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Florida Literally Scraps Touch-Screen Voting 177

Posted by kdawson
from the do-not-want dept.
Kaseijin writes "Florida Governor Charlie Crist is getting his wish. The New York Times reports the state will replace touch-screen voting machines with optical-scan models by July 1, 2008 — the most aggressive timetable of any jurisdiciton rethinking this approach to voting. The touch-screen machines most likely will be sold to other jurisdictions or stripped for parts."
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Florida Literally Scraps Touch-Screen Voting

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  • great idea (Score:5, Funny)

    by ILuvRamen (1026668) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @01:16PM (#20967059)
    I think we should buy one for each Slashdot 10th anniversary party and smash them.
    • Much better idea (Score:4, Insightful)

      by WindBourne (631190) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @05:35PM (#20968825) Journal
      is to turn a few of them over to so of the crackers, reverse compile them, and lets see exactly how many bugs there are? In particular, I want to know, were the elections valid. For that reason, I suspect that the courts and the pubs will fight the idea of turning ANY of those over to an academians or crackers.
      • by mpe (36238)
        is to turn a few of them over to so of the crackers, reverse compile them, and lets see exactly how many bugs there are? In particular, I want to know, were the elections valid.

        Assuming you don't want to do something easier than searching for valid elections on these machines. Like looking for honest politicans or extra terrestial intelligence.
  • Translation: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by urcreepyneighbor (1171755) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @01:18PM (#20967079)

    sold to other jurisdictions
    We don't trust 'em, but you should!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by noidentity (188756)
      So you'd prefer that his decision be imposed on everyone? Let each district decide what machines they want to use. sold != forced to buy
      • Re:Translation: (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AuMatar (183847) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @04:49PM (#20968507)
        The decision not to use highly insecure and completely unauditable machines to elect our leaders with? Yes, that decision should be forced an everyone.
      • Re:Translation: (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Kadin2048 (468275) * <slashdot.kadin@x[ ].net ['oxy' in gap]> on Saturday October 13, 2007 @10:43PM (#20970663) Homepage Journal
        Uh, please give me one good reason why municipalities should be given the option of using highly insecure, no-physical-record, easily hacked "voting" machines in elections that influence the entire nation?

        By your logic, we should allow states to allocate their delegates to the Electoral College by coin toss, cockfight, or single combat, if a bunch of political appointees in that state think it's a bright idea.

        I think we should rigorously enforce some sort of minimum standard of quality for elections. Above and beyond that, sure, states can choose what brand and type of machines they want. But we all have an interest in making sure that elections are fair, unbiased, and transparent. Auditless electronic voting systems prohibit that by design, and for that reason they ought to be illegal. Leave them for supermarket taste-tests where they belong.
    • by gerf (532474)
      You can throw some nasty little virus on there in the meantime :D
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Firethorn (177587)
      It's actually a component of federal and many state laws - equipment that's not considered sensitive in nature has to be sold to recover what money can be recovered.

      I suppose you could use the systems for some non-critical voting purposes.
      • Re:Translation: (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Pete LaGrange (696064) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @04:05PM (#20968309)
        These should be returned to the manufacturer as unfit for intended purpose and a full refund extracted.
        • by Firethorn (177587)
          I'd love to see them do this, however they're probably screwed as they didn't write their requirements document well enough; such that the machines, while screwed up POSes, actually meet the requirements document. Perhaps even worse, the government probably signed the acceptance papers.

          Recovering the money would require a huge lawsuit that the Florida government isn't guaranteed to win.
      • Re:Translation: (Score:5, Insightful)

        by lenski (96498) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @04:08PM (#20968323)
        My favorite use for touchscreen ex-voting machines would be to drive a printer that generates human-readable ballots. Said ballots would be perfectly fine to count either by optical-scan readers or normal unaided humans.

        Touchscreen "ballot printers" would go a long way toward eliminating overvotes and reducing undervotes (since a voter must be permitted to abstain from a particular race or issue).

        As long as the Official Legal Ballot is durable and readable by unaided humans. The human can then manually scan his/her selections on the paper ballot before committing it to the official count. If the touchscreen system failed to record the voter's intent accurately, the voter can place the the machine-printed ballot in a rejection pile and fill in a paper ballot using manual methods (pencil, pen, etc.)

        The point is that the voter must be able to audit his/her voting selections on the official legal record before committing it to the secure but open vote counting process.
        • by Phroggy (441)
          Excellent. I LOVE the idea of modifying existing touch-screen voting machines for this purpose.
          • by Firethorn (177587)
            Except that one of the leaked Diebold memos basically had them going to charge more for adding printing capabilities than what they charged for the machines in the first place.
            • by Phroggy (441)

              Except that one of the leaked Diebold memos basically had them going to charge more for adding printing capabilities than what they charged for the machines in the first place.
              That's precisely why I like the idea of using an existing voting machine. Replace the software with something open source, obviously. I'm sure it could be done for much cheaper than what Diebold was quoting, and would work a lot better.
              • by Firethorn (177587)
                Except that the OS and hardware of these systems are supposably locked down. Do we even know if they have standard USB ports?

                Sure, hackers can probably get something on it, but the government doesn't work on that basis.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by tftp (111690)
          It is much easier and cheaper to just print a stack of paper ballots at your local printer shop. These guys have fast, high speed machines, designed for printing in large volume, and the cost of each copy is tiny. But this touch screen machine would have to use some HP or Brother laser printer, and they cost real money per page printed, and your control over blank ballots is very loose (anyone with a laser printer can make his own; professionally printed ballots can't be easily forged at least because most
          • I agree. (Score:3, Insightful)

            by lenski (96498)
            (As stated by others in this thread) There is no need for an expensive middle-man in the voting process. Having comparatively delicate machines involved adds no security to the process.

            My reason for making the suggestion about transforming DREs into very expensive pencils is that local governments are notorious for their inability to face the economic "sunk cost" problem: They claim that they paid lots of very limited money for the machines and they insist on Getting Their Moneys Worth. They also say that g
          • by Rich0 (548339)
            After the station closes the scanner can read the forms at amazing speed, which allows you to run the same batch on two different scanners, and if the results differ then you recheck. Modern OCR is very, very good, and you can always tell the scanner to set aside all ballots that the machine is "unsure" about. Those can be counted manually, and there won't be too many of those.

            The problem is that ambiguous ballots will still exist. And some percentage will be ambiguous to a court as well. A LOT of ballots
            • by tftp (111690)
              The problem is that ambiguous ballots will still exist. And some percentage will be ambiguous to a court as well.

              Throw them out. If the voter doesn't have enough brains to fill a circle in front of a name then chances are he is too stupid to vote. Besides, ambiguous votes always existed, and should exist, since any voter has the right to not vote on some specific issue. To that effect he is entitled to spoiling this section of the ballot (if not the entire ballot, which is also his right.)

              A computer sho

      • I suppose you could use the systems for some non-critical voting purposes.

        Sure, like your typical Homeowner's Association:

        Item 1: Do you ...

        A. think satellite dishes are inappropriate for our community

        B. think satellite dishes are unacceptable in our community


        They could sell tons of these used voting machines to associations, since it really doesn't matter which way you vote anyway.
        • by Firethorn (177587)
          Pretty much what I was thinking of. Or use them for those customer service surveys. You know, like 'How was your visit to the DMV today?'. Oddly enough 'Worse than my last visit to the 9th circle of Hell' would be missing, but whatever.
    • sold to other jurisdictions
      Cue Inigo Montoya:

      crap is a term used to describe waste metal. Old, unwanted metal such as parts of vehicles, building supplies, and surplus materials, are taken to a wrecking yard (known colloquially as scrapyards), where they are processed for later melting into new products.

      Even selling them for parts isn't literally scrapping them ;-(
      • by tftp (111690)
        There must be a subtle problem with your quote but the nature of the flaw eludes me...
  • Parts? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Klaidas (981300) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @01:19PM (#20967085)
    Stripped for parts? Am I the only one thinking there won't be much of a demand for those? :/
    • Re:Parts? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rizzo320 (911761) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @01:22PM (#20967105)
      I bet the touch screens could be disconnected and used for other purposes.
    • Re:Parts? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AsmordeanX (615669) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @01:28PM (#20967163)
      If they put them on ebay I bet hackers and geeks would swarm the auctions. A cheap (depending on what they want for it) VGA touch screen, small PC that you might be able to install a different OS to?

      Sadly though, those $5000 machines will probably only sell for $200 tops online.
      • Re:Parts? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by rizzo320 (911761) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @01:36PM (#20967221)
        There's a version of linux for just about everything :-)
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by larry bagina (561269)
        My interest waned after looking at the Specs [sequoiavote.com]:
        • 38-40 pounds
        • (possibly related) lead acid battery
        • by russ1337 (938915)
          the specs look enough to run a lightweight OS (damn-small-linux) and a bit torrent client...
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by zig007 (1097227)
          Funny, my interest did the exact opposite after reading the following:
          "Proprietary firmware on closed system prevents hacker access"

          Hm.. Were have I heard that one before? :-)
          • Seems to defeat auditing pretty well, though....
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by thegnu (557446)

            "Proprietary firmware on closed system prevents hacker access"

            The proof is in the pudding. The elections were NOT hacked, because it's not hacking if you have a password. :-)
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by arivanov (12034)
          You do not like the fact that it has a f*** 16 hour built in UPS? Would you mind sharing whatever is that you are smoking...
      • Or a group of unsavory persons could purchase one and find the security vulnerabilities in it to rig an election or two.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Imagine a Beowulf cluster of voting machine parts!
    • by tcgroat (666085)
      There's probably a decent demand for the parts. Only the same type replacement parts should be used in certified systems such as voting machines (fellow cynics please note: should be! ). Since the hardware now is many years old, scavenging cast-off equipment for usable parts may be the best way to keep them running, perhaps the only way.
  • ah my eyes! (Score:3, Funny)

    by quaketripp (621850) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @01:31PM (#20967185)
    At first I was equating optical to retinal scan voting -- "Sorry, the correct choice was --" "AHHH! MY EYES!" In more rational terms, this is good, there should be a paper trail which is key to our voting process. You fill the circle in with a marker, slide the ballot in the dealy, it counts, and you can do a manual recount if needed. That's what is truly required.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pnewhook (788591)

      there should be a paper trail which is key to our voting process. You fill the circle in with a marker, slide the ballot in the dealy, it counts, and you can do a manual recount if needed. That's what is truly required.

      That's exactly how it worked the last time I voted. I marked the paper, the paper was scanned by the counting computer, the counting computer gave me a receipt to tell me what candidate it had counted. No no manual counting (which is rife for abuse) unless needed, and I get a verification

    • As long as your manual recount takes one of two forms. Either recount EVERY ballot, or have the machine stop when it can not read a ballot, so that the ballot can be examined.

      In Orange County, FL they were BRAGGING on TV abut manually seperating out the "non machine counted" votes from their optical scan machines. As if THEY could tell. I still want them arrested for vote fraud.

      And BTW, that generated 50 illegal votes for Al Gore.
  • At Defcon15 Bruce Schneier has said that he prefers optical scan *by far*.
  • The losing side will contest the results anyway.
  • Literally? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 13, 2007 @01:57PM (#20967381)
    As opposed to figuratively?
  • Auditing. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by headkase (533448) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @01:59PM (#20967393)
    I'm stunned that in the first place a system that could not be 100% audited was allowed to be used in the first place! Seriously, even though politicians don't seem to give a damn what you think the voting process is supposed to be a key-stone of democracy. If you can't trust the ballots you can't trust the system. It's fundamental.
    • by butlerdi (705651)
      Who the hell trusts the system ?
  • by WindowlessView (703773) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @02:05PM (#20967435)

    Aggh,someone had to ask it.

  • Paper? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Froster (985053) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @02:18PM (#20967529)
    Are paper ballots really that complicated? If there are multiple referendums or positions to be voted for, just use colour-coded ballots and ballot boxes. All this trouble with voting machines is just ridiculous.

    As a Canadian, I've never voted with anything other than a paper ballot, and I have never had a reason to question the voting process as a result.

    • by Tim Ward (514198)
      Same in the UK.

      Pencil and paper.

      It Just Works.

      Complete audit trail, recounts take from a few minutes to a few hours, depending on the election. Yes, if there are several votes taking place at the same time, it's a little more complicated to separate out the different coloured ballots, some of which are always put in the wrong boxes, but hardly a big deal.
    • by B3ryllium (571199)
      Well, then you run into issues with colour blindness. So there would have to be precautions for that, as well.

      I, too, am a Canadian, and I also don't see why the Americans are making this so complicated.
      • by jimicus (737525)
        Choose the right shades and you run into issues with colour blindness hardly ever. Frankly, you have bigger problems with people who are entitled to vote but don't have particularly good motor control, or the totally blind.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by JimBobJoe (2758)
      If there are multiple referendums or positions to be voted for, just use colour-coded ballots and ballot boxes.

      How many do you propose. In my county in November 2004, I voted for 54 different things. (President, Congress, Ohio House, Ohio Senate, State board of education, a bunch of judges, a bunch of county executive offices, several county tax authorizations and a lot of municipal tax authorizations.)

      Admittedly, that was particularly severe, even for a presidential election.

      I've been a pollworker for seve
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by zestyping (928433)
      Ballots in the United States are far longer than those in Canada. Have a look for yourself: NIST has a collection of ballots online [nist.gov].

      Here's one example: Chicago, Illinois, November 2004 [nist.gov]. 10 pages of choices, with 15 elected offices, confirmations of 74 judges, and one referendum. We're talking about 1 or 2 orders of magnitude longer than a Canadian ballot.

      I do not support unauditable voting computers. I just wanted to explain why the voting problem is much different in the U. S., and give you some idea w
      • by sunwukong (412560)

        Here's one example: Chicago, Illinois, November 2004. 10 pages of choices, with 15 elected offices, confirmations of 74 judges, and one referendum.

        When I saw how long it took to download plus what it actually looks like, it reminded me of the "personality test" for your avatar in the old Ultima games, i.e., long, excruciatingly boring and opaquely related to the outcome.

        I wonder if the American voter knew Lord British had designed their electoral system ...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by noidentity (188756)
      "As a Canadian, I've never voted with anything other than a paper ballot, and I have never had a reason to question the voting process as a result."

      America is the land of opportunity, like the opportunity to question the integrity of the voting process! I hope I've answered your question.
  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @02:22PM (#20967559)
    Is that you can design the voting form in such a way to fix one of the fundamental problems with democracy. You can make it confusing enough that those with insufficient I.Q. [bbc.co.uk] are able only to spoil their ballots, thereby improving the overall level of decision making by the then elected government.

     
    • by FauxPasIII (75900)
      I doubt I'm the first person to come up with this, but I've been saying for years that the ballot should be a list of names and a list of offices with blanks by them, in random order. You write in the name you want next to the office you want them for. Thus, without having to invalidate a single ballot you insure that all the votes that "count" come from people who at least have the wherewithal to know who is running for what.

      For a more aggressive means of filtration, just remove the list of names...
      • by Stray7Xi (698337)

        I doubt I'm the first person to come up with this, but I've been saying for years that the ballot should be a list of names and a list of offices with blanks by them, in random order. You write in the name you want next to the office you want them for. Thus, without having to invalidate a single ballot you insure that all the votes that "count" come from people who at least have the wherewithal to know who is running for what.

        yea the one guy that stumbled on big media publicity wins every office even if he was just running for school board.

  • by JackMeyhoff (1070484) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @03:09PM (#20967893)
    .. I take along my PERMENANT marker and place a HUGE BLACK [X] on the SCREEN :)
  • Why do they always involve some type of machine to do the counting in the US? Is there a shortage of volunteers to do the counting?
    I would never trust a system like that. At the very least, the machine-counted vote should be confirmed later (but before the election is officially confirmed) by a manual count, no matter if there is a dispute or not.
    In Sweden, the ballots are counted by volunteers in the precincts on election night under the supervision of observers from the parties and interested citizens (
    • by lenski (96498)
      Many people that my wife and I work with (in the "election protection movement") believe that hand-counting is the only way to go. Their logic is that it takes the cooperation of a much larger number of people to screw with an election that was counted by lots and lots and lots of volunteers.

      In America, the ballots tend to be larger, sometimes with many candidates and many issues on in a single election. That was the original impetus for using machines: counting would take "too long" for complicated electio
    • Only the retired volunteer.
      And yes there is a shortage.
    • Why do they always involve some type of machine to do the counting in the US? Is there a shortage of volunteers to do the counting?

      I think the problem is that the Americans like to have an awful lot of elections. Most countries, there's just one vote at a time. You get a slip with a list of people's names and party affiliations, you put an X next to one, you fold up your paper and put it in the box, and that night people count them up. Simple.

      In America they'll give you a list of people standing for pre

  • You've been Punk'd (Score:3, Insightful)

    by transami (202700) on Saturday October 13, 2007 @04:41PM (#20968469) Homepage
    BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!

    Oh you poor beguiled Floridians. You've just been taken for the old bait and switch. If you had paid attention to the debacle of the last presidential election you would know that it was the optical scanners that were compromised, not the touch screens! An in-depth statistical analysis was undertaken by a mathematics professor of the exit polls compared to the "counted" tally. A vast number of anomalies showed up in Ohio in districts with optical scanners. Calculating the odds of those discrepancies show that it was less likely for Bush to have won that election than for him to have been hit by lighting and win the lottery on the same day (paraphrasing of course).

  • I voted yesterday with pencil and paper - putting numbers in boxes. The polling booths closed at 5pm. At 9:14pm the full results appeared on the net after being added up by volunteers and scrutenised by all interested parties. Forget the machines - this is a situation where volunteers do a far better job. Ironicly Slashot is showing me an ad at this point with the slogan "the power of human energy" - which is apt since the retired people that have trouble working out how to run voting machines by all ac

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