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Diebold's Election Data Off-limits 497

Posted by Zonk
from the who-needs-checks-and-balances dept.
tommcb writes "The State of Alaska Division of Elections has denied a request by the Alaska Democratic Party for the raw file format used to tabulate voting results by citing that the data is in a proprietary format that is owned by Diebold. The ADP says 'The official vote results from the last general election are riddled with discrepancies and impossible for the public to make sense of'. The article contains some good quotes from Jim March of Black Box Voting: 'Copies of these kinds of files have been sitting on the Internet for over two years, with Diebold's knowledge.'"
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Diebold's Election Data Off-limits

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  • by Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) * <seebert42@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:39PM (#14551260) Homepage Journal
    About a 3 table schema in MS Access?!?!?!? It's not like competitors would *bother* to duplicate it...
    • You've got it all wrong. It is actually written in C, but uses a properiety \n\r\n record separator with various ASCII characters in between ;-)

      Diebold's arguments are as good as SCO's.
    • by Nurseman (161297) <nurseman@g m a i l.com> on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:45PM (#14551329) Homepage Journal
      There has been so much chicken little, sky is falling hysteria about voting I think the public has become immune. Before you mod me troll, I think this is a scary thing. How anyone can say voting records are propriety data is just beyond comprehension to me. Electronic voting is scary, in all its forms. Unless it is open, I don't know how we can trust the result of ANY election. 2008 is looking more and more like 1984.
      • Which is why (Score:4, Interesting)

        by jgardn (539054) <jgardn@alumni.washington.edu> on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @05:57PM (#14552038) Homepage Journal
        Which is why the majority of WA voters don't believe Christine Gregoire was elected governor.

        There were repeated requests for basic information, but the King Co. elections department (run by D's) either didn't provide the information or covered it up or even openly lied about it, all this while an important trial is being held to uncover who was really elected. Based on admissions by the elections department, they manufactured votes and counted votes that should not have been counted.

        What's even sadder is the Sec. of State (an R) promised to clean up the rolls with a statewide database, and promised that database to be online Jan 1. Except even now, nobody seems able to obtain a copy of that database, and the Sec. of State says it won't come out until February. We'll see if it really does.

        For more information, go read the research Stefan Sharkansky has been doing at http://soundpolitics.com./ [soundpolitics.com.] It'll give you great insight into how elections departments should act versus how they do act.

        I'm an R, but I don't tolerate this kind of crap, not in Alaska, not here in Washington, and not anywhere. We must have a publically accountable voting system, or we'll have people who say the only way to affect change in government is through violence. I don't want another civil war, particularly if it could've been prevented by people running elections openly and honestly.
      • by MickDownUnder (627418) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @10:26PM (#14553868)
        What I find most incredible about all of this is not that this company won't release the data.... it's that a private company has any control over this data at all....

        What country on this planet has privatised it's electoral process ?

        Are you guys completely out of your minds ?

        Electoral systems are often facilitated by private companies e.g the printing ballot sheets, the making of booths etc... but the actual process of counting votes, that should never be the responsibility of anything other than a independent public body, the privatisation of such a thing to me is horrifying, especially in a country that dominates the world.

        There is no possible way an electoral process under these circumstances could be described as OPEN, free and fair. To quote Thomas Jefferson "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance"... well I'd say the whole vigilance thing went out the window round about the time MTV first went to air.
      • The problem is that Diebold is claiming the schema is proprietary, not the records. Which is odd because the schema has been published publicly in a number of forums and there are a lot of people who could describe it to you column for column.

        This begs the question, what methods were used to access the data provided? Diebold is claiming the reports on the data stored in the system are all anyone is entitled to. I am assuming, since views are part of an Access database, they are claiming these are protected
    • I can see a reason for 2 tables (Voter, Vote), but why would you need 3?
    • by ruiner13 (527499) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @08:54PM (#14553373) Homepage
      I don't think it is a matter of Diebold using this excuse because they really think it is theirs to own, I'd bet it has more to do with the head of Diebold promising to deliver Ohio to Bush [forbes.com] before the last presedential election. If someone could go into the files and see that they don't match the reported outcome, that whole company would have more problems than people asking to see the files. I bet the GOP supports their decision to withhold the files for this very reason as well. If it turns out that Bush really didn't win Ohio, imagine the fallout...
  • by Skyshadow (508) * on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:41PM (#14551285) Homepage
    Obviously, computerized voting is a stupid, stupid idea. Whenever this sort of issue comes up, I find it breaks down into two camps: People who know shit about computers and people who don't. Electronic voting scares the first group, while the second group looks at it blankly and says shit like "Well, that's good 'cause computers don't make mistakes, right?"

    Aside from that, blame is also richly deserved on the part of the State and Local morons who wrote their contracts with Diebold and other computer voting firms in such a way that they let them restrict access to this sort of vital information, as if verifying the results of an open election somehow isn't really all that important.

    Gimme the connect-the-line ballots any day. At the very least, they'd be harder for the morons who deal with this sort of thing to fuck up.

    • No it breaks down into 3 groups. Those who know computers and are afraid, those who don't know computers and are afraid, and politicians.
    • by Edmund Blackadder (559735) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:51PM (#14551398)
      "Aside from that, blame is also richly deserved on the part of the State and Local morons who wrote their contracts with Diebold and other computer voting firms in such a way that they let them restrict access to this sort of vital information,"

      I do not buy the story that the Government is powerless here. The local and state governments can easily obtain these records if they want to. The contracts do not matter much. First of all contracts that obscure voting results can be easily invalidated as against public policy. Secondly even if the contracts were valid, the government can easily break the contracts if they want to. They will be liable for damamges, but since Diebold would not sustain any losses from breaking of the contracts the damages would be only nominal.

      So that is all bullshit. The Alaska officials who refuse to reveal the results do so out of their own motives and not because of some silly contracts.

      One can easily figure out what these motives are.
      • The contracts do not matter much. First of all contracts that obscure voting results can be easily invalidated as against public policy. Secondly even if the contracts were valid, the government can easily break the contracts if they want to. They will be liable for damamges, but since Diebold would not sustain any losses from breaking of the contracts the damages would be only nominal.

        If Diebold copyrighted the database structure and registered the copyright with the LOC, actual damages will be of littl

    • by roystgnr (4015) <roystgnr@ticam.u ... inus threevowels> on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @05:00PM (#14551474) Homepage
      Obviously, computerized voting is a stupid, stupid idea.

      That's not obvious at all. Greater accessibility for the handicapped, more legible interfaces for long complicated ballots, the early detection and correction of "misvotes" and unintentional "undervotes", and the elimination of "hanging chads", stray marks and half-filled scan bubbles, etc. all make computerized voting a great idea.

      What's a bad idea is storing the votes in computer memory. Computers have only one good mechanism for storing ballots in a failure-resistant, tamper-resistant fashion, and that's printer ink on paper. Touchscreen voting machines need to finish up your vote by printing it out on a paper ballot, prompting you to confirm or (with the help of a poll worker) destroy that paper, and finally directing you to the ballot box where the paper should be inserted to become part of the official count. If that was how electronic voting worked, I think even the computer-literate population would be thrilled.
      • I totally agree, and can only hope that the GP really meant that implementing poorly designed comuterized voting systems are a huge mistake. A well designed computer system (with some similarly well designed analog outputs for independent verification) could add levels of transparency totally impossible with a 100% dead-tree based system.

        For instance, a system could be designed whereby every individual vote was published (names removed) in a simple format (*.txt?) as to allow each user to count the vote for
      • by Quadraginta (902985) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @05:47PM (#14551931)
        Computers have only one good mechanism for storing ballots in a failure-resistant, tamper-resistant fashion, and that's printer ink on paper.

        I don't think this is correct. There's nothing inherently tamper-resistant about paper. That's why check-forging is a problem, and even counterfeiting. That's why ballot fraud was widespread in the 19th century and still is in less-developed countries that use paper ballots.

        I don't think the exact medium of storage is at all the issue. I don't think it matters whether you store the votes on paper, in NVRAM, on a disk drive, or as stacks of pebbles in labeled buckets. What is important, I suggest, is being able to guarantee the chain of custody from the original voter. It's like preserving evidence in a trial: you've got to be able to prove to anyone that the vote you cite as part of a winning candidate's tally can be rigorously traced back to the hand of someone who meant to cast that vote, even if you can't (or won't) name the voter. In other words, you need a completely reliable audit trail.

        I agree this is something that commodity and consumer computing hasn't thought twice about, and using commodity and consumer computing technology would be a little alarming. But I would suspect that perhaps in certain niche computing markets there has been good attention paid to forging ironclad audit trails. Maybe in the military? Keeping track of nuclear weapon activation codes?

        • I don't think this is correct. There's nothing inherently tamper-resistant about paper.

          Data stored on paper is visible to the naked eye and is write-only. Those two features aren't sufficient to make ballot fraud impossible (you also need trustworthy volunteers watching every ballot box!), but they are necessary, and no other form of computer-written storage really qualifies. If you put 5 paper ballots in a box, you can be very sure that you'll later pull those same 5 paper ballots out of the box and the
    • by l8f57 (652468) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @05:37PM (#14551845)
      In Canada we had an election last night.

      Granted, our electoral system is a simplier than the US style, but our works like this:

      1. A post-card like thing is mailed to my address, informing me where & when to vote (usually a nearby school, church or library).
      2. On the appointed date, I go to the local polling office, with my card, and photo ID.
      3. Once they check my name off, they give me a piece of paper. I walk to a table with a card-board shroud (for privacy). I use a pencil to mark the name of the person that I am voting for.
      4. I show them the outside (unmarked) of the paper, and they verify that it is the same one they gave me.
      5. I jam the paper into a cardboard box on the table.
      6. I go home, and watch TV while eating beer and Popcorn.
      7. At 10:00PM we knew who our new Prime Minister is.
      8. I wake up the next morning, and go to work, ready to be screwed by a whole new govt party.

      l8f57

    • It's pretty clear that electronic voting is a scam, and we can't even tell how much of a scam, but the paper ballot system was already commonly "fixed". And neither deals with the inherent flaws in the method of choosing. The US has, by and large, chosen to adopt the least democratic system that could, by stretching the term, be called democratic. Instant runoff would be better, and Condorcet voting [wikipedia.org] would be even better. (Note that Condorcet voting [condorcet.org] isn't practical without computer assistance, but there'
  • by JUSTONEMORELATTE (584508) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:43PM (#14551311) Homepage
    Give me a few minutes -- I'll have a .torrent for you.
  • Who owns the data? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Councilor Hart (673770) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:44PM (#14551315)
    Who cares what format was used or that it is proprietary. If it's your data, you can do whatever you want with it, regardless of the format.
    And since this is about elections, I would say the public owns the data. So hand it over.
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:44PM (#14551319) Homepage
    Why yes, it is your original creation and you have a full right to protect it, but oh wait... you have to respect the rights of the person who wrote the format you are now using to store your work in.

    This is why I as a libertarian despise the arguments in favor of strong IP law. They are trying to make ideas behave like physical property, and in doing so they create a society where no one has absolute ownership over their own work that they made with their own money. As I said, yes it is your creative work/data, but you cannot fully excercise that ownership because your property rights are trumped by another party's patent rights.

    That sounds like sharecropping, not property rights to me. You might as well say that by buying a framed picture you implicitly signed an agreement to not using a competing frame-maker's product to store your pictures. Oh wait, that basically is the argument of the defenders of strong IP law. You didn't see the contract, it wasn't even mentioned, but by God you implicitly signed some ephemeral social contract allegedly brokered 200 years ago by our forefathers in some secret masonic temple lacking euclidian geometry hidden away from common knowledge. But this implicit contract, really is there... we swear.
    • by aeoo (568706)
      Instead of looking at it as rights trumping each other, why not see that the idea space cannot be split up at all? In other words, if you examine the context of your "own" mind, you can never be certain which thought is strictly yours and which one is not. Thoughts always arise in context and are meaningless without the context. Instead of saying that the thought dominates the context, or that context trumps the thought, why not just see it as one unbroken space?

      That's a more advanced point of view than
  • by JPyun (911266) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:45PM (#14551332)
    ...to Massachusets wanting to switch everything to open file formats. That way they don't get fucked by Diebold or MS.
  • by ChrisGilliard (913445) <christopher.gill ... m ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:46PM (#14551340) Homepage
    Basically what they say is they want to give us a printout from the (electronic) file. They don't want to give us the file itself. It doesn't enable us to get to the bottom of what we need to know

    It seems to me that election software is pretty simple. It's basically a list of candidates and the number of votes each one got. Or you could have a log file of the candidate that people voted for. How on earth can you make a proprietary format out of this? It's just a simple list! I don't get it.
  • Diebold nonsense (Score:5, Interesting)

    by belmolis (702863) <billposerNO@SPAMalum.mit.edu> on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:46PM (#14551349) Homepage

    The format isn't patented, I don't think, and isn't copyrightable, so the only legal protection it might have is trade secret. However, since the format is already out in the open, due both to revelation in other states and from the Diebold files posted on the net, it is no longer a trade secret and there is nothing that Diebold can complain about.

    Furthermore, I don't see that anything actually prevents the State of Alaska from revealing the file format even if it is a trade secret. What can Diebold do about it? The State probably has sovereign immunity, and in any case, the secret is probably worth nothing so even if Diebold sued successfully they wouldn't get any damages to speak of.

    Meanwhile here in Canada yet another election has been conducted without any problem using simple paper ballots. Just five lines with the names and parties of the candidates and a circle in which to draw an X. No need for voting machines, no possibility of confusion, minimal opportunity for fraud.

    • by pestie (141370) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @05:46PM (#14551923) Homepage
      Meanwhile here in Canada yet another election has been conducted without any problem using simple paper ballots.

      Well, assuming you can consider a win by the Conservatives as being "without any problem."
  • North Carolina (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bombadillo (706765) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:48PM (#14551363)
    Diebold also ran into problems with North Carolina. [arstechnica.com] North Carolina law requires voting machine makers turn over all their source code to the state for review. Code gets held in escrow all the time. So I don't buy their excuse. For some reason I get the feeling that Diebold is trying to cover up really bad and insecure code.
  • voting rights? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phoenix42 (263805) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:48PM (#14551365)
    Regardless of your political leanings, this seems like a pretty shady way of avoiding giving the public its voting records. It seems to me that we should not be allowing proprietary formats to be used in the voting process. When the rights of intellectual property and the rights of corporations usurp the rights of citizens to examine the voting record, I think that we enter dangerous territory and should ask some some serious questions about the way elections are held in our country. I'm all for using technology to make voting easier, but if it comes at the expense of accurate elections, I'd rather go back to paper and pen.
  • by Jim in Buffalo (939861) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:52PM (#14551403)
    If that data had porno website searches in it, you'd have the White House asking for it.
    • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @05:22PM (#14551693)
      This comment made me chuckle and then it made me think. In a constitutional democracy, it really is amazingly hypocritical for a governing administration to compel disclosure of data about private individuals in private homes who look at porn, while at the same saying that Diebold has the right to withhold data it gathered while administering an election, on the basis that a portion of that data is proprietary.

      So someone's searching Google for pictures of boobs is the government's business after all?

      And what data Diebold-made, state-purchased machines collected during a public election - that's nobody's business but Diebold's? Wow!

      (I know the parent expressed the very same thought more elegantly, tersely and humorously, but I just had to vent a little. Sorry.)

  • by quokkapox (847798) <quokkapox@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:52PM (#14551409)
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there a provably secure, open cryptography-supported way to make sure elections are fair and allow anyone to investigate fraud? I don't have time to search for the URLs at the moment, but there were several methods developed even before the 2000 presidential election in the U.S.

    If I understood correctly, we could have a nationwide vote, everyone leaves with a piece of paper with a number printed on it, and can take that number home and verify that their vote was correctly counted on the internet (where public lists of votes are posted), while the whole system remained anonymous. It looked like election fraud could be completely eliminated.

    There were more complex schemes with paired barcodes and filtered light or something, but that was the basic idea.

    If such a scheme can be mathematically proven to be secure, why aren't we using it?

    • "If such a scheme can be mathematically proven to be secure, why aren't we using it?"

      Because the only people who understand it are too busy posting about in on /. and the people who don't understand it are in office.
    • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @05:14PM (#14551621)
      "If I understood correctly, we could have a nationwide vote, everyone leaves with a piece of paper with a number printed on it, and can take that number home and verify that their vote was correctly counted on the internet (where public lists of votes are posted), while the whole system remained anonymous."

      If your vote is linked to a piece of paper that is given to you, how is the vote anonymous? Maybe its not completely open, but it would still be bad because superiors can still demand to get your number to verify the vote - therefore undermining the anonymity of the vote. Or how about pay for vote scams?
    • Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't there a provably secure, open cryptography-supported way to make sure elections are fair and allow anyone to investigate fraud? I don't have time to search for the URLs at the moment, but there were several methods developed even before the 2000 presidential election in the U.S.

      Bruce Schneier described such a system in his book Applied Cryptography.

      ISBN 0-471-59756-2 (1993 first ed. there're newer ones)

    • by Locke2005 (849178) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @05:23PM (#14551699)
      ...we could have a nationwide vote, everyone leaves with a piece of paper with a number printed on it, and can take that number home and verify that their vote was correctly counted on the internet (where public lists of votes are posted) Well, no. While that would be better than the Diebold system, it would still be possible for the person holding your family hostage to demand to see your receipt in order to verify that you voted for the "correct" candidate, thus defeating the purpose of a secret ballot.
  • by Mantrid (250133) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:53PM (#14551413) Journal
    I don't think voting is the sort of thing that should be automated; it's hard enough to make sure things are above board without blackboxing things.

    We just voted yesterday in Canada - made an X in the appropriate box. Kind of hard to mess that up I've always thought. And even if it was an OSS voting machine, the general public and in fact most people would get nothing from that, not having the first clue of what the code meant.

    I know the US is 10x the size, but you also presumably have 10x the people counting. And in any case, for one event every 4 years it seems reasonable. Heck we do it every 1.5 years it seems :)

    This would help both Dem's and the Republicans - it'd be much easier to see who won so if the Dems should've won obviously this information would be useful. If the results were correct it would help the Republicans as this whole "illegimate president" thing could finally be done away with.

    I know it's popular to bitch about the US elections and mock the US, but personally I'm impressed. The courts decided where appropriate, jurisdictions seemed to be respected, and rules followed etc. There was an orderly hand over of power. Do you think things would've gone as well in every country where the election was balanced on the finest of margins?

    Plain old paper ballots would have made the whole affair as open as possible.
  • Open Government (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PMuse (320639) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:54PM (#14551419)
    The notion that any part of the law or the process of government can be owned is abominable.

    From proprietary building codes to election mechanisms, we must demand that our system of government belongs to all of us, without restriction.
    • Re:Open Government (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Cyno (85911)
      without restriction

      You mean without copyright, trademarks and patents?

      I think we need to be more specific.

      It would be nice if everyone could think for a moment and come to a complete and final decision about what they actually mean and want.

      But its a lot harder to get independant thought out of our free society than an angry unorganized mob foaming at the mouth for "justice" and "freedom" and other concepts they barely understand.
  • by f(x) is x (948082) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:58PM (#14551456)
    From the article:

    For instance, district-by-district vote totals add up to 292,267 votes for President Bush, but his official total was only 190,889.

    Election officials have an explanation. Early votes for statewide candidates were not recorded by House district but rather were tallied for each of the state's four election regions.

    My observation:

    If this is true, shouldn't 292267 minus 190889 be divisible by 3 (considering these votes were counted three extra times)?

    The answer (101378) isn't...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @04:58PM (#14551458)
    "The issue is that the (Democratic Party) is asking for a file format the state of Alaska uses but does not own."

    I couldn't be more pleased with this.

    Diebold, by refusing to release the data, shows what a boondoggle it is to allow public information to be locked up in proprietary format.

    The State plays right into the Bush-Gore-2000 paranoia over ballot counting. They're not allowed to release the raw data, because of the mistake they made allowing a proprietary format to be used.

    A transformation of the data (be it a printout, ASCII dump, spreadsheet, or whatever) is not sufficient. Any transformation process is likely to use the same (proprietary) algorithm that was used to generate the official results, which could have hidden errors. It also makes me wonder what else is in the format, perhaps data that shouldn't be there.

    Yup, this is a positive development.

  • We don't need to see their tabulation.

    These aren't the chads you were looking for.

    You can go about your business.

    Move along...move along.
  • by OWJones (11633) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @05:08PM (#14551552)

    Diebold systems use Microsoft Access as the underlying file format for everything, including the audit logs. So it's not even that they're claiming the file format is theirs -- it obviously "belongs" to Microsoft -- they're claiming that the table layout they came up with for Access is theirs. Which could be interesting, given that if the state programmed the ballot layout themselves, it's possible that some of that table layout was generated by the Diebold program. So you've got one Diebold program generating a table layout for the MS-Access file format, and Diebold is claiming that generated table layout is theirs.

    Brilliant!

    -jdm

  • by HardCase (14757) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @05:22PM (#14551689)
    So Diebold claims that their proprietary database format can't be released. The state has two choices. Release the data and defend themselves in a lawsuit or don't release the data and let a third party force Diebold to defend themselves in a lawsuit. Seems to me that the state of Alaska is letting the Democratic Party take the lead here - and I don't see a problem with it. Why waste taxpayer dollars and exposure to liability when a third party will foot the bill?

    Besides, it gives good press to the Democratic Party and bad press to Diebold. As for the government, well, everybody hates the government already, right?

    -h-
  • by Xyleene (874520) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @05:35PM (#14551811)

    I don't understand how this cannot be public knowledge in the States. I just checked Elections Canada [elections.ca] and the raw database information is available right on their site [elections.ca] to anyone that wants it.

    In Canada we only have to make one choice; the minister we would like to be elected to parlament in our riding. As I understand it, in the States you make a bunch of decisions on the same ballot. Many Canadians have posted that "Oh... The paper works just fine here.. Silly Americans". Obviously! we only have one x to mark and count... I can see where electronic ballots can be useful in the States although I don't see how they can be as transparent as paper ballots...

    However, in Canada the WHOLE election system is completely transparent and any citizen can access any information they wish through the public organization 'Elections Canada'. A similar public system should be in place in any democracy.

    On another topic I'll throw this out there.. Why not have paper ballots that can be read into computers. Wouldn't you have the best of both worlds? Both a paper record and electronic counting/

    /voted NDP.
    //envys the amount choices on American ballots..
    ///fails to envy the actual CHOICES on American ballots...

  • by WilliamTS99 (942590) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @05:41PM (#14551871) Homepage
    That excuse that they can't release it because of the file format is absolutely ridiculous. This is just another reason that we need ONLY open formats in our local, state and federal governments. I understand that security might be of concern for many files, and that can be handled by other security methods like putting the files in an encrypted container of sorts. That way if they need to release the data, they can remove it from the container and have no problem distributing the results. At the same time, why should it need security from reading when it is only votes. Unless the data also contains the names of who voted then it should not be a problem. I also believe that once the person does vote that the data is immediately written to at least 2 places. One should be a printed record that the voter that just placed the vote can easily and positively verify, then also to a digital write once medium that can not be changed, maybe something like a CD that can not be overwritten. I am sure that electronic voting is here to stay, so we need to make sure that it is secure and verifiable by all.
  • Beautiful! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tji (74570) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @05:53PM (#14551990)
    This is great.. I hope Diebold takes a strong stand here, making it obvious to even the most non-technical person that closed voting system, and Diebold specifically, is a really bad idea.

    Openness has proven very useful for software development.

    History has also shown it to be very important for government.

    Combine those two together, and the importance is even more drastic. Openness and transparency in voting is essential.
  • by sinewalker (686056) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @06:15PM (#14552212) Homepage
    Adopting Open voting/documententation standards would curtail these sorts of issues, without the FUD of forcing constituents to switch... However, I think that blaming it on Diabold is only a scape-goat to hide corruption in the voting system, so it's likely to remain...
  • I used a pencil (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bennyp (809286) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @06:39PM (#14552508) Homepage
    I walked into the local community school's gym, stood in line for 2 minutes, accepted a paper ballot from the election official, malked behind a cardboard partition and checked off my candidate with a wooden pencil. I then folded the ballot the same way I had recieved it, and handed it back to the same election official, who teared off one edge and handed it back to me. I then placed it in a cardboard box. The election officials are members of the local community. I could have done it, but did not have my act together enough for that. I don't know what would happen if someone would be unable to check the ballot on their own. I assume they would be allowed to take along a helper, or phone in their vote, or something. Elections Canada has made provisions for disabled voters. Why the bother? why the fuss? Why on earth is the president's family put in charge of elections????
  • by bill_kress (99356) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @08:40PM (#14553297)
    ...that I really can't even put it into words. Not just Diabold or the government, mostly the people.

    Thirty years ago I would have assumed that if there was the slightest hint of election fixing that ALL election officials would tear into it with abandon, and that the people would similarly tear into any official that even suggestion that it was a bad idea to look into election results.

    These days I have the same confidence in our system that I have in any south-American, African or Russian system, essentially none. That said, all you ever hear from the populous is the occasional reference to "wingnuts" and liberal media trying to jack the existing government.

    Perhaps I'm mostly disturbed with my own inaction. Anyone have suggestions on things I can do that really work? Voting does NOT (No matter what you have been trained to believe), talking to representatives does NOT (unless you can outbid the lobbyists whispering in their other ear--I can't). I've just given up...

    Any suggestions at all?

    (PS. How did Diabold get away having a name that spell-checks to Diabolism? It's like they are throwing it in our faces!!!)
  • Even if diebold owns the data format, they don't own the raw data. At the very least, the government should be able to hand over the raw data without a detailed description of how to read it.

    That having been said: To the extent to which the government contracted to have critical electoral data effectively encrypted and held hostage by a private company, there must be some way to have that declared illegal and/or unconstitutional.

  • by bsharma (577257) on Tuesday January 24, 2006 @10:16PM (#14553831)
    India has been using Electronic Voting Machines for over 15 years with no damage to election process. It is a small portable battery operated machine. http://www.eci.gov.in/EVM/ [eci.gov.in]
  • I live in Alaska (Score:4, Informative)

    by ghettoboy22 (723339) <scott.a.johnson@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 25, 2006 @12:19AM (#14554470) Homepage
    The big picture here, and what the Alaska Democratic Party is after, is that if you add up the individual district results, 2+2 does not equal 4. The individual district results add up to far many more votes than were officially cast. The Division of Elections acknowledges the mis-perception but is esentially saying "trust us". Their explination has some merit to it - that since Alaska is organized different than other states (Alaska does not have counties, and our electoral bounderies do not necessarily corrilate to other political bounderies), the software used to display the return results is somewhat hacked together (no pun intended) for our unique requirements. What's confusing is that it's causing some district results to be "double counted" when added up individually. The problem is further exacerbated by all the absentee ballots cast in the 2004 general election.

    While I agree our state Division of Elections (and their vendor) needs to do a better job of breaking down individual district results, there is not a problem of "no paper trail" here in Alaska. The Diebold machines used for many years here (including 2004) are not the touch screen "pure electronic" machines, but rather fill-in-the-blank bubble cards that are then scanned into an optical reader. The paper cards are then randomly spot-checked to the results the optical scanners provide. I have complete faith in the machines and I've voted on them since ~2000.

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