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E-Voting Glitch Alters Election Outcome 139

Posted by michael
from the you-never-know dept.
An anonymous reader writes "According to a local news source, 'A recently found computer glitch in the voting machines in Franklin County, Indiana has given a Democrat enough votes to bump a Republican from victory in a County Commissioner's race.' Any ideas on how we can check for similar problems in other close elections?"
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E-Voting Glitch Alters Election Outcome

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  • It's nice to see that they're able to recount there, but it would be nice with an article about it that was longer than the /. summary.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:20PM (#10833645)
    hack diebold:

    while (republican == winner) do
    demvotes := demvotes + 1
    repeat until (lawsuits stop OR
    democrat(VictoryStatus) == true

    Apply routine to all voting machines to achieve desired results.
    • My desired result is that the voting machines accurately record and tally the votes as the voters intended. Your code doesn't do that.

      I'd like to see their code to make sure that it does just that.
    • by MarkusQ (450076) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @03:42PM (#10834859) Journal

      It isn't about red team vs. blue team, or sore losers, "desired results" or any of the other nonsense that is being thrown about to cloud the issue. I happen to be a republican, but I'm adamant about wanting this looked into. Why? Because honest matters more to me than "winning."

      The way I was raised, if you cheated you didn't win, no matter what the score board says.

      I have yet to hear a rational reason why anyone should oppose doing whatever it takes to make sure elections are fair, unless they are either cheaters or suspect that their side cheated and value victory more than integrity. What bothers me is that there are so many people in both parties that seem to fall into the later category.

      -- MarkusQ

      • by davidwr (791652)
        It's essential that the process be trustworthy.

        Not having a trustworthy election is how revolutions get started.
      • I find it funny that they only talk about Democrat shorts by electronic voting. No mention of Republican. No mention that there is possiblities that in the inner cities some democrats voted more than once. We need a stronger system to insure each U.S. Citizens gets one, and only one vote. Although, any attempt to do so will be met with accusations of racism voter suppresion, etc. The fact is that we don't know how many of those votes are really legal votes.
        • No mention that there is possiblities that in the inner cities some democrats voted more than once.

          Coz this would never happen in the suburbs.

          We need a stronger system to insure each U.S. Citizens gets one, and only one vote. Although, any attempt to do so will be met with accusations of racism voter suppresion, etc.

          Only if it is obvious that your goal is to go to inner cities and scare people away from voting machines. What's more important? counting every vote? Or scaring people because you're afrai

  • by Froze (398171) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:23PM (#10833705) Homepage
    Paper trail!
    • yea because at least paper trails are not curreuptable and 100% accurate at all times.

      It is strange to me that Slashdot of all places prefers a dead tree format to a technical one. Both are going to be able to be fixed. Both sides of the big government federlist party will sway it pretty much evenly so we still have a mostly fair election.

      • Let me rephrase then.

        What we need is some form of write only media that can be cached for later verification. Paper is just the most redily available form that I know of, not to mention that it is already widely accepted.
        • What we need is some form of write only media...

          That's all well and good, but what if we actually want to read the election results?

        • What we need is some form of write only media that can be cached for later verification. Paper is just the most redily available form that I know of, not to mention that it is already widely accepted.

          Close but what we really need is some form of write only media that can both be cached for later verification and can be verified as correct by the voter at the time of the vote.

          You probably intended this meaning but I felt it was better to make it explicit, write-only doesn't help you at all if it's the wro
  • The voting software itself may be fine, but the instructions given it by the person in charge may be wrong. Don't forget to investigate the person, not just the machines.
  • by kherr (602366) <kevin AT puppethead DOT com> on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:24PM (#10833726) Homepage
    I don't think these electronic voting machine problems should be characterized as trivial "glitches". They are complete failures of the software, since the whole purpose of these machines is to accurately count votes. Would losing a few hundred database records at your company be considered a glitch?

    By referring to these problems as glitches, the media are downplaying the severity of the problem. Regardless of the candidates, if voting can not be reliable and verifiable people lose trust in the process and the outcomes will always be questioned. We either want democracy in the United States or we do not. But using technology that fails in its basic function should not be acceptable.
    • Please define the basic function of an OS. Then point out an OS that is capable of performing that function without suffering from "glitches".

      I'm actually on your side, but software fails. I know it sounds simple enough to count votes, but you need a communication layer, customizable forms, user input, authentication, storage system, graphic interface, etc. It's much more than iterating through a collection and incrementing totals.
      • Well it would be interesting to find out what the glitch was. If it was a communiction to the mainframe glitch where the votes wern't lost, just not sent, I could see that as reasonable, maybe. But if a machine "glitched" in its couting of the votes, which should have gotten serious rigor, thats unacceptable really.
        • Yeah, but to find that out you'd have to *gasp* RTFA.

          "The glitch in the machines recorded straight Democratic Party votes for Libertarians."

          Come on people, it's not even a long one!

        • What if it was a simple database issue. The mainframe database said if field 5 was a 5 then Libertarians but the version on the machine said Democratic. There are several simply but stupid ways to for something like this to happen the fact is the proble was found and fix. The real question is are the items that weren't found and fixed.
        • Almost certainly a configuration problem, i.e. human error. The person setting up the election system must configure the system with the right settings, so that the votes are accumulated in the correct places. If he screws up and puts in the wrong party code, votes will be recorded for the wrong candidate, or not at all.

          I've seen it happen. In fact, my first job was working on an election system (punchcards and a 1970's era Data General Nova II with magnetic core memory and little toggle switches on th

    • You're exactly right.

      How in the hell hard is it to write software that counts votes? I mean, sure, it's a distributed app and all. But fscking distributed.net wrote an app that uses thousands of unreliable machines to crack encryption for crists sake! This really shouldn't be too difficult by comparison!

      Unless, of course, there's a lot more that I'm just not thinking of? Sure, it's not *trivial*, but it should be going a lot better than it is.
    • It is a glitch maybe not a trivial one but it is a glitch. Why because they were able to get the real number just the automated systems the broke down. There was a way to recount the votes and figure out what they were supose to be. Grated I think there is room for failure in the system but in this case they were able to do a recount and fix the problem. So it can't be called a failure. An if you think the old system didn't make mistakes I have some news for you. I still agree that a paper trail is im
    • by Flexagon (740643) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @04:26PM (#10835558)

      They are complete failures of the software, ...

      These are system failures. The entire workflow and resulting system design is plagued with deficiencies that many have reported. The software is only a tiny part of the problem. And, while e-voting greatly increases the number of potential failure points (many of which aren't software related), it's not just about e-voting. We have moved more rapidly to e-voting because of an equally bad paper-based design (punched cards with poor visual layout), but an election can also turn on something as seemingly trivial as washable thumb-print ink in Afghanistan [cnn.com]. In every one of these cases, the state of the art at the time was much better than the poor systems that many people actually got. The major problem as I see it, at least in the US, is lack of pressure from vigilant voters on decision makers who should know better.


      • The major problem as I see it, at least in the US, is lack of pressure from vigilant voters on decision makers who should know better
        But the guy on TV said it was all OK. Those people complaining about the voting machines are just sore losers. At least, that's what I think he said. It was the guy that does the news right before the show with the girl who swears a lot.

        -- Joe Average

    • I don't think these electronic voting machine problems should be characterized as trivial "glitches". They are complete failures of the software, since the whole purpose of these machines is to accurately count votes. Would losing a few hundred database records at your company be considered a glitch?

      To put a finer point on it, what would you call an "error" in banking software that systematically deposited money into the wrong persons account? A glitch? Or what about a spyware program that consistentl

  • You have to love the ability to recount. No matter who wins, I want the election to be FAIR. You can only assure this with a paper trail for a re-count.

    Some areas use only computerized systems, and how do you recount when you have a recording media failure?
  • by Beatbyte (163694) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:31PM (#10833823) Homepage
    Remember that human volunteers have a high chance at screwing up also. Most of the volunteers in my area are over 60 years old (yes I live in Florida... LOL) and had huge glasses and were kinda crazy... like remember Will Ferrell as Harry Caray on SNL? yeah anyways..

    of course there were a high percentage of the voters that were like that too...

    Anyways, the best perfected machine (read most accurate) for counting votes should be the one we use. It should be the 99.9% accurate reflection what the votes were.

    So what I say is, how can we tell these closed source systems work to 99.9% accuracy? Oh we can't.
    So we're just supposed to close our eyes and trust the outcome we see on TV? Oh we are... hmm ok.

    Makes me feel all tingly inside!
    • I live in northeast Illinois and I think I got the same exact volunteers as you....
    • I'd like much better accuracy than 99.9%. Getting one vote in every thousand wrong (0.1%) can easily alter a close election. The standard for a tabulator should be a 100% accurate reflection of the input. Of course, you also need to make sure that the input mechanism (i.e., pen on paper, punched out card, touchscreen, etc.) is unambiguous and easy to use.
    • Anyways, the best perfected machine (read most accurate) for counting votes should be the one we use. It should be the 99.9% accurate reflection what the votes were.

      The concern is less with the accuracy of any given technology, than with the ability to confirm that accuracy.

      Paper ballots can be recounted. Or more importantly, you can see them being recounted and confirm that it was done right.

      I really can't think that designing a software package to count up votes should be very difficult. It's certainl
      • how is it going to be different the SECOND time humans count the votes?
      • Why then have there been so many boneheaded problems? These machines should have worked perfectly the first time out.

        A possible hint: All three major voting machine companies are well into the cheap labor movement, and use recent graduates from third world countries for programming. It's possible that they simply haven't got the experience necessary for the job.
      • Well asuming that a regular touch screen system is goign to write the votes to a data base index or somethign simular, then woulnd't a log file be the equivilent? i mean if you can produce a log of when the votes were cast and who they were for (when addes to the tables) you can see somethign suspect as well as recount the votes seperatly from the actuall tabulation. It would require either printing the log out and manualy counting them or running another program to analize it.

        There might be somethign just
    • Remember that human volunteers have a high chance at screwing up also

      When humans screw up they tend to do it randomly, and therefore not affect the outcome. When computers screw up they tend to do it non-randomly, as in this case where staight party votes for dems went to libertarians instead consistently.

      Add to this that a paper trail can be rechecked as many times as is required to ensure its accurate. Certainly if the difference is a single vote out of 100,000, then the human error in vote counting

    • "Remember that human volunteers have a high chance at screwing up also"

      Yes, but only by making honest mistakes. Not in a systematic and/or massive way.
    • Human volunteers do NOT have a comparatively high chance to screw up. Both parties send observers. You couldn't get anything by them if you TRIED. Multiple people watching each ballot and the mounting count do not screw up. Saying "anything else is just as bad" when it comes to flaky e-voting is both blind and stupid. Losing significant numbers of votes is NOT ACCEPTABLE AND WE CAN DO BETTER. Period.
    • most of us are screaming "give us a verifiable paper trail along with the source code and procedures you used to develop this otherwise 'black box' technology." or something like that. no one wants paper ballots -- we know technology CAN work. state lotteries have had secure, anonymous, electronic systems have been used for years. ATMs, on the other hand, are just heavily insured (diebold is a manufacturer of windows CE based ATMs and voting machines).

      i really don't think the opinions on this are tha
    • Remember that human volunteers have a high chance at screwing up also.

      Not if you do it right.

      Separate ballots into stacks. Have three different people with differing political biases count each stack. When all three people agree on the totals for that stack, you're done.

      You're not going to find higher accuracy in machines.

      If all the sub-totals are published all the way up the line, the ballot-counters can confirm that they match what they counted. They can also confirm that the summing of all th

  • Easy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:39PM (#10833950) Homepage Journal
    In any county where there is a close race, check the laws on recount and find enough people to insist upon a recount. Should be done countrywide at this point, given the problems we've seen.

    Why the whole freakin' country can't just go to a proven system like Oregon's mail in ballots checked by scantron is beyond me. If it's good enough technology for SAT tests, it's damned well good enough technology for elections.
    • Not to mention that in Oregon, I don't have to spend my lunch waiting in line to vote, I drop my ballot off in the mail a week before the election, or, if I don't have time, I just swing buy a county office or library and drop it off in one of the big, flag-painted mailboxes. That way I don't have to pay postage!
      • AND to top it off, we only had one ballot measure with any contraversy over the vote at all- and that's because it was so poorly worded that nobody could figure out how to vote on it. Never did find out- did 35 pass or fail (it was within 500 votes either way two days after the election, depending on the newspaper you read or the TV station website you hit).
    • I've had the privilege of voting in Oregon now several times, and I gotta say vote by mail rocks. I get to look over the ballot carefully, weigh pro and cons, check for more information online or from the media, take as long as I damn well feel like without any pressure...got some tunes on the stereo, a cold beer in one hand, my ballot in the other, sitting on the couch in my livingroom wearing nothing but a pair of boxers. In other states I've lived in not only do you have to go out to the polls, they ma
    • I find it interesting that Oregon is essentially using an absentee only balot when the Democrats seem to be so much against absentee voting.
      Links:
      http://bailiwick.lib.uiowa.edu/politically-speakin g/tidbits/drudge01.htm
      http://www.freerepublic.com/forum/a3a29dfa4171b.ht m
      • Hmm- methinks you probably shouldn't link to Drudge as a source of what Democrats think- or a FreeRepublic writer either. May I suggest getting your information of what Democrats think from a source that is actually Democratic? http://www.airamericaradio.com/ [airamericaradio.com] had all of their talk radio hosts embracing absentee voting as THE solution to Diebold machines. Of course, in many states, absentee voters are basically disenfranchised- the votes aren't counted unless the election is close enough to make a differe
  • by MarkGriz (520778) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @02:45PM (#10834047)
    The glitch in the machines recorded straight Democratic Party votes for Libertarians.

    That's not a bug... it's a feature.
  • My friend sent me this, I only watched like 5 minutes because it seemed like propaganda but take it as its worth.

    Votergate [votergate.tv] - a 30 minute video about the evils of electronic voting. The gist of it was bad computer, bad.

    • It seemed like propaganda? Normally when someone says that, they mean that someone was trying to convince them of something that wasn't true for nefarious purposes. What do you claim wasn't true? And more importantly, what sort of nefarious purposes to you suppose people have for wanting to make sure that elections are fair, or at least not quietly rigged?

      And the point isn't that computers are bad, but that trusting a machine that was programmed by someone you have no reason to trust to do a process t

  • by jezor (51922) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @03:01PM (#10834269) Homepage
    There are a number of voting machine-related challenges on the national level. Ralph Nader has successfully requested a recount in New Hampshire, and groups like BlackBoxVoting [blackboxvoting.org] are working on fraud audits. Also, in Ohio, the Libertarian and Green Party candidates are reportedly [times-standard.com] joining together to demand a recount. There are local challenges going on as well. {Jonathan}

    -------------------
    Prof. Jonathan I. Ezor
    Assistant Professor of Law and Technology
    Director, Institute for Business, Law and Technology (IBLT)
    Touro Law Center
    300 Nassau Road, Huntington, NY 11743
    Tel: 631-421-2244 x412 Fax: 516-977-3001
    e-mail: jezor@tourolaw.edu [mailto]
    BizLawTech Blog: http://iblt.tourolaw.edu/blog [tourolaw.edu]
  • by blahlemon (638963)
    What is a "straight-democratic party vote"?
    • Who modded this Funny?

      A straight party or 'slate' vote is an option on some ballots. Instead of voting for individual candidates, you vote for the entire slate of candidates from one party. So you just vote 'Democrat', or 'Republican', and one vote for each candidate of that party is recorded.

      What happens if you also vote for the candidate independently? It depends on your state Election Code. Just one of the many little legal requirements that election system designers must take into account.

  • I don't believe it was an error. I do believe it was just their bad luck that they got caught, this time, in this one election. I do believe that they didn't get caught, this time, in many other elections.

    The purpose of an election is to collect and count the votes. Anything less than absolute accuracy is, or should be, completely unacceptable. Anything less that total transparency is, or should be, completely unacceptable. The process should produce enough documentatary evidence so that any disputes

    • Then we should thought out the last 6 Elections for certain then. I worked for at the poll in several elections and mistake are common place. We are see them more since 2000 because of all the eyes on the system. But mistakes have happen for years. Can we make a process that is better yes. Was this year better then others. I don't known I have a new job this year and couldn't work the polls. There is no way to be completely correct unless you assign something like a voter ID number to every voter and
    • I've got news for you. There has NEVER been an election in this country that achieved absolute accuracy. And it's unlikely there will ever be one

    • Anything less than absolute accuracy is, or should be, completely unacceptable.
      I agree with all your points save this one. I'm not expecting 100% accuracy, but I am demanding 100% honesty.

      -- MarkusQ

  • by ApharmdB (572578) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @03:49PM (#10834965)
    The text:

    "A recently found computer glitch in the voting machines in Franklin County, Indiana has given a democrat enough votes to bump a republican from victory in a County Commissioner's race.

    The glitch in the machines recorded straight Democratic Party votes for Libertarians.

    The votes were re-counted last night, by hand.

    The company who made the voting machine is also checking into programming of it's equipment in nine other Indiana counties. "
    ---------------

    Doesn't this sound contradictory to everyone? The machine accidentally counted straight democratic ticket votes as libertarian while accidentally giving the democrat enough votes to beat the a republican?

    I realize what it says is that after correcting the glitch the democrat gets enough votes to beat the republican who was previously determined to be the winner, but man that was horrible wording.
    • Odd - I read it as saying that it recorded the votes of libertarian voters as "straight democratic party", thus the glitch bumped the republican from his rightful victory.

      I didn't even realise you could read it the other way as well. Nice work there.

    • I was only able to read it as follows:

      Ballots that were all-democrat were mistakenly tallied for the libertarian party. Fixing this error gave the Democratic candidate enough votes to win the county office over the republican candidate.
    • "Found" should be "fixed", then I believe it says what it's supposed to say.
  • Manual recounts (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Pan T. Hose (707794)
    "Any ideas on how we can check for similar problems in other close elections?"

    Unfortunately, there is no other solution than manual recounts. Not only in "close elections" because how do you differentiate a "far" (not "close") election from a large "glitch"? The only solution is to always do manual recounts--or just always count the ballots manually in the first place, skipping the "e-counting" step altogether.

    The only way to make sure the votes are counted correctly, is to have a group of people represe
    • Ever use a calculator? Do you trust the results? Yes you do, because the accuracy of it's results are well known and trusted.

      In the same way e-voting will become trusted.

      The problem here is that the state's are all using different code sets.. not necessarily a problem if there is a standard spec.. but there is no standard spec as yet.

      Our federal government and other governments should be regulating the voting systems in the same way as they always have.. with standards. Which is what they are working on.
      • Ever use a calculator? Do you trust the results? Yes you do, because the accuracy of it's results are well known and trusted.

        In the same way e-voting will become trusted.

        A calculator is a bad example here. Why? Because there isn't much riding on the correct functioning of a calculator, at least not in any a priori descernable way. There's no motive for anyone to cheat.

        A better example would be a slot machine, where the user is not the owner or manufacturer and all parties have a considerable i

  • The glitch in the machines recorded straight Democratic Party votes for Libertarians.

    This sounds like the core software was fine, only the configuration file for that election was erroneous. No amount of OSS on the platform level can catch the problem of misuse/errors at the election level. Even a paper receipt, scantron, punch card, etc. is no guarantee for forestalling this type of mistake. It's too easy for someone or something to misinterpret a mark on paper or in a computer file because of a mis
  • by yelvington (8169) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @04:18PM (#10835431) Homepage
    A simple search of Google News reveals it was a optical scanner, not a Diebold touchscreen system. Of course, if it had been a Diebold system, we wouldn't have this problem. No one would know the results were screwed, and no recounting would be possible.

    URL:http://www.pal-item.com/apps/pbcs.dll/articl e? AID=/20041116/NEWS01/411160333/1008

    URL:http://www.indystar.com/articles/1/194039-44 21 -098.html

    • Diebold OWNS the company that produce(d) these optical scanners.

      We need non profit & organized voting standards. If corporate america can stand behind ISO standards why can't the federal government do the same?

      If states require the rights to decide individually the votes (and laws) they cast for federal offices i'm not sure we can ever have a trustworthy system in the foreseeable.

      I also believe we should streamline voting and make sure the right is protected and if people vote illegally it is punish
  • Here's the "whole story":

    A recently found computer glitch in the voting machines in Franklin County, Indiana has given a democrat enough votes to bump a republican from victory in a County Commissioner's race.

    The glitch in the machines recorded straight Democratic Party votes for Libertarians.

    The votes were re-counted last night, by hand.

    The company who made the voting machine is also checking into programming of it's equipment in nine other Indiana counties.

    Not much information to make a story out

  • by Lars T. (470328) <Lars.TraegerNO@SPAMgooglemail.com> on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @07:51PM (#10837691) Journal
    Not Franklin County, Ohio [cnn.com], where Bush got 666% of the vote. (well 667.3981%, but who is counting ;-).

    According to USA today [usatoday.com]

    Franklin is the only Ohio county to use Danaher Controls's ELECTronic 1242, an older-style touchscreen voting system.
    So it must be the name of the county, not the technology, because the machines are from different manufacturers. Errm, yeah.
  • by DaveJay (133437) on Tuesday November 16, 2004 @10:35PM (#10838920)
    But, let's face it: it's harder to alter both the computer AND paper records identically than to just do one or the other.

    Two scenarios, then:

    1. Honest computer glitch gets discovered when paper ballots don't match up;

    2. Dishonest computer manipulation gets discovered when paper ballots don't match up, although paper ballots aren't necessarily correct, either.

    If you take the position that most (if not all) of these issues are honest glitches (as the emachine defenders often do) then you should be thrilled to have paper trails, as they'll uncover the glitches -- just like what happened in this circumstance. Really, it's delightful to see what can happen with a paper trail backup, isn't it?

    On the other hand, if you know that the "glitches" are usually manipulation -- then you're probably going to avoid paper trails like the plague.
  • The company who made the voting machine is also checking into programming of it's equipment in nine other Indiana counties.

    It's bad enough when I see it from AOL n00bs, but a news article?

  • Why is it these "Glitches" always favor that of the Republican party ?
    • The more appropriate question is "Why is it that the glitches that favor the republican party are the only ones the media talks about".

      There have been plenty of glitches that hurt the Republicans, most notably in Carteret County, N.C. where 4,500 votes were permanantly lost. Gone. Not recoverable. No recount. This county has historically voted 65% for Republican candidates, so this "glitch" cost Bush almost 3,000 votes.
  • by OldManAndTheC++ (723450) on Wednesday November 17, 2004 @12:12AM (#10839521)
    From the Indianapolis Star website, Glitch causes Franklin Co. recount [indystar.com]

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