployed. And then they can get paid again to fix the "bugs" in the machines.

      Even if that is a little too cynical for you, the fact remains that the companies bringing out the voting machines are making a lot of money.

      It is up to those companies to convince the public that they need and want new voting machines. It doesn't matter whether the existing technology works - they'll focus on its flaws and potential abuses and tote their shiny new products as if they are sleek and bugfree.

      Create a sense of fear and then offer a remedy that appears to address it. Works in business. Works in politics. Works in just about anything really.
    • I agree 100%. It seems that most of the responses to your post deal with nothing more than convenience in the form of quicker tabulation, quicker stats, etc. Where is it written that we have to have results instantly? Who is mandating that the results must be available within minutes or hours? We have become so reliant on instant feedback that anything less seems absurd. Maybe it's time to step back from the wiz-bang world of high-technology and develop a voting system that really works. So what if "the bes
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Mechanical/lever machines are associated with the Kennedy voting fiasco in the 1960 race between Nixon and Kennedy.

      Simplifying greatly, the people who tabulated the votes from the lever-operated machines were pro-Kennedy. Vote tabulation was done by opening the machine up, and reading numbers off a little odometer-style readout. When the numbers were written down, the Kennedy numbers were written as higher than the machine recorded, and the Nixon numbers as lower.

      However, the Democrats weren't the only
    • Lever? Hell, Canada has done just fine with a friggin' X on a paper ballot, thanks.
    • I live in a backward county that still uses paper and pencil ballots. When I watch the news on election night, our precincts have a greater percentage of the people voting than other parts of the area, and our results are always in promptly.

      I can see on my ballot exactly where I marked. They use ebony pencils, which do not erase gracefully, so a poll employee would have to work hard to even have a potential of erasing and revoting my ballot. (If a voter does make an error, they can go to a poll worker to

    • They can, and have been, rigged. I've heard stories about people intentionally jamming selected gears to reduce the vote count for the opposition. Any machine can be rigged given enough time, money and motivation. Seals can be removed and replaced. Counters can be misread. Independent observers can be bribed, intimidated, or physically kept out of the area where the fraud is being perpetrated.
    • How bout this (All this is pedicated on the E-voting stuff to be handled correctly)

      - Verification of ballot - no invalid ballots
      - Context sensitive help, less confusion
      - Possibility of more advance voting methods (condorcet, IRV, etc)
    • Would somebody please tell me what exactly is wrong with the lever operated mechanical machines still largely used in my state (New York)?

      Well, for one, I won't be able to win by a landslide by promising to empty the entire US treasury into the bank accouts of the employees, investors and the families of the people involved with e-voting machines.
    • Well, err, because they have *exactly the same problems as touchscreen machines*???

      There's no paper trail; in spite of what you say there's no easy way to determine whether multiple votes have been cast by the same person or by a poll worker; and there's no really easy way to verify that the mechanical system hasn't been hacked either (in case you're wondering, the insides of these things are incredibly arcanely complex).

      Also, they aren't nearly as flexible, accessible to people with disabilities or who

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Simply mark and remove a finger joint from each voter at the polls and after approximately 28 votes, you get a free pair of mittens.
  • by Frequanaut (135988) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @10:07AM (#10513734)
    It's the people who hate democracy:

    See here for more [dkosopedia.com]

    And yes, I know it's a partisan site, but it's just collecting news stories, look past the commentary.

  • Recounts? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FatherKabral (819599) * on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @10:08AM (#10513748)
    Has anyone forgotten what happened in Florida? Granted that recount was a great big cluster, but what happens if the data is lost? No paper copy means no recount...everyone would have to vote again, and that could mean changed votes, fewer votes, etc. If it ain't broke......
    • No, it doesn't mean they have to vote again. It means it goes through just as it is. Hence the reason the Supreme Court told Florida to stop the recount - they had to get on with things before January Something-Or-Other for when the Electoral College met and voted for the President. In essence, it comes down to "if you're not ready, tough titty". I don't like it, but that's the way they went with it.

      Of course, I could be wrong in my assessment, so if I've piqued your interest enough, perhaps you could
      • Re:Recounts? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by abb3w (696381)
        they had to get on with things before January Something-Or-Other for when the Electoral College met and voted for the President.

        Or, alternately, fail to certify the vote count, and not send ANY electors. Which would have caused a far bigger stink.

      • Actually, I don't think the Supreme Court had jurisdiction over that case. States decide their electors according to the rules and laws and whims of each state. For the federal government to adjudicate on those rules is antipathetic to the federal principle, and to the Constitution.
        • Re:Recounts? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by DigitalRaptor (815681)
          No, the Supreme Court didn't have jurisdiction. They were relied upon because Bush knew they would side with him.

          There are specific federal laws governing elections, and more specifically the couting of military ballots. The law is, if they aren't in by a certain date, they aren't counted.

          Bush and his people (namely his brother and Kathleen Harris) broke federal election laws and counted all military ballots, regardless of when they came in, to the tune of a +800 gain for Bush, pushing him over by 576 v

    • Another way to get around saying "cluster f**k" in polite company is to call it a "Charlie Foxtrot". Ex-military will probably recognize the term and most civilians will assume Charlie is a person. :-)

      /yup, off-topic
  • by raitchison (734047) <robert@aitchison.org> on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @10:11AM (#10513790) Homepage Journal

    Even if the worst FUD claims of the anti electronic voting crowd are true electronic voting is no more vulnerable to tampering than paper ballot voting. Where ballots can (and are) lost (or "lost") and there are dozens of opportunities for workers to mess with or change things.

    I've voted touchscreen twice and it was great, I got to vote in advance of election day (when it was convenient for me). Though there was a LOT of pressing "next page" for the CA Recall election to sort through the >100 candidates. :)

    Like any new system it will no doubt have it's own issues that will need to be worked out. That's the price for progress.

    What I'm waiting for is the opportunity to vote online.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Yes, let's replace something that's comparitively cheap and simple with something that's expensive and complex.

      That's always a recipe for success.
      • Really not meant to be flamebait but:

        The horse and buggy were cheap and simple compared to early automobiles.

        Pencil, paper & a sliderule were certianly cheap and simple compared to the first computers.

        Newer is certianly not always better but it's most definitely not always worse.

    • I think what we have here in our county is a nice system. It's similar to a scantron test. you color in your choices, and when you are done, it is fed in. If there is a problem, it spits it back out. At the end of the day, it prints out a total. The judges count the number of ballots to make sure it matches the number of ballots entered. If nothing is out of line, it only takes 30 minutes or so for them to balance at the end of the day, and then take the results in. It cut down the balancing time by nearly
    • by truthsearch (249536) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @10:32AM (#10513972) Homepage Journal
      Even if the worst FUD claims of the anti electronic voting crowd are true electronic voting is no more vulnerable to tampering than paper ballot voting.

      Wrong. In most states there are multiple eyes on every ballot from the moment they're taken out of the box until they're counted and sealed. An all-electronic vote is not usually reviewed by multiple people. That's why in test runs thousands of fake extra votes are able to be counted. If every electronic vote was scrutinized the same as paper then they'd be roughly equally vulnerable, but they're not and probably never will be.
    • by pavon (30274) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @10:40AM (#10514057)
      Even if the worst FUD claims of the anti electronic voting crowd are true electronic voting is no more vulnerable to tampering than paper ballot voting.

      That is simply not true. With paper ballot voting the only people who can tamper with the ballots are the election officials, and members of all interested parties, observe the voting and tallying process. With some of these poorly implemented systems, anyone with internet access or access to the voting machine (any voter) could potentially hack and tamper with the voting results. This is not a theoretical concern either - there are proven vulnerabilities with these systems.

      The lesser reason why your statement is incorrect is that with paper ballots, if fraud is suspected, you can at least go back and do some post mortem analysis of the election - recount the existing ballots, make sure that the number of people who signed in at a voting location is consistent with the number of existing ballots. With most of these electronic voting systems this is currently not an option (although it could be).

      These complaints are not FUD, by any stretch of the imagination.
    • "I've voted touchscreen twice and it was great, "

      Playing devils advocate: I could write an easter egg into the software, so that when I come along to the voting booth, I tap my finger on the screen in a few special unmarked places, and that machine then favours my chosen candidate.

      Tell a few of my friends and we could easily do that with all the machines in a swing state.

      The pre-checks wouldn't pick it up, the random machines taken out for testing wouldn't show the problem (because I wouldn't be activati
      • This makes the IMO unreasonable assumption that a single individual writes code for the machines without any checks or oversight by at least one other person, and that the malicious coder is willing to become a fugitive or go to jail when (not if) the easter egg is discovered.

        The same type of scenario applied to paper ballots would have one person drive the ballots from the polling place with no escort or other checks where they could easily drop one of the boxes in a dumpster on the way if they know the

        • This makes the IMO unreasonable assumption that a single individual writes code for the machines without any checks or oversight by at least one other person, and that the malicious coder is willing to become a fugitive or go to jail when (not if) the easter egg is discovered.

          Not really, it makes the assumption that after the code is written by many individuals, there is a single individual with the power to alter it. I think this assumption is fairly reasonable. Sure, this individual is probably not a re
        • (Copy of my anon posting, now that Slashdot login is working again).

          "This makes the IMO unreasonable assumption that a single individual writes code for the machines without any checks or oversight by at least one other person, and that the malicious coder is willing to become a fugitive or go to jail when (not if) the easter egg is discovered"

          It surely takes only a single coder to code such an easter egg. To get it past code review *may* take another. So we're talking about a tiny conspiracy required to
    • Even if the worst FUD claims of the anti electronic voting crowd are true electronic voting is no more vulnerable to tampering than paper ballot voting.


      There's at least one significant difference.

      Fraud with paper ballots involves much larger numbers of people.

      A single hacker could theoretically change every vote.

      -- should you believe authority without question?
    • the folks at blackbox voting did this with one of the major systems. i can't remember if it was ES&S, Sequoia, or Diebold, but i do remember vividly that they changed the outcome of an election with a 5-line piece of VBScript.

      at least with paper ballots it took actual human hands to change each vote individually. now it's a script-kiddie job.
    • Where ballots can (and are) lost (or "lost") and there are dozens of opportunities for workers to mess with or change things.

      This is FUD. A paper count can at least be opened to the public and watched by whoever wants to see. There is no way to witness what goes on inside a sillycon chip.

      I could never trust an "election" counted by machines. (Hard enough to trust people; but a black box spitting out Walden-"committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President"-O'Dell-alone-knows-what? I'

    • electronic voting is no more vulnerable to tampering than paper ballot voting

      Please explain to me in detail how one person, exerting no more effort than is necessary to write a line or two of code, could alter several thousand (or million!) paper ballots at once.
  • What's your assessment of the risks related to the use of electronic voting machines

    The risks come not from electronicness or mechanization, but from the people who design evil systems and implement them in the name of democracy.

  • Vote From Home (Score:5, Insightful)

    by clinko (232501) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @10:17AM (#10513849) Homepage Journal
    Voting from a PC at home is a bad idea because it unfairly gives people with money a chance to vote easier than without.

    I guess this is obvious, but had to be said.
    • No it didn't have to be said. The same could be argued, then, of people who have cars, or of people who can read/write, or a host of other conditions that you would argue that make it "easier" for one group to vote.

      That said, voting from home is a TERRIBLE idea because of all the insecure points between a home PC and the vote database.
      • The same could be argued, then, of people who have cars, or of people who can read/write, or a host of other conditions that you would argue that make it "easier" for one group to vote

        That wouldn't be a valid argument, to say the problem is systemic so why shouldn't we exacerbate it. Sheesh.
    • That's silly. Making it easier for some group of people to vote while leaving the status quo for the rest is not at all unfair. Now, if the proliferation of online voting caused there to be fewer physical polling locations such that some voters became disenfranchised, then sure, I'm with you. But adding an extra way of doing something that makes it easier for one group while not detracting from any other groups sounds like a great idea.

      Having said that, I wouldn't trust a voting system that was availab
  • Scrutineering (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lpontiac (173839) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @10:32AM (#10513977)

    Any layman can look over the shoulder of anybody doing anything with the current system, and know at a glance whether the work is being performed correctly.

    I have a degree in computer science, and I can't look at an electronic voting system and see that it is working in the correct manner.

    This is why I don't think electronic voting systems can ever replace a manual system.

    • So maybe instead of having people check how people are handling the votes, we should have programs checking how programs handle the vote. Instead of having your vote recorded by one program on one machine, have it recorded by 3 programs on 3 machines, all written by different companies / OSS or whatever. If they don't match up, then you have a problem.
    • Re:Scrutineering (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mefus (34481)
      That's true: the secrecy of the ballot has been extended to cover the tallying mechanism. Disaster.

      That being said, if the system were open source and included some kind of hashing mechanism to verify the binary is a product of the certified code, and the certification rules for the hardware were more strictly obeyed, evoting could be plausible.

      None of this is possible with Diebold, or ES&S, or whatever.

      • Open source is not the fix here. What if they replace the *entire* system with another binary that produces the same hash?

        The problem is that these systems aren't auditable because there is no voter verified record. To fix this, you add a voter verified record (i.e. print out the ballot). If you have this record, you don't need to verify the machine. The record is sufficient.
        • What if they replace the *entire* system with another binary that produces the same hash?


          I'm not arguing your other points here, but that is orders of magnitude harder than what's currently available, and virtually impossible in a validated system if validation is done correctly.
  • by Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @10:33AM (#10513984)
    Our county uses optical scan ballots, and they work fine. They are fast to count. There is a physical backup that can be hand counted if need be. They require no fancy equipment and the polling place. And, if you can't figure out how to mark them correctly, you really are too stupid to have your vote counted.

    I am totally at a loss to understand this rush to some sort of electronic voting. I regard voting as the one, true sacrament of citizenship. I have no problem with it taking a little bit of time. After lying to pollsters for months, the ritual of going into the booth and casting my secret ballot is very satisfying.

    Remember, voters are citizens; all others are residents.
    • Interesting tag. I could say that "taxpayers are citizens; all others are residents" and be equally as clever and as wrong as you are.

      Voting gives you nothing over the rest of society. It gives YOU peace of mind that you were involved in your own way. I may choose to get my peace of mind by not voting. Neither of us gets a citizen "promotion" for our act. Your statment implies that you are entitled to something and I am not. I'm no constitutional expert so I'll let you tell me where it says that your
      • neonfrog wrote a fairly long and heartfelt piece taking issue with my tagline, "Voters are citizens; all others are residents."

        neon, you wrote that the implication is that voting somehow makes me better than non-voters or gives me some enhanced status in society. I don't see it that way at all. I see citizenship as a series of obligations; a social contract. I see voting as an obligation that is part of good citizenship.

        If you see no difference in the Presidential candidates, and none are to your
        • As you say. You consider it a personal responsibility.

          As a citizen I only have one obligation -- obey the law. There is no law that says I am obligated to vote.

          I get your point about a "social contract." It is an unwritten thing. I am saying that I am fulfilling that unwritten obligation by NOT voting because of all the things that action says. I am allowed (and obligated in your social contract) to take the action at voting time that I feel has the most meaning (or whatever my qualifiers are). Not v
  • The touch-screen system do sound more convenient, however they lead to some major questions and issues that would need to be resolved. Namely the following -

    What type of fail-safes does the touch-screen system have in case of system failure (i.e. Hard drive dies, power goes out, ect) in which you can quickly recover from something unexpected happening? My understanding is that the touch-screens in the booths feed the data into a central computer that tabulates the results, so what if something happens t
  • In Alaska (Score:3, Informative)

    by RealAlaskan (576404) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @10:44AM (#10514094) Homepage Journal
    In Alaska, we vote on bubble sheets. Fill in the oval next to the candidate you want (or dislike least). A machine reads the ballots and counts the votes, giving the instant, error-free [1] readout everyone says they want, and the bubblesheets are still there, to be audited at leisure. It seems like the best of both worlds.

    It should be error-free, but, in our local election last week, the machines somehow managed to count 11 more ballots than were cast. That's where the paper ballots come in: they're human readable, and humans are auditing and handcounting them right now.

  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @10:46AM (#10514116) Homepage Journal
    the new electronic voting system developed by David Chaum? No? If you're reading /. no wonder! Stories of ontopic interest are rarely posted.

    Here's the link [business2.com] to the Business 2.0 article talking about his new system which he claims is "the first electronic mechanism that ensures both integrity and privacy."

    • Any system that allows you to verify your vote allows you to verify to a third party that you voted in a certain way. That is inherently bad, as it allows vote selling.

      We don't need a complicated eVoting system. We need a system that has the voter verify that the vote counter is counting the vote correctly prior to storing the vote. That was the only problem in the Florida election: people thought that their votes were being cast in a different way than they actually were. Simply putting the ballot th
  • Diebold, [cosmiciguana.com] Diebold, [theage.com.au] and Diebold [commondreams.org]
  • Ahh, my old arch-enemy and perfect foil: Websense. Online forums are filtered here. Grrr!!!
    • The New York City Council [nyccouncil.info] has a Government Operations Committee hearing scheduled for Tuesday, 10/26/04 (two weeks from yesterday) on HAVA oversight. The Help America Vote Act was passed after the 2000 Florida election travesty, funding states to upgrade their voting equipment, registration procedures and pollworker training. This unprecedented handout of Federal money (every American taxpayer's money) to states is creating public hearings in practically every state, and most big cities, about electronic vo
  • by justanyone (308934) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @11:43AM (#10514526) Homepage Journal

    Many other nations make Election day a holiday. We should have election day as a Work & School holiday.It would solve problems:
    • with too-few people voting since there's far more time to do it and less hassle;
    • evening news coverage couldn't influence the election since most people would have voted by then;
    • It would reinforce the idea that democracy requires attention and is important;
    • people attempting to vote at the wrong precinct would have time to get to the right one;
    • More professionals could volunteer to work at polling stations, which would speed vote counting and allow for disabled people to be assisted by people of both parties;
    • We would get another vacation day;
    • A better-educated cross section of college students and "slacker-class" (Jon Stewart's term) would vote since the ones too drunk from "no-class-tommorrow" syndrome would have too big a hangover to vote, while the nerdier non-drinkers would vote more reliably.
      • These comprise a very valuable argument:
      • Make Election Day a Work/School Holiday !
  • Validation (Score:2, Insightful)

    by homeslice3 (208776)
    I think the best solution to the electronic trail is to simply have your e-voting machines two things:

    When you're done voting, the record is added to the database. And the computer spits out two copies of the voting record:

    One copy goes to the voter, with an outline of how he/she voted.

    Another stays with the computer and is used to verify the e-voting tallies if neccessary.

    Both printouts are bar coded and have a user/id pin combo that the voter can, after the election verify that his/her vote has been
  • Do both. Have a machine which generates two slips. One to have and one to share (put in a locked vote box). Make the slips have each recorded vote as well as a barcode. The barcode just represents the entry into the database.

    The machine registers the vote electronically. The paper slips allow vote checkers to bring up each record without having to sort through the paper slips. (Just scan the barcode.) The printed paper receipt allows a visual check of the vote against what is recorded in the databas

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