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E-Voting Reform Bill Gaining Adherants 161

Posted by kdawson
from the paper-trail-and-source-inspection dept.
JeremyDuffy sends us to Ars Technica for a look at an e-voting bill making its way through Congress that is gaining the support of the likes of Ed Felten and the EFF. Quoting: "HR 811 features several requirements that will warm the hearts of geek activists. It bans the use of computerized voting machines that lack a voter-verified paper trail. It mandates that the paper records be the authoritative source in any recounts, and requires prominent notices reminding voters to double-check the paper record before leaving the polling place. It mandates automatic audits of at least three percent of all votes cast to detect discrepancies between the paper and electronic records. It bans voting machines that contain wireless networking hardware and prohibits connecting voting machines to the Internet. Finally, it requires that the source code for e-voting machines be made publicly available."
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E-Voting Reform Bill Gaining Adherants

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  • Even if democracy didn't trump trade secrets, the commercial interests of the vendors are safe. If a competitor steals their precious source code, well, the competitor has to publish too and will get caught.
    • by zarozarozaro (756135) on Monday April 02, 2007 @07:46PM (#18580975)
      This is the sort of law that we need. I urge all Americans who read /. and care about our democracy to write their representatives and tell them to vote for this bill. Voting machine companies like Diebold and Sequoia will surely be lobbying against the bill, so we really need to show them that we care about this issue. This bill is also a great way to find out what your representative is all about. It is often surprising to find which congressmen and women support open source elections. This is certainly an issue that will NOT break down to party affiliation.
      • This is in no way, shape, or form, the duty of the federal government to regulate voting machines. While I agree with most of the ideas in the bill, they should be implemented at the state or local level. Federal regulation of voting machines is a recipie for disaster.
        • by nuzak (959558)
          It's the 21st century, and we now have federal-level (presidential) elections that affect all of us. Even congressional seats affect the whole country. Ergo here in my state, I would like Ohio and Florida to follow some goddam standards, even if they have to be forced on them.

          Knowing how congress works though, the final form of this bill will probably require closed-source unlocked internet-connected diebold-only machines.

    • by Alwin Henseler (640539) on Monday April 02, 2007 @08:42PM (#18581449) Homepage

      In all these discussions about e-voting, I don't really understand why the emphasis on Open Source software for voting computers. Why? The whole problem with e-voting is in transparency of the process. Does Open Source inside such a machine change that? How?

      Can you see what compiler was used to turn source into binary? Can you verify that published source/binaries are the same as what's inside the machine in front of you? Can you verify that the hardware is the same as what the software is expected to run on? Can you verify that the hardware works as intended (like, no memory errors etc)? I expect that for most (or all) of these questions, the answer will be: no, not really.

      That's the whole point of a paper trail. Essentially, it makes the counting black box irrelevant (as long as the paper trail is considered the authoritive result, that is). Wrong vote stored on flash? Who cares, as long as the correct vote is written on the paper output (and the voter can verify that before leaving).

      At that point, what's inside the black box doesn't matter much anymore, and basicly serves to make voting easier, or help to get a quick (preliminary!) count of what the end result might look like. Closed source software, or unknown hardware inside? What's the problem as long as the correct votes are printed on dead tree, and verified by the voter?

      But also at this point, the 'added value' of a voting computer becomes a mystery to me. Why not just ditch them? If you want quicker results, organise better or get more people to count votes. Good organisation (and paper!) is really all you need for elections that are both fair, and with quick results.

      • by CastrTroy (595695) on Monday April 02, 2007 @09:26PM (#18581771) Homepage
        The problem with that, is that the numbers coming out of the black box are considered official, and recounts are hard to get done, especially complete recounts. And paper trails sometimes get thrown out. I'd rather just keep it all pen and paper like it currently is in Canada. No complex machinery to get messed with, and if you're worried about your votes not getting counted properly, well there's people watching the actual counting from all involved parties to make sure nothing is getting miscounted.
        • by Rich0 (548339)
          As long as there is mandatory auditing of a voter-verified paper audit trail I think that computer-tallied votes are fine.

          The problem with paper ballots is the need to determine voter intent. Suppose you have two boxes checked for one office, but otherwise a straight-party ballot - did they intend to vote straight party across the whole ballot? How about a small line in one box and a big one in another. How about a check with an X over it in one box, and a check with a circle in the other? If the race c
          • by CastrTroy (595695)
            If you can't put an x in exactly one box, then your vote doesn't get counted. Call it an intelligence test for votes. If there are multiple issues being voted on, then each issue should be counted separately, so if you check 2 boxes on 1 issue, they still count the votes for all the other issues you didn't screw up.
            • by Rich0 (548339)
              That sounds nice as a decree, and if you were dictator it would work fine (of course, we don't even need ballots of any kind then).

              The problem is that when the loser of an election loses by 3 votes by people who wrote checks instead of X's in his box, your utopian vote-counting system will face a court trial. Now, checks instead of X's is an obvious case, but now picture EVERY shade of gray imaginable - humans are VERY good at not following directions - unlikely computers...
      • by plover (150551) *

        The whole problem with e-voting is in transparency of the process. Does Open Source inside such a machine change that? How?

        There is a little more to an electronic voting machine than simple tabulation. There's the presentation of each individual election, and the presentation of the candidates. What if the Demopublican party's candidate's picture was shown colorful and vibrant, while the Republicrat candidate's picture was washed out black and white? What if the major parties get their candidates on

        • Interesting. Based on your comment, I think there should be, close to the end but not at the end. One additional ballot question. "I wish to have my ballot counted." If that's not checked, "yes" then no effort needs to be expended actually tallying the rest of the choices.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by plover (150551) *
            That's dangerously close to literacy testing, [wikipedia.org] used to disenfranchise the black voters during Jim Crow. Theoretically, pictures of the candidates could reduce the need to ask an election judge for assistance in voting by someone who is illiterate. And an electronic ballot could ease language issues, especially on non-candidate questions such as constitutional amendments.

            But on the whole, I actually agree mostly with the top level poster in that pencil and paper are perfectly adequate to the task of recor

      • The whole problem with e-voting is in transparency of the process. Does Open Source inside such a machine change that?
        Of course it changes it. Open source doesn't guarantee transparency, it's just one of the basic prerequisites for having transparency. You still have to verify the DB against the paper trail, audit the software that was used to compile the code, audit the hardware, etc.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by trianglman (1024223)

        Can you see what compiler was used to turn source into binary? Can you verify that published source/binaries are the same as what's inside the machine in front of you? Can you verify that the hardware is the same as what the software is expected to run on? Can you verify that the hardware works as intended (like, no memory errors etc)? I expect that for most (or all) of these questions, the answer will be: no, not really.

        Actually the answer is, in general, yes. The software vendors must turn over "source c

        • by TempeTerra (83076)
          Even if the source code for the voting machine and code for the toolchain are audited, and the hardware is audited too, you just can't be sure that the 'clean' code and machine are what is actually in front of you when you vote. It's just a little bit more difficult for the vote falsifiers. Electronic voting will always suffer from a few people having too much control - the guys who designs the hardware, the guy who assembles the hardware, the guy who delivers the hardware... a conspiracy of half a dozen pe
      • by ppanon (16583)

        If you want quicker results, organise better or get more people to count votes.
        A good idea, and how we do it in Canada (and many other western developed nations). The problem is that you live in the United States of Apathy.
      • Well, in this case, I don't think it has to conclude that having the source code available implies "Open Source" as defined by OpenSource.org ... but it is a good thing to have it available for public review.

        I feel that it also doesn't relieve copyright on the source, though it would prevent any "trade secrets" on any of the process. With regards to eVoting, the process should be completely open, and systems should be allowed to inter-operate with each other.

        I feel that there should be provisions for
      • There's the overlooked aspect of environmental impact. How much new or old growth forest is used in making the millions of miles of paper tape used in voting machines? With e-voting (and no paper trail) you use less paper.

        Granted, e-voting with a paper trail is rather a step backwards environmentally because now you're not only using up a lot of paper, but you're using a lot of electricity as well. In general though, electronic machines can be made to run more efficiently as their design improves. Elect
      • by tbannist (230135)
        The Open Source software is just one step of many. If you don't know what the machine is supposed to be doing, then you can't tell if it's doing that.

        Verifying the compiler should be a little easier, since the source is open and it should be using a standard compiler it should be possible to create a checksum using the same compiler and verify the compiled binaries match. This is dependent on the source code being open. Without the open code, no external agency would be able to create a checksum. They d
      • by eonlabs (921625)
        I hate to agree with you, but there's an important point in what you're saying... http://linuxreviews.org/dictionary/Backdoor/ [linuxreviews.org] It is possible to write a compiler that is capable of recognizing a piece of code to allow for the insertion of a backdoor. It has been done, it isn't that hard. Heuristics would allow it to recognize patterns of code similar to that. Compilers have been written that allow a person to compile the compiler's source, which in turn injects the code to both infect itself if it recogn
  • That's "Adherents" (Score:2, Informative)

    by BarnabyWilde (948425)
    Yes, it matters.
  • by ericfitz (59316) on Monday April 02, 2007 @07:39PM (#18580911)
    By requiring that the entire platform be open source, the well-intentioned legislators just killed the bill. Do you think Microsoft and Sun are going to sit by and watch a market opportunity vanish? Do you think Linux advocate lobbyists are going to show up at Congressmens' doors with campaign checks?

    This is a case of sacrificing the good by demanding the perfect. If the bill had instead required that only the voting software installed on the voting machines be open source, then the bill would not have alienated so many parties with enough money to kill it.

    Yes, I did RTFA and I read the relevant text of the bill (section 247(C)9). The languange doesn't differentiate between platform software and software specific to the e-voting task.
    • Platform software (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kuroji (990107) <kuroji@gmail.com> on Monday April 02, 2007 @07:47PM (#18580997)
      For such a specialized task, it shouldn't be hard to whip up some custom-coded OS that doesn't include all the bells and whistles that, say, Vista includes. Or XP. Or Win3.11, even.

      But if only the program is transparent and the rest of the code on the machine is not, what's to prevent (for example) Steve Jobs for running for president and including a line of code that tells the MacOS voting machines that he always wins at least 50.1% of the vote?
      • by pjrc (134994)
        But if only the program is transparent and the rest of the code on the machine is not, what's to prevent (for example) Steve Jobs for running for president and including a line of code that tells the MacOS voting machines that he always wins at least 50.1% of the vote?

        The bill requires an automatic audit of 3% of the required voter-verified paper output, and also required signs encouraging all voters to check the paper copy before leaving.

        So if that hidden line of code in the OS steals votes, it either

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      This is a case of sacrificing the good by demanding the perfect. If the bill had instead required that only the voting software installed on the voting machines be open source, then the bill would not have alienated so many parties with enough money to kill it.

      Well then the bill is toothless, because the vendor could install 'backdoor' patches into the os and nobody would be the wiser.

      A voting machine vendor can just al easily load a version of linux with wine (though maybe clunky) to run their voting machi
    • by Checkmait (1062974) <<moc.erawerahp> <ta> <noryb>> on Monday April 02, 2007 @08:00PM (#18581095)

      Perhaps they reduced its support slightly, but no more than a very tiny bit. What good would the source do to anyone? Remember that there is nothing stopping the vendor from copyrighting the source code and adding a provision to the license which says that no one may make derivative works: all the vendor must do is make the code publicly available.

      So a competitor can't really gain anything from the code--it can't be overly complicated (this is a voting machine) and even if they do, the moment they release their machine onto the market, their source must be published, and certainly a competing vendor would notice such striking similarities in code.

      Of course, who knows, Diebold might sue Congress for a law which they were not expecting..... :-)

    • by erbmjw (903229) on Monday April 02, 2007 @08:07PM (#18581171)
      The bill shouldn't discriminate between the OS and the voting software. This is not a general purpose machine that requires an advanced OS -- it requires a bare minimum system that can count votes and print ballots! The machines that do these very limited tasks should not be something which Microsoft targets as a significant market for their standard operating systems.
      • by ScrewMaster (602015) on Monday April 02, 2007 @08:30PM (#18581369)
        The bill shouldn't discriminate between the OS and the voting software.

        Couldn't agree more, because the two together comprise a functioning embedded system. Auditing the application and ignoring the operating system is pointless, from a secure voting perspective. The Congressman has it right.

        Besides, this is not a supercomputer. This is not an accounting system. This is a goddamn electromechanical counter, a mindless device which could be implemented with vacuum tubes, or discrete TTL, or a BASIC Stamp! There doesn't need to be an "operating system", unless you need it to throw up your colorful corporate logo or justify your "Microsoft Vista ready" sticker. I mean, we aren't talking some incredibly complex technological requirements here, although there are those with a vested interest in making it appear so. For crying out loud it's been done for centuries using pieces of paper. Any corporation that manufactures these things that makes "intellectual property" claims about its "advanced software" is FULL OF CRAP and trying to keep the public from knowing what a shoddy job it did, or worse. If you aren't willing to open up your voting system to public inspection from the chips on up, then you shouldn't be allowed to sell them to our government. Any of our governments.

        More to the point, this is just the kind of system that should be only as complex as it needs to be ... and not one iota more. Every extra layer of "sophistication" adds more room for error, more places to hide something.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Dachannien (617929)
          There doesn't need to be an "operating system", unless you need it to throw up.

          Edited for brevity.

          • There doesn't need to be an "operating system", unless you need it to throw up.

            Edited for brevity.


            Edited for hilarity you mean. I say that as my graphics card just reset itself and Windows XP threw up all over me.
        • Excellent point. Bartender, vacuum tubes... all around!

          However, the number of vacuum tubes necessary to provide full voting support for the visually or physically impaired, takes a bit of power, and it's kinda cumbersome the way they fill up the room. So let's strike them off the list.

          Likewise, doing reliable scanning of hand marked (and mismarked) ballots in an optical scanner requires either a bunch of hard-coded crap, or a whole lotta vacuum tubes to interpret all the variations of "completely filled in"
    • Yes, I did RTFA and I read the relevant text of the bill (section 247(C)9). The languange doesn't differentiate between platform software and software specific to the e-voting task.

      I read the bill too. All it did was remind me of this old automobile law:

      The Locomotive Act 1865 set a speed limit of 4 mph in the country and 2 mph in towns. The 1865 Act also provided for the then famous "man with a red flag". Walking 60 yards ahead of each vehicle, a man with a red flag or lantern enforced a walking pace, and
    • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Monday April 02, 2007 @08:52PM (#18581541) Journal
      By requiring that the entire platform be open source, the well-intentioned legislators just killed the bill.

      The version of "open source" required doesn't give away any copyright or patent protection, or transfer rights to USE the code to others - especially the competition. (It does puncture trade secret.)

      If the bill had instead required that only the voting software installed on the voting machines be open source ... ... it would have been ineffective against malware embedded in the operating system - by the OS developers or later black-hats.

      This is not a minor issue: With control of the US Government at stake a LOT of engineering effort can be profitably applied to attempts to compromise the system - by political, economic, or foreign governmental interests.
    • I haven't read the actual law. Does it say the code needs to be publicly available for review, or that it actually has to be open-source? These are high-profile applications, and can be controlled strictly through licensing and audits of election equipment.
    • How can you trust a voting system if yo udon't know how it works? This is actually the bad part about electronic voting. The general public, even if the source code is available, won't be able to understand what happens to their vote. Not that they understand the backend with other schemes, but at least there is no question when they punch a hole or mark a box with pen and paper.

      I can read code, and I didn't know what happened with my vote this past election. Who knows what those machines do? I was giv
    • By requiring that the entire platform be open source, the well-intentioned legislators just killed the bill. Do you think Microsoft and Sun are going to sit by and watch a market opportunity vanish?

      What makes you think Sun sells an operating system that isn't open source?

      (Actually, they do: when you buy x86 Sun hardware, you have your choice among three operating systems: Solaris, Linux, and Windows. And of course one of those operating systems isn't open source. But by offering two open source alt

    • I honestly didn't rtfa. But, what prevents companies from paying people for their votes directly, and watching as they vote?
    • WinCE developers can get source code already. So the machine has to run WinCE instead of Vista.
    • by MobyDisk (75490)
      Are you suggesting that Microsoft or Sun would make voting software, release the source, and then someone else would take that source code and sell it to the government as their own? Yeah... and nobody would notice that.

      Of course, Microsoft would never write such code anyway. Voting machines are probably profitable for the maintenance contracts, not the hardware or the software.
    • Why does requiring open source kill market opportunities? You do realize that open source does not equal free software, so when it says the source code needs to be publically available, that doesn't mean competitors are free to steal code for their own devices.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 02, 2007 @07:40PM (#18580927)
    "Disability rights advocate Harold Snider compared opponents of e-voting to Luddites and chastised them for their lack of faith in technology."

    Because it's better to vote and not have it count than to.. er.. get help voting and have it count?

    I really hope that line from the article was a flawed summary from the reporter. If it's an accurate characterization, Snider is missing the point entirely.

    Opposition to electronic voting is not blanket opposition to use of electronics in voting procedures. It's opposition to secret devices that follow hidden procedures and proclaim an official result -- without the ability of anyone to verify the correctness of the procedures or the result.
  • by Irvu (248207) on Monday April 02, 2007 @07:47PM (#18580987)
    Ed Felten's comments on the bill can be found Here [votetrustusa.org].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 02, 2007 @07:52PM (#18581041)
    So if paper is going to be the final word, why waste the money on voting machines in the first place?

    KISS anyone? No, because then there are no kickbacks and bribes to take.

    (lol verify word is "paranoia")
    • by Chirs (87576)
      Because in the vast majority of cases no recount will be necessary, so it will be much faster/cheaper to use the electronic records than if you had to manually count each vote by hand.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by JayBat (617968)

        so it will be much faster/cheaper to use the electronic records than if you had to manually count each vote by hand.

        False dichotomy. Oregon doesn't use touch-screen machines, we use fill-in-the-bubble paper ballots and machine counters. Works great, and much faster during heavy turnout elections (where from an outsider's POV, touch-screen states just never seem to have enough of those glorified PC's around).

        Oregon is vote-by-mail also, but that is an orthogonal issue.

        All the same source-inspection

    • Because:

      - The voting machine result can be used whenever the particular precinct's results are uncontested, leaving all the advantages (except the "advantage" of being able to invisibly rig an election) intact.

      - The auditability of the result will virtually eliminate any utility in rigging the machines (while bringing to bear draconian penalties for attempting to rig them and getting caught), greatly improving the reliability of the machines' results - to the point that they CAN be used with
    • by raehl (609729) <raehl311 AT yahoo DOT com> on Monday April 02, 2007 @09:02PM (#18581625) Homepage
      So if paper is going to be the final word, why waste the money on voting machines in the first place?

      Because not all paper ballots are created equal, and paper ballots filled out by humans are more prone to error than paper ballots printed by a machine.

      The current paper ballots involve things like hole-punches (hanging chads anyone?), filling in bubbles (fill in too many or too few or only partially), butterfly ballots, etc.

      It's the same reason your college professors wanted you to type your papers. The machine, by default, makes the paper much more legible than it would be if the paper were written by hand.

      Same with electronic voting. The machine makes the ballot much less likely to have an error on it than if the ballot is done by a human with a pen (optical ballots) or punch (punch cards).

      There are other features you get with electronic voting. For example, you don't need to print the ballots in advance. You can just load the ballot into the machine the morning of the election, and when people votes, the machine prints out the office and the selected candidate. So instead of having to 'lock' the ballot a month in advance to allow for the ballots to be printed, you might be able to reduce that lead time to a few days or a week. Then when a candidate dies three weeks before the election, or somebody wins/loses a lawsuit, you have more time to correct the ballot.

      You can also do neat things like randomize the order candidates appear on the ballot. One problem with elections is the candidate listed first tends to get more votes than other candidates. With electronic ballots, candidates can all be listed first an 'equal' number of times.

      Electronic voting also gives you the ability to accommodate more people with disabilities.
      • Well, if the reason you have to have a paper trail is to prevent programming errors from having an effect, then ok, I can see that. But if it's to 'guaruntee that they aren't hacked' then that's ridiculous. If i'm clever enough to hack one memory location, then I'm sure i'm clever enough to hack two. if you don't know where I'm going with this, then, perhaps you need a paper trail to tell you that that's really coffee you're buying at starbucks and not just what someone told you is coffee... they might be
        • by Rich0 (548339)
          Uh, but in the case of voting the only thing that matters is the ballots. If they hack the paper record then they'll get caught when the voters look at the paper record and see that it is wrong. We're not talking about a paper tape in the bowels of the machine - we're talking about a printout in plain view - possibly behind glass, or possibly given to the voter to drop in a box...
    • Voter 1 needs a ballot for District 13 in Portugese. Voter 2 needs a ballot for District 7 in English. Voter 3 needs a ballot for District 3 in English. Voter 4 needs a ballot for district 3 in Spanish for the Vision Impaired. With a fully realized electronic voting system, all of these people can be served by the same machine, at the same polling station, with the same basic procedure.

      The statistical skew from top balloting or voter fatigue can be eliminated by displaying to voters equivalent ball

    • by StikyPad (445176)
      Right.. this whole thing is idiotic. Aside from the redundancy, you have the problem that a paper printout doesn't necessarily reflect the stored vote. I mean, if I compromised the system, I'd just have it print out Bush while secretly recording a vote for Gore. Secondly, a paper recount would never work. You sure as hell can't count the voter's record because he may change his vote ex post facto, unless it printed out two copies: One copy for the voter, and another for safe keeping, and the voter would
  • France ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by koxkoxkox (879667) on Monday April 02, 2007 @07:57PM (#18581071)
    If only the French government did the same thing ... In France, electronic vote will be used for the next presidential elections, without any of these guarantees and without any open debate with the citizens.

    A lot of people are against this evolution, as shown by a petition on the Internet : http://www.recul-democratique.org/About-us.html [recul-democratique.org], and they demand approximatively the same requirements. People have to trust completely the result of the elections and they can't rely on the report of a private expert claiming that the program is secure. So it means open source for the computer scientists originating this petition and paper trail for the vast majority of the population who don't feel completely safe about the whole dematerialisation process.

    Excuse me for any spelling or grammar mistake, or correct me in french. :o)
  • Some people analyzed weaknesses in the bill and made recommendations for changes....
    http://electionarchive.org/ucvInfo/US/ChangesNeede d2HR811.pdf [electionarchive.org]
  • by Irvu (248207) on Monday April 02, 2007 @08:03PM (#18581131)
    This bill does many of the things that we in the /. community have argued for for some time now including open code inspection, reliable voting systems, and yes, reliable recounts and audits. Now is the time for the /. community to act on our endless snarky comments and help to move real change forward.

    The Bill's text and record are available at Thomas [loc.gov]. While there you can peruse the list of 200 Cosponsors [loc.gov] to see if your house rep is among them (and should be given a cookie for that) or not (and should be corrected).

    If you both support the bill and are a U.S. Citizen or Resident, you can go to the U.S. House of Representatives Website at www.house.gov [house.gov], and Write your rep [house.gov] or contact them via their website [house.gov] (Recommended) to urge them to support the bill or thank them for already cosponsoring it.

    With time to spare you can head over to the Senate [senate.gov] and urge your senators to back the forthcoming companion bill in the senate. Following that a stop off to contact The Executive Branch [whitehouse.gov] (va a aqui [whitehouse.gov] para Espanol) to urge signing of the bill wouldn't hurt.

    If you believe in any of the things this bill does then a few minutes on the phone or sending a polite e-mail shouldn't be too much. As cynical as we all can be about the influence of money on elections a groundswell is too costly to be overrun.
    • by garcia (6573)
      This bill does many of the things that we in the /. community have argued for for some time now including open code inspection, reliable voting systems, and yes, reliable recounts and audits. Now is the time for the /. community to act on our endless snarky comments and help to move real change forward.

      Yes, this *bill* does a lot. It doesn't mean that any of this will actually go through regardless of our contacting those in power.

      What I want to know is why there isn't a provision to allow there to be pape
      • by cdrguru (88047)

        Let's end the bullshit and just continue to use paper. It has worked for ~230 years and just because our society wants "instant reporting" doesn't mean it's a good idea to do this.

        The news media will report the results, real or imagined, instantly no matter what. The news media cannot be controlled by the government or blocked from reporting results based on exit polls and theories. We cannot choose whether or not such results are reported.

        We get to choose whether or not the results are real. Imagine

  • More business (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    What else would Diebold want? If this bill passes it would invalidate all the machines they
    sold. They can then sell new machines to these customers.
    • Fine by me. (Score:3, Insightful)

      If this bill passes ... [Diebold] can then sell new machines to [all their former] customers.

      Or printer and software upgrades.

      If Diebold fixes the auditability problem I have no further gripe with the use of their machines. If buying an upgrade from them is 'way cheaper than replacing the machines outright, that's just dandy.

      "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing at a profit."
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I recently audited a local election in vote-buying prone Eastern Kentucky. Had I access to the voting machines, I could have pre-loaded the paper tapes with my desired results- all the observers would have signed off, seeing the printouts come out of the machines. In order to compare and count the voter sign-in sheet to the count generated by the voting machine, the candidate that lost the election would have had to spend thousands of dollars for a "re-count" (vs a re-canvass). One could not even count t
  • Wow (Score:2, Funny)

    by Jonnty (910561)
    It's almost like whoever wrote this bill had a clue.
  • by ntk (974) on Monday April 02, 2007 @09:36PM (#18581845) Homepage
    Here's an interview we conducted with Rush Holt [eff.org], the congressman who has been pushing for this bill for years. It's about twelve minutes long, but a little more meaty than usual for a politician: Holt has a Physics Ph.D., so he has something of a scientific background, and walks through many of the problems with e-voting the proposal tries to solve (and is also fairly candid about why his bill took a while to catch on). We recorded it just before the last election.
    • by Catbeller (118204)
      So what happens if the cheating manipulates the margins smaller than that which would trigger a mandatory free recount? Already being done.
      The entire layer of computerized gadgets is not necessary by the accepted logic of keeping the paper ballots as a verified trail!
      And if the only way we can trust the magic boxen is to perform recounts by margin trigger or random (not so random, see last election) selection of districts to keep them honest, why then not eliminate the entire electronic cloud and simply cou
  • This bill identifies the specific problems and concerns with eVoting. It addresses them one-by-one in the logical manner suggested by the vast majority of people educated about eVoting. It is simply a well written piece of legislation.

    In other words it doesn't have a hope in hell of passing, couldn't someone at least throw in some ammendment about a program to train Arctic monkies to do the recounts so legislators will consider it?
  • by swordgeek (112599) on Monday April 02, 2007 @10:25PM (#18582229) Journal
    First of all, understand that I'm looking at this from an outsider's point of view. That said, this is an excellent bill--it provides accountability and a barrier to ballot stuffing, the primary barriers to responsible electronic voting.

    The question I have is why not paper ballots?

    Much of the rest of the world (Yes, including the first world) uses paper ballots that are tallied by humans. Electronic ballots can only be secure from abuse by having a per-ballot paper trail, so what advantage does the electronic ballot provide at all?

    Honestly, I'm curious about why electronic ballots are a good idea at all, given the present state of the art.
    • by cdrguru (88047)
      How long did it take to count paper ballots in the last election you are familiar with? When did the news media announce the winner - before or after the votes were counted?

      In the US there will be a winner announced before the end of the night after the voting is done. The news media will do this and it can be based on exit polls or real results. Real results could be partial or complete.

      Electronic voting gets us back away from news media coronations. The last two presidential elections the news media c
      • by Catbeller (118204)
        Canada gets its national elections counted by hand, to final announced totals, in about... three hours. By PENCIL.

        The US is slowed because we hold the election in different time zones, and we have to cycle people through, YES, loooonnngg lines to get to the damned machines. A card and a pencil can be used by an entire crowd simultaneously. We are also slowed by our weird voter verification process. More than slowed. Ground to a halt.
    • Most of the rest of the world doesn't have to count a hundred and fifty million ballots covering dozens of issues in the shortest possible time.

      I agree that "in the shortest possible time" is logically bullshit, but this is what happens when TeeVee gives everyone ADD. The sad thing is that this should be the perfect application for computers, since it's literally nothing but adding 1 to selected counters. *sigh*
    • by BranMan (29917)
      I guess the cynical answer is the best - instant gratification. We in the US have gotten used to the Elections being decided - and tallied - before we even get home from the voting place. In fact, early results are collected and suppressed as the early results were available so early they were affecting the Elections as a whole. If we used paper ballots and tallied them by hand it would take days if not weeks. And what fun is that? We need the huge swings, the states turning colors as we watch - the DR
  • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Monday April 02, 2007 @10:25PM (#18582231)
    I think we should just forget the whole idea of electronic voting machines (which looks like it's just as faulty as the old mechanical voting machines used in much of the USA for many years) and go with mark-sense paper ballots filled out with permanent ink pens or markers.

    Not only is it machine-readable, but the ballots can be hand-counted quite easily in case of close elections.
  • Hmm.. That's odd.

    I thought April Fool's Day was yesterday!

    ...

    Let's hope they manage to pass it. Common sense is hard to come these days.

    Aero
  • Let's make sure that the paper ballots printed by these machines are not the heat-sensitive paper type. Sun, heat, fluorescent lighting, and age can degrade these ballots fairly quickly. The conspiracy theorist in me says that many big box stores switch to heat-sensitive receipts to reduce customer returns and warranty claims. Should you require a receipt for tax purposes, better keep a Xerox copy.

    Los Angeles County uses Ink-a-Vote which replaced those punch cards with ink blot bubbles. Nothing beats paper
  • by caitriona81 (1032126) <sdaugherty&gmail,com> on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @02:44AM (#18583895) Journal
    I shouldn't have to point this out, but if you feel strongly about this or other issues before the house, you can
    easily write your Congressman from the contact form on the House web site - http://www.house.gov/writerep/ [house.gov]
    While members of Congress may or may not read Slashdot, they or their staff do presumably read their Inbox, and I've gotten at least cursory replies (usually by snail mail) before.
    I've posted the letter I just wrote below as an example, but it's probably more effective if you write your own words rather than using mine:

    To the Honorable Walter B. Jones:

    I just became aware of pending legislation via a number of technical industry news sites including Slashdot and Arstechnica that I feel is long overdue, H.R. 811: Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007.

    As a constituent of your district, and as a registered voter, the integrity and transparency of election processes deeply concerns me.

    Of particular importance and interest to me are provisions which provide for voter-verifiable paper trails in elections, provisions that require random auditing to insure that paper records match electronic ones, provisions that require the software used within electronic voting machines be open to public inspection, and provisions that provide for the emergency use of paper ballots in the event of system or equipment failure.

    I realize that these measures create an additional burden on the states, however, I strongly believe they are needed to restore accountability, auditability, and voter confidence lost by the widespread adoption of electronic voting machines.

    I urge you to strongly consider voting for this legislation when it comes before you, and to resist amendments which weaken or eliminate the strong provisions on election integrity it contains.

    Sincerely,
    Stephanie Daugherty
  • by kst (168867) on Tuesday April 03, 2007 @03:53AM (#18584359)
    It mandates that the paper records be the authoritative source in any recounts ...

    Make the paper record the authoritative source in any and all counts.

    If the paper record (it's called a ballot!) is computer-generated, that's ok, as long as the voter gets to verify it, and as long as everything on the ballot is human-readable. (If it looks like a human-readable ballot but the actual vote is recorded in a barcode, that's subject to abuse; the voter has no way to confirm that the barcode matches the actual vote.)

    And I don't think there's any good reason not to count the ballots by hand.

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