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All Fifty States May Face Voting Machine Lawsuit 436

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the counters-fans-of-fuzzy-math dept.
according to an announcement made by activist Bernie Ellis at the premier of David Earnhardt's film "Uncounted [The Movie]" all fifty states could be receiving subpoenas in the National Clean Election lawsuit. The documentary film, like the lawsuit, takes a look at the issue of voting machine failure and the need for a solid paper trail. "The lawsuit is aimed at prohibiting the use of all types of vote counting machines, and requiring hand-counting of all primary and general election ballots in full view of the public. The lawsuit has raised significant constitutional questions challenging the generally accepted practices of state election officials of relying on "black box" voting machines to record and count the votes at each polling station, and allow tallying of votes by election officials outside the view of the general public."
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All Fifty States May Face Voting Machine Lawsuit

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  • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @02:54PM (#21340471) Journal
    Simply vote, it prints your ballot, and you slip it in a box. You can verify your ballot was printed correctly, and they could have options to let you destroy your ballot if not, and reprint (or fill it out by hand)...

    Or would that be too sensible?
    • It doesn't matter how the vote is made, it matters who counts the votes. We've already seen that dubious vote counters had ignored and thrown out ballots in a previous documentary.
      • A printed ballot could have a barcode and be read by machine.

        This give you automatic vote counting AND a full paper trail.

        To keep the system in check, randomly chosen cards could be hand verified after the election to make sure the barcodes are correctly printed.

        Maybe I should go out and patent this, just in case common sense breaks out somewhere.
    • The voting machine prints out Presidential runner X, but internally notes you voted for Presidential runner Y. That's been the general problem.
      • by ByOhTek (1181381) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @03:00PM (#21340583) Journal
        Sorry, I didn't make it clear - that's why it prints out the readable hard copies; those are used for the tally, not some internal copy on the system.
        • by Hatta (162192)
          If you're going to be counting the votes by hand, what's the point of the voting machine then? You can accomplish the exact same thing with pen and paper.
          • by ByOhTek (1181381)
            For some people it's easier to fill out (think 2000 + hanging chads)

            Personally, after the 2006 election, I'd rather use pen&paper than that horribly crappy Diebold software..
            • by Firethorn (177587)
              For some people it's easier to fill out (think 2000 + hanging chads)

              However, chads are a prime example of overcomplicating matters. To create chads you need a punch machine.

              A pen and paper would have been easier for many, and resulted in ballots that were easier to determine.

              Personally, after the 2006 election, I'd rather use pen&paper than that horribly crappy Diebold software..

              Agreed.

              Personally, I think that any 'touch screen' voting machines should be nothing more than gloriously overengineered prin
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by man_of_mr_e (217855)
                Where I live, they use paper ballots with optical scanners. It's amazing how many of these get rejected and require them to be re-filled out because someone accidentally voted for the wrong candidate and thought they could just "cross it out" or somethign stupid like that.

                The nice thing about printing the vote is that you get the electronic tally right away, so the world can know a "tentative" result by that evening, while a full count could take all night, or or maybe even a few days to certify.
                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by sm62704 (957197)
                  while a full count could take all night, or or maybe even a few days to certify

                  In '52, huge computer called Univac changed election night [usatoday.com].

                  In a few hours on Nov. 4, 1952, Univac altered politics, changed the world's perception of computers and upended the tech industry's status quo. Along the way, it embarrassed CBS long before Dan Rather could do that all by himself.

                  It is the story of how Univac predicted that Eisenhower would win by a landslide, and CBS news wouldn't report the results because they didn't

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by GMFTatsujin (239569)
                  I'm not sure the loss of security and reliability is worth the gain in speed.

                  With the Oval Office up for grabs, why not be sure we've elected the jerk correctly? A few days' wait isn't going to kill anyone.
                • by pintpusher (854001) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @04:07PM (#21341505) Journal

                  The nice thing about printing the vote is that you get the electronic tally right away, so the world can know a "tentative" result by that evening, while a full count could take all night, or or maybe even a few days to certify.
                  So what happens when a candidate sees the tentative vote and concedes the election? This is veering OT for this thread but I've always been stumped by this. I think Kerry did this: conceded the vote while it was still in contention. IOW, he just gave up. Do they then stop counting? All you have to do is rig the electronic results enough to make someone not want to bother with the hand count, and the election is over.

                  I don't think candidates should be allowed to concede an election. An election isn't over until all the votes are counted and certified. period. If the candidate concedes before then, that should nullify the election as the voters were not choosing from the actual candidates. They were instead choosing between one person who wanted the job and another person who wanted to distract voters in some fashion.

                  I don't know...
              • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                by miro f (944325)
                why does everything have to be so complicated? In Australia we get the candidate names on a piece of paper with big boxes next to each name. We simply write numbers 1-whatever indicating our preferences. If you're too stupid to work that out each party also hands out "how to vote" cards. The votes are counted by hand at the end of the election.

                Since you don't have a preferential system in USA it should be even easier, all you need to do is tick a box. Even the voters of Florida should be able to handle that
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by gurps_npc (621217)
            1. Bad hand writing. 2. If it is done by your hand, then it is easier to forge. If it is done by computer, they can use special inks, paper, and maybe a confirmation bar code. 3. The electronic machine could do a 'pre count', so that while the official count is not till next day, you get something to report tonight. 4. The machine can also save a record of things like how many people voted in each district, providing another double check to prevent voter fraud. And it could even double check what dist
          • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @03:31PM (#21341021) Homepage Journal
            The machine generated ballots can be used for initial counting estimates counted by machines. That will satisfy Americans' urgent need to instantly know who won after they each cast their vote. Those counts should not be legally binding. The ballots should be counted by hand for the officially binding count. In the event that there's any substantial differences, the state should automatically open a formal investigation into vote rigging. Which would deter that kind of rigging, so it would rarely be tried, and the investigations rarely begun.

            There's no reason the official count can't take a few days to complete, even doublechecked by multiple counts. That kind of human responsibility for the counting is entirely consistent with the democracy we're populating with the votes.
            • by sm62704 (957197)
              I had a (now retired) supervisor with a PhD in statistics that double checked his spreadsheets with a calculator (with good reason it now appears [slashdot.org]) and checked the calculator calculations by hand.

              But personally, I always trusted the machine more than people. Machines don't get tired or distracted, and 200,000,000 is a pretty big number to count all the way up to without making a mistake (ok, I already made one - that's population, not voters).

              Of course, I can't say the same about spell checkers, which it see
              • by Lars Clausen (1208) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @04:34PM (#21341917)

                200,000,000 is a pretty big number to count all the way up to without making a mistake
                Not if you have enough people counting. At our polling station tonight, we had about 8000 voters and 25 people counting. That's an amazing 320 votes each will have to count. How long would it take you to sort through 320 pieces of paper according to where an X is marked? How about "not all damn night"?

                -Lars
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Hatta (162192)
              The machine generated ballots can be used for initial counting estimates counted by machines. That will satisfy Americans' urgent need to instantly know who won after they each cast their vote.

              There is no urgent need to know who won instantly. In fact, knowing early results before voting is closed will affect the results, and is not desirable. I'm prepared to wait as long as I need to to know the results are valid.
          • by frdmfghtr (603968)

            If you're going to be counting the votes by hand, what's the point of the voting machine then? You can accomplish the exact same thing with pen and paper.

            The idea is that the machine prints the mark on the ballot for you. There are no issues of two check marks, no check marks, circling names instead of marking boxes, etc. The ballots are marked in a uniform fashion so they are easier to count.

            Heck, a printed ballot could even have only the name of the selection; in a race between candidates X and Y, a vo

          • You combine the tallied results with the exit polls. Exit polls are not flawless, but are usually a relatively good indicator of how close the election was. If its a lopsided defeat then there is no reason to force the votes to be counted by hand. If its close, the votes can be recounted by hand.

            ' Now I suppose that system could be manipulated, for instance the exit poll data could be manipulated or a politician that lost could demand a recount even though they are pretty sure that they actually did los
            • by sconeu (64226)
              The two times I've been exit polled, I lied to the pollster.

              I suspect many people feel the same way.
          • Voting machines can be programmed in as many languages as necessary. Keep on hand ballots for English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Braille (which could go to audio cues), oh, and large type varieties for people hard of seeing.

            I personally think this aspect should be the primary reason to go with voting machines, with accuracy a second.
        • If counters can see the vote on a ballot, they can work to spoil that ballot or ignore counting it. If what is printed is encrypted in some way they can't spoil it but then how do we trust that the encryption is accurate. So what I have come up with is (1) an encrypted paragraph of hex (EPoH) on a continuous tape coming out of the voting machine, (2) a simultaneous printout of EPoH on a receipt to the individual (that also prints out who/how they voted, and their generated-on-the-day voter ID). The vote
    • Or the paper and pen method... why introduce unnecessary mechanization? Occam's razor applies very well to voting. Simplicity is best.
      • by Ironsides (739422)
        Last week in my county we had 160,000 people vote (not registered voters, people that voted) in which roughly 50 positions were open and I was eligible to vote for about 12 in my specific area. This was an off year election. Hand counting would take a while. Prior to computerized voting, we had mechanical machines made by (drum roll please) Diebold since at least the 70's.
        • by Applekid (993327)

          Prior to computerized voting, we had mechanical machines made by (drum roll please) Diebold since at least the 70's.
          McDonalds has been around since the 40's so, clearly it's good food that's good for you.
    • Because buying and selling votes is illegal.

      Seriously, this has been discussed to death in the security / crypto circles and there are *a lot* of really good ideas floating around. All that's really needed is a competitive process to select the best one... like the crypto community did with AES.

      This problem is so solvable the current state is infuriating.
    • Go the other way (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jhines (82154)
      We have fill in the dots, and turn the ballot into the box, which presumably checks for errors, before beeping and accepting the ballot for storage. Count them as many times as needed, either by machine or hand.

      Seems to me to work rather well.
      • by ByOhTek (1181381)
        That (in my oppinion/for me) does seem like a better option.

        Why not have both? Some people do find the computers easier due to disability? I found the machines used in Ohio during the 2000s prior to the switch to the Diebold computers in 2006 to be preferrable to the computers or pen&paper, but everyone has their preferences. Having two options would be nice.
    • There are approximately 170 million registered voters in the US. If only 50 million vote, and each ballot is counted by hand, and it takes 1 mintue to count and record one ballot that makes That is that is about 833,333 man hours to count the vote. Assuming two people to count one ballot, that is 1,666,667 man hours. Assuming you want to be able to do a recount, the count will have to be done in one month, that is 160 hours.

      That is 10,416 people doing nothing but counting votes for 8 hours a day, 5 days a w
      • by p0tat03 (985078)

        It takes 1 full minute to record and count a ballot? I think we can reasonably triple your estimate there and still be erring on the side of caution.

        So we reduce your estimate... some 3000-odd people working full-time for a month, plus support infrastructure and personnel. That's not unfeasible at all. Not to mention that this is the way we've been doing it, with fair success, for the last couple hundred years, and heck, the percentage of Americans who vote used to be HIGHER than it is today.

      • by ByOhTek (1181381)
        It doesn't have to be initially counted by hand, but at any stage of the process, the vote should be hand verifiable.

        i.e. I vote, I can verify by hand that my ballot is correct, because for a few seconds, it is in my hand, until it goes to the box (meaning, the voting machine is one less avenue for screwing the election).

        Later, they can go to a scantron style machine, and be tallied. If there is no contest about the election, then all is done, and nothing to worry about, but if the district/state/whatever h
    • Of course you will have these machine printed ballots print all the vote selections in clearly readable text. But in addition to that, also include a copy of all the votes in bar code, along with a secure checksum. Before putting the ballot into the box, scan it on a verification machine. This machine performs optical character reading (OCR) of the text. It compares that to the bar code, and generates a checksum to compare as well. If anything is inconsistent, it reports an error so that vote can be do

  • by TheSpoom (715771) * <slashdot@@@uberm00...net> on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @02:55PM (#21340479) Homepage Journal
    You can have electronic voting that doesn't suck. [openvotingconsortium.org]

    It just has to have a paper trail, not reveal to outsiders who you voted for, and, y'know, not be backed with Microsoft Access.
    • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @03:14PM (#21340781) Journal
      Any electronic voting that doesn't suck is no better than pen and paper. So electronic voting machines either 1) suck and facilitate corruption or 2) don't suck but waste a lot of money. I don't see anything to be excited about here.
      • Your job next election then: ensure each voting booth in Orange County, CA has enough paper ballots in the proper languages, including (but not exclusive to) English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese and Korean. Also keep braille ballots on hand.

        Points will be deducted for excessive stock that will have to be destroyed as well.

        With electronic voting, it's a simple matter of selecting a different language on the first screen.
        • Your job next election then: ensure each voting booth in Orange County, CA has enough paper ballots in the proper languages, including (but not exclusive to) English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese and Korean. Also keep braille ballots on hand.
          Not to be a troll, but there are a number of hurdles people are supposed to hop over to become US citizens. Maybe a usable knowledge of the most common language (english) should be one of them?
      • by bigg_nate (769185) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @03:42PM (#21341153)

        Any electronic voting that doesn't suck is no better than pen and paper.

        I used to think this as well, but then I saw a talk by a Ben Adida, a cryptographic voting researcher. It turns out there are electronic and hybrid voting systems that allow every step of the process to be independently audited. Individual voters can log into a website and ensure that their vote was recorded correctly (and yes, this is done in such a way that nobody can prove to another party which way they voted). Anyone can get a list of the people who actually voted, so they can check that nobody voted twice and that every voter was valid. Each of the candidates can independently and programatically verify that the tallying was done correctly (again, without exposing any one specific ballot). This is far superior to traditional paper ballots, and there's no technical reason we can't have it today.

        Here [adida.net]'s a paper that gives some more information. I believe Dr. Adida mentioned that this particular system has a few problems that would prevent it from being used in practice, but it still gives a pretty good example of how a cryptographic voting system could work.

      • by javelinco (652113)
        Can you elaborate? Why would it be "no better than pen and paper"?
      • by TheSpoom (715771) *
        I disagree.

        The software itself is free, so the only cost is a PC, and it doesn't necessarily need to be an expensive one.

        Plus, with well-designed software, you avoid the sort of issues that the Florida election had in 2000 (hanging chads, etc). Granted, that could be said about paper ballots, but with an electronic ballot you are able to get confirmation of who you voted for before it prints.

        In the initial count, you avoid having to do a manual count of every ballot (as it's done electronically), but we st
  • by explosivejared (1186049) <hagan.jared@g m a i l .com> on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @02:57PM (#21340533)
    That tag would fit very appropriately on this story. It's really hard to see anything other than complete incompetency in anyone who thinks that a black box e-voting machine is a good idea. There was an article related to this topic the other day, and someone posited the question "...what happens to my vote when I press that button?" The short answer is you can't. That's why I hope this lawsuit is successful. I think it has a real shot, as people are upset election practices. With the phone-jammings, hanging chads, etc. that Americans have endured the last two times around, transparency is on everybody's wishlist... at least for those who don't stand to benefit from electioneering and lucrative contracts that is.
    • by budword (680846)
      It's not hard to see something other than complete incompetency. Malice. If you can control the company that makes the machine, you can control the vote. No need to try to bride the voters with their own money.
  • by JeepFanatic (993244) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @02:59PM (#21340549)
    I have no problem with the idea of electronic voting machines but they should povide a paper trail and the source code for the machines should be made open for public inspection so that the public can be sure that when they vote for John Q. Public that the vote is recorded correctly.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @02:59PM (#21340557)
    Let's face it. WHO can verify the voting of open voting machines? We can. We, computers savvy people who understand computers and who can test, probe and verify the mechanisms behind the machines. Joe Average cannot.

    Joe Average can look at a vote, see the cross and verify that yes, whoever casted this vote voted for the person or party where the X is. That's the difference.

    Yes, of course we trust us. But can we be trusted? Hey, of course we can, I know that, you know that but essentially, it's the same situation we have with closed source voting machines: An outsider does not know whether we, computer people, are to be trusted. Like we, as outsiders, stand in front of the makers of voting machines and question their trustworthyness, so will non-tech people stand in front of us and question ours.

    The only way to have elections that cannot be questioned by anyone is to create a system that everyone can verify if they want to. And the only system is simply one that everyone can "read". So it's paper or nothing.
    • by Black-Man (198831)
      Oh yeah... like an election using paper ballots has never been stolen before! ROFL!! Look up West Virginia 1960 presidential election.
    • by Chandon Seldon (43083) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @03:30PM (#21341011) Homepage

      We can. We, computers savvy people who understand computers and who can test, probe and verify the mechanisms behind the machines. Joe Average cannot.

      Can we? I'm about six months short of my bachelors degree in CS, and I couldn't examine a computer voting machine and determine that it was trustworthy in any reasonable amount of time. With a properly marked paper ballot, anyone can tell you what it says and any attempt to change it requires at least couple of seconds alone with it. With a flash memory card, who knows? A person can't say *anything* about what's stored on it without putting it in a reader, and any reader device can trivially and tracelessly change the data in milliseconds.

      So not only is your point absolutely correct - it's understated. We absolutely do need a system where "everyone can read" the ballots, and any sort of electronic ballot system is a system where *no-one* can read them. Obviously Joe Average can't, but even the engineers who built the thing can't read the ballots directly.

      • Ok, a small portion of us actually can. Only makes the point stronger.

        Also, you mention another very important point: We need a system that you need to be able to read without subjecting the information to a process that may alter the information. A cross on a paper can be viewed from a foot away without the reader having any chance to change the information stored. This is not a given with other storage media that require devices other than our senses to make the information accessable to the human mind.
    • Any system is only as good as the way it is used. A paper system can be screwed up by "losing" sacks of papers, deliberate miscounting and the interpretation of hanging chads.

      You can verify the code in an open source system, but it can still have its disk wiped or be disconnected from the backend server so that the votes don't count etc etc.

  • by tjstork (137384) <todd...bandrowsky@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @02:59PM (#21340559) Homepage Journal
    You have handlers doing things like slightly damage ballots, so that they get invalidated... yeah, 1/1000, enough to swing a close election.

    Computers count better than people do, otherwise, you would see calls for people to manually tally your bank balance...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by poetmatt (793785)
      its a bit harder to do something shady with 50 people staring you down to hold you accountable.

      Blaming the computer for an error, in whatever fashion/manipulatable method, is a bit different, and all accountability is now gone: "It isn't me its an inanimate object(computer)" goes to "it wasn't the object its the owner of said object's fault" goes to "it's not the owner, of said object, he just bought it from XYZ company" seeing as that would be a corporation, means that there is 0 accountability whatsoever.
    • by Z00L00K (682162) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @03:20PM (#21340887) Homepage
      The possibility of hiding a skewed algorithm in an electronic voting machine is much easier than to get a really skewed result from hand-counting. This implies that there are several persons doing the hand counting, and that they are evenly distributed through the parties. A skewed algorithm in an electronic counting can easily drift to one side, while the hand-counting will have an error that is around the center. It's only if the outcome falls down to very few votes that it may matter.
  • Another idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nizo (81281) * on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @03:02PM (#21340605) Homepage Journal
    Maybe we could call in the UN to monitor the next round of elections?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by PhilipPeake (711883)
      There is something to be said for this idea.

      Jimmy Carter, who has participated in the monitoring of many elections in all sorts of countries is on record as saying that if he had to monitor US elections, he would have to declare them as unfair and open to abuse.

      There are jokes made about dead people voting. Unfortunately, its true. As are the votes of the same person multiple times and the votes of people ineligible to vote.

      Until those problems are fixed, how the votes are counted it really irrelevant, and
  • There's no rush (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phoenix.bam! (642635) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @03:03PM (#21340611)
    The sick fascination with immediate results is what is causing this issue to begin with. Election results do not need to be available immediately. Taking a day or a week for counting is perfectly fine. For some reason though we need to have live coverage as the polls close to find out who wins. It really doesn't matter all that much.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bhima (46039)
      There is a lot to be said about this.

      I wonder what not allowing exit polling to be published for 72 hours (or so) would do for fair elections.
    • For some reason though we need to have live coverage as the polls close to find out who wins. It really doesn't matter all that much.


      And it makes people further West on election day feel like their vote doesn't count. Think about poor Hawaii! Why would anyone there bother to go to the ballot box?

      -Grey [silverclipboard.com]
  • by spaglia2 (1187227) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @03:03PM (#21340617)
    Hey, if we're going to do e-voting, and you can't deny it forever, why not just have everyone vote one a week from their PCs on the actual issues and skip the (politicians) middle man?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sm62704 (957197)
      You want Kevin Mitnick to determine the next election? (no, not THAT Mitnik, I mean the Russian guy) Hmmph, I guess it's no worse than having Sony and BP's bribes; excuse me, "campaign contributions" determine it.

      I'm amazed that anyone here would trust their vote about ANYTHING on the internet.

      But the referendum Idea is one I'd go along with. There's no reason any law has to be passed RIGHT NOW; we could vote every year. I'd have the same way we do it now; a bill passes the house and Senate, then is vetoed
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Phroggy (441)
      Because I don't want to take the time to learn the background behind every single little detail of proposed legislation. I want to pick somebody who seems to agree with me on the basic fundamental principles that I DO understand, who's willing to take the time to learn all the details, and will represent my interests when he votes on my behalf. That's why they're called representatives.

      Of course the reality may be somewhat different, but I don't like your idea any better.
  • The lawsuit is aimed at prohibiting the use of all types of vote counting machines, and requiring hand-counting of all primary and general election ballots in full view of the public.
    Finally! I've been saying all along that you can't have a transparent, therefor democratic election unless the ordinary people can verify the results of an election!
    • by DaveV1.0 (203135)
      There are 150 million registered voters in the U.S.

      Exactly how are you going to count them all by hand between the election and swearing in? Also, if there is some dispute, how many ordinary people will be needed to count the election?
  • It's about goddamned time.
  • by Wellington Grey (942717) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @03:11PM (#21340731) Homepage Journal
    In the question and answer period following the screening, an Iraq veteran said he had pledged to protect his country "from all enemies foreign and domestic" and viewed the issues of voting machines as a domestic threat to voters across the country.

    It's very nice to hear of a soldier truly understanding the role of patriotism and protection in America these days. Well done, Sir.

    -Grey [silverclipboard.com]
  • My state doesn't use electronic. We use a paper ballot that scans and is saved. Dur..!
  • If we learned anything from the recent cycles of elections, it's that people are inherently LESS trustworthy than machines are.

    After all, it shouldn't take a rocket scientist (or even a dim witted 3rd grader) to remember all of the "vote wrangling" that went on when various "human" counting systems were employed in Florida, Ohio, Iowa, etc over the last few general elections.

    Because of course, a HUMAN would NEVER have any agenda at all when it comes to vote counting......

    Oh wait........

    Hanging Chad's an

    • If we learned anything from the recent cycles of elections, it's that people are inherently LESS trustworthy than machines are.

      Right. Because, of course it's not the machines themselves that we worry about; it's the humans that program them, and we'd like to be able to see what they did, after they did program them.

      And note, this applies to BOTH sides equally, so if you desire to blame the "mean ole conservatives" or the "damn looney liberals",.....Don't.

      Exactly! This isn't a liberal or conservative or Democratic Party or Republican Party issue. It's important for everybody that the vote counting should be open and above board, and that there should be not be grounds for doubt about whether the election was rigged. In fact, it's most important to the party that

    • by PhxBlue (562201)

      If we learned anything from the recent cycles of elections, it's that people are inherently LESS trustworthy than machines are.
      And yet, who programs voting machines?
    • I think the issue here is accountability. Other countries have paper ballots and manage well enough, with the recounts only being triggered where there are exceedingly close results between two or more candidates. Yes, it isn't perfect doing it the "old fashioned" way, but at least the process was understood, and was not buried beneath a layer of proprietary, patent-shrouded mystery. At least a paper ballot represents a physical entity that can be scrutinized, accepted or dismissed on its own merits. An
  • They may be tamperable, and probably are, but I still like them.
    I am biased as I lived here my whole life and am used to it.
    Touch screens still don't seem good enough though.
    If they look like bank ATM's ...
    Paper does have a paper trail, it would be weird if it didn't, but it almost seems too low tech.
    If hyperbole is used then I could compare it too etching on stone tablets; that would require a bit of insanity though.
    Levers look simple just look across for the name/party and down for the position.
    They also
  • All 50? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Phroggy (441) <slashdot3NO@SPAMphroggy.com> on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @03:22PM (#21340905) Homepage
    I'm perfectly happy with the way voting works in Oregon.

    You get your ballot in the mail, and fill in the little bubbles with a pencil or pen, just like the standardized tests we're all familiar with. You fold it up and seal it in a "secrecy envelope" which does not have any personally identifying marks. Then you seal that in another envelope which has your name, mailing address, and a barcode on it; this envelope must be signed. You can either mail it, or drop it off in a secure ballot box somewhere (such as at a public library). You can do this at your convenience, it doesn't have to be on election day.

    As ballots are received, they're scanned, unopened, and the signature is compared to what the state has on file from your voter registration. If the signature doesn't match, they'll contact you. If they receive two ballots from the same person, they'll contact you. If you don't receive your ballot, they'll send you another one with a different color outer envelope, so if they receive two, they know to discard the original one.

    Finally, on election night, the outer envelopes are opened and the inner envelopes are mixed together, then the inner envelopes are opened and counted. It's done by machine, but could be done by hand just as well (it'd just take longer). They get the results very quickly.

    Everything is done in the presence of observers from different political parties and members of the public (I haven't volunteered for this yet, but I think I'll look into it next year). All the machines involved are tested with a known quantity of sample ballots to make sure they're working properly. If somebody tried to rig the election, people would see it. Recounts are not a problem.

    The only problem with our system is that it doesn't prevent vote buying, because someone could watch you fill out your ballot, seal it, sign the envelope, and drop it in the mail, then pay you for voting the way they wanted. But so far this hasn't been an issue, and in general, most Oregonians won't stand for that sort of thing. We'd much rather accept that risk in exchange for the convenience of being able to vote how we want when we want, without trying to get to a polling place on election day.
    • The legal system shouldn't be allowed to be used as a blunt instrument. These people launching this lawsuit are egotistical. It almost sounds like a publicity stunt for thier movie.

      It would be nice if some of the states have loser pays laws so that when these schmucks lose they'll have to pay for the priveledge.
    • by MBCook (132727)

      I'd support that. This is what surprises me. I think it's kind of strange we don't do this for more things... is this kind of "absentee balloting" common in other countries?

      This seems to make the most sense to me. Our current system seems like it would clearly work better in the early 1800s when there were not nearly as many people. We wouldn't have to worry about poling places, getting people to them, turning away minorities, not having enough time to vote, etc.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by QuantumRiff (120817)
      I have to second Oregon's ballot process. The only problem I have ever seen with it, is the mailing back the return envelopes. While not a problem in urban areas, some area's of the state you might be 50-100 miles from the nearest "drop off" location, meaning you have to buy a stamp. (there has been talk about making the state pay postage on the envelopes, although as it stands, its better than the old polling places, where people had to drive to a polling location to vote, or vote absentee) The ballots
    • There are actually two types of voting cards in Oregon.

      One is as mentioned above where ovals have to be filled in.
      Others use a set of big arrows pointing at the person/thing you are voting for.
      The arrows have a gap - you draw a line in the gap to complete the arrow.

  • Us tech nerds have had the answer forever, we just have to adapt it - Open Source.

    But I don't mean "use OSS for the machines", I mean open-source the ACTUAL VOTES. How about this:

    1) Voter votes on an electronic voting machine
    2) Machine prints out a slip with their votes, and maybe a checksum/MD5 hash of the votes.
    3) Voter verifies this on as many "neutral", 3rd party and/or official vote verification sites as possible, making the possibility of sabotage very slim since they can go to any one of these sites
  • Paper and pencil (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cracked Pottery (947450) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @03:23PM (#21340929)
    Two advantages. It scales easily, and it is auditable. Braille ballots for the blind, and help for the handicapped. Everything original paper, with the right to be reviewed and recounted.
  • by Dr_Marvin_Monroe (550052) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @03:24PM (#21340935)
    This is really sooo simple folks. Everyone, especially the election folks, should be on-board with these types of demands. It's really not that difficult to do what the "Fair Elections" people want, unless you really ARE trying to manipulate the elections.

    1) Demand that Diebold and all of the other voting machine folks print a receipt for every voter. This wouldn't be any more difficult than printing a receipt at the supermarket. You get to look at it, you put it into the basket on the way out. The paper becomes the "official" ballot always, the machine is just there to give quick results.

    2) All the vote counting is redone at a central location, and EVERYONE can watch on the cable access channel or over streamed video. Want to watch 96 hours of vote counting from front to back? Sure, knock yourself out. The video feeds are provided the the cable franchise holders in every city to present on their networks on the usually blank city council channel. For those without a cable franchise for the city, you can simply lookup the video feeds on the internet.

    The foot dragging on this issue is really starting to make me believe that the elections ARE being manipulated. All the horse-pucky form Diebold and the like about "too hard to make a printed tally".... Yeah, sure... And it's also too hard for cash machines and cash registers to print a receipt and verify that I've got funds before you give me cash...

    As far as ballot counting, the infrastructure to let everyone watch is already there.

    We just need to keep pushing until this gets done. I'm getting really tired of the 50.01% vs. 49.99% vote manipulation that's passing for "legal and fair" elections in this country. Making things look "close" is really the smoothest form of manipulation, I don't think anyone would believe the old Soviet style manipulation where the votes are always 98% for the party, but shaving just enough to make it 51-49 would be almost believable.

    This really does need to get done NOW. No more fooling around, OSS voting machine code, printed receipt, video feeds of the counting and no more voter supression!
    • by Brandybuck (704397) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @04:20PM (#21341677) Homepage Journal
      Except that this lawsuit is to outlaw ALL counting machines. Hand counting is expensive and less accurate, yet that is what these people insist on, nothing less. States are willing to change their systems if you work with them. Just don't be religiously dogmatic, refusing all compromises. Unwillingness to budge on hand counting only guarantees you a protracted and expensive fight.

      I personally see nothing wrong with counting machines. Yet some of you act like Herman Hollerith was the instigator of a massive shadow conspiracy. The requirements for valid voting are few: 1) recountability; 2) certification; and 3) transparency. The off-the-shelf Diebold machines won't pass muster, but most of the tried and true optical and punch systems will.

      Oh, and next time don't wait until two months before the primaries start. Sheesh.
  • Bits vs. Atoms (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dazedNconfuzed (154242) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @03:24PM (#21340939)
    The problem is that bits can vanish without a trace - heck, nobody is sure they were there in the first place.
    Atoms, however, are hard to dispose of - yes a paper trail gets counted too, but it's much harder to deny the physical reality.

    A voter can verify his correct paper ballot went into a locked box, and observers can make sure the locked boxes are transported and the contents counted. If there is a question, it can be repeated with closer inspection.

    When I touch the "vote!" box on a screen, I have no idea what happened next, and verification is difficult.
  • by sm62704 (957197) on Tuesday November 13, 2007 @03:29PM (#21341001) Journal
    Unless Sangamon is the only sane county (well, we know every politician in Cook county is crooked; see our present Governor linving in Chicago despite the Illinois Constitutional mandate that he live in Springfield, and the previous governor living in PRISON [google.com]) in Illinois, this lawsuit has no merit here.

    The last two elections I voted on a touch screen, and was presented with a paper audit trail that I presented to the election judge, who put it in a ballot box.

    Not every state has Diebold crap.

    And it wouldn't matter if the machine used Access as a database (or even Excel [slashdot.org]. Since there's a paper trail you can always retabulate the results, by hand if need be.

    -mcgrew
  • A paper trail just gets you a manual recount process that has a demonstrated error/uncertainty rate
    greater than the percentage of votes by which George W Bush "won" his first presidency.

    If you're going to have close elections like that, then with a human paper counting system you may
    as well just call it, heads or tails, because that will be just as valid as the alleged "result."

    Some kind of open-source hardware and software stack, top to bottom, using public key encryption and
    digital signature techniques to
  • Where I vote in Massachusetts, we use a pen to fill in ovals next to each candidate for whom we wish to vote. If we wish to vote for a write-in candidate, we fill in a box next to an empty line, and fill in the name (and maybe address) on the blank line. We bring the ballot over to a box, state our name and address. If the list indicates that we have a valid name and have not previously voted in the current election, we slide the ballot into a box - which counts the ballot.

    It is straight forward to use a
  • While I agree that there are some serious issues with black box voting machines, haven't automated voting machines been around for a century or so? I don't think there ought to be a problem with using voting machines, but there must be a paper copy of every ballot which can be scrutinized.

    How the heck does Switzerland deal with these things, since they are big on plebiscites and referenda? The excuse I hear constantly is that ballots in the States, particularly where initiatives end up on the ballot and w
  • Removing unreliable automation is a great way to eliminate the possibility of error. Luckily, nearly all humans are capable of reliable performance of repetitive tasks through thousands of repititions, as well as being free from bias. ... I wonder, thinking about the DSM-IV characterization of high-functioning autism, whether this couldn't turn into a way to get some kind of economic value from the nearly inexhaustible supply of people on the internet who claim to have Asperger's.
  • Oklahoma has been using the same electronic voting machines for about 20 years. When you vote, you get a paper ballot (or more than one, depending on the election). You use a sharpie to draw a line that completes an arrow pointing to your choice. You yourself take it to the scanner and slip it in (face down, face up, doesn't matter, and ballots are coded on the side so the machine can orient itself and tell what ballot it's looking at). The ballot then goes into a storage box beneath the scanner.

    When polls

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