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Ohio's Alternative to Diebold Machines May Be Equally Bad 174

Posted by Zonk
from the stand-and-be-counted dept.
phorest writes "One would have thought the choice of Ohio lawmakers to move away from Diebold touch-screen voting terminals would be welcomed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Instead, the group is warning the elections board that their alternative might be illegal under state laws. 'The main dispute is whether a central optical scan of ballots at the board's headquarters downtown would result in votes not being counted on ballots that are incorrectly filled out. The ACLU believes the intent of election law is to ensure voters can be notified immediately of a voting error and be able to make a second-chance vote.'"
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Ohio's Alternative to Diebold Machines May Be Equally Bad

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  • You'd think ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BrianRoach (614397) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @09:21PM (#21852830)
    That voting just simply couldn't be this complicated. ::shaking head::

    - Roach
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Can't the candidates just roshambo for it or something?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gfxguy (98788)
      No matter what method is selected, someone will whine about it.
      • by Buran (150348)
        What's wrong with the method that worked fine for years that no one (at least not enough to get into the press) complained about? Making everything electronic isn't the answer to everything.
        • by KillerCow (213458)
          They complained about it in Florida.
          • by Buran (150348)
            Was it exactly the same system, though? (this is a serious question) - also, since states are separate from one another, Ohio wouldn't be affected by Florida anyhow.
            • Re:You'd think ... (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Sique (173459) on Sunday December 30, 2007 @04:54AM (#21854830) Homepage
              The Florida voting system hat those lever machines that try to cut holes into the ballot to count them later with an electromechanical reader, a system created and first used for public census, invented by Hermann Hollerith and base for IBMs rise to power.

              One problem was that hundreds and thousands of those ballots hat the cut off paper still dangling on it, or that some were only slightly cut, but at several places (as if the voter had a second thought and pulled another lever, but none of them consequently enough).

              The main arguments against paper-and-pencil-voting seem to be:

              1) The ballots can't be counted fast enough for the Late News to report the results.
              2) People with disabilities such as blind people need help to vote and can't check the results themselves.

              Argument 1) doesn't hold in my humble opinion. I would rather like to have correct results than early reported ones. Being able to watch the count was in my own country (the former East Germany) the base for all later convictions of Voting Fraud for the leading figures of the former communist government. Also some other frauds (like the one during the voting for the town council of Dachau near Munich) were detected because people were able to compare their own counting results from the public count with the ones later reported by the Voting Commission.

              Argument 2) raises a valid point, because Braille printed ballots are much larger than normal prints, and some german towns have already ballots printed on half a square meter of paper. Printing them additionally with Braille further would increase them. On the other hand it was allowed anyway to just cut out that part of the ballot with the votes one had casted and throw everything else in a shredder. So this is still possible.
              • by ajs318 (655362)
                Stop right there: your failure mode originates in the fact that one device marks the ballot paper, and another device counts the votes -- but only if the ballot papers were properly marked in the first place. You could introduce an intermediate device to check that the ballot paper is correctly marked, but then you have introduced another failure mode whereby the pre-checker falsely indicates that a ballot paper which will be rejected by the counter is OK. Do you see where this is going? Please tell me
              • First, I think you're a little mixed up about your terminology. Lever machines are mechanical voting systems that have nothing to do with paper. Punch card voting systems are what you're taking about. They're essentially a booklet with holes next to candidate names [wikipedia.org]. Voters take a spike and stick it through the hole, "punching," a standard paper computer punch card [wikipedia.org].

                Your first argument is not entirely accurate. No one is suggesting that fraud is acceptable if the results are fast.

                As for your second argu
        • Re:You'd think ... (Score:4, Insightful)

          by gfxguy (98788) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @11:45PM (#21853602)
          Which method is that? Every method had people complaining about it, from fill-in-the-dot optical scan cards (like this one) to butterfly ballots (like Florida) to machines that were supposed to fix the butterfly "dimpled but not fully popped out" problem (like the voting booths where you flip the switches and pull the big handle down to punch your ballot). They were all "rigged" or subject to interpretation or something.

          The only other alternative is the "check this box" kind, which requires human counting (again subject to rigging) and takes ages to count. Now, I can wait a day - even a week, for my election results, but with a large turnout it would take even longer than that, and then there'd be less time to certify and recount if there was a problem.

          Again, people complain every single election; maybe you don't remember it, maybe sometimes it's worse than others. There's nothing new here, it's happened since the dawn of... uh... electing... things.
          • by Buran (150348)
            Oh there will be some complaints about any system for anything, but then again we didn't get the big hissyfits until, say, the Diebold e-voting fuss. It was all minor stuff. Now, when e-voting has been proven over and over to be a cause of trouble, we're rushing to implement it, and then when more problems are found, we ... try to keep e-voting?

            Better to stuck with the system that wasn't anywhere near as controversial.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by iocat (572367)
            I actualy RTFA (well, I didn't, but I read the summary pretty closely) and I think the deal is this. In San Francisco, as an example, you make a very black line across a thingee to mark your choice (it's idiot proof). Then you stick it in a machine, which just checks it (at least) for being filled out correctly (didn't vote for two people for president, etc.). I'm not 100% sure if it actually tallies a vote. If the machine discovers you filled the ballot out wrong, they should revoke your voting privledge f
          • by arose (644256)

            The only other alternative is the "check this box" kind, which requires human counting (again subject to rigging) and takes ages to count.
            Properly done human counting is very hard to rig, allow whoever wants to to watch the process to do so. It also scales very well, we get quite accurate results sometime at night and the final results don't take so long either, should be the same if you don't mess with the voter to counter ratio.
          • Re:You'd think ... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by vertinox (846076) on Sunday December 30, 2007 @09:51AM (#21855818)
            Now, I can wait a day - even a week, for my election results,

            So if they can't count the votes in a week, its OK to have someone in power who stole the election? And to top it off, how about someone who puts lives in harms way because they are the commander in chief?

            Seriously, I'd be fine waiting for a month or two and maybe even longer to determine who is correctly elected president of the United States.

            Secondly, if it was done by hand you have to remember only 50,000,000 people voted in 2004 for the presidential election. If you were to hand count the votes by an official. If an official was responsible for counting 1000 votes then you would only need 50,000 people nation wide helping out.

            Which means you'd only need 1,000 officials per state which is a drop in the bucket.

            Of course it wouldn't work exactly like that... California, NY, and Texas would need a great deal of vote counters and RI and Alaska would not, but vote counting by hand would not be that difficult if you distributed it correctly. You wouldn't need a month, but at the most 2 weeks and I think the wait is worth it.

            The problem is that most Americans are impatient, but don't realize the election affects them for the next four years.
    • by jbn-o (555068) <mail@digitalcitizen.info> on Saturday December 29, 2007 @11:16PM (#21853456) Homepage

      It's not that difficult. But people in positions of political power are disincentivized from doing the right thing. This includes talking to technical people who advocate for free software voting machines [counterpunch.org] so that we can end up with machines that produce voter-verifiable paper ballots which are stored for manual counting and are built on a free software system so that the county/state can get programmers they can trust when things don't work correctly. Having a choice of proprietors is just picking your monopolist and then hoping they'll do what you want when the contract is signed.

      Instead of spending millions on a new proprietary system that will not adequately address local needs issues (and thus cause great embarrassment for the clerks who chose them), they could spend money (even with other states and counties) developing voting machines they can maintain and inspect as much as they like. Counties and states can purchase the required black box testing themselves, they don't need ES&S, Diebold, etc. to do this for them.

      In this particular case, the ACLU's fear—voters not being immediately notified that their ballots are invalid—can be dealt with by a computer which scans (but doesn't count) their paper voter-verified ballot. Not only can most voters have an opportunity to read their paper ballot, they could plug in a pair of headphones into the computer and have the computer read them their ballot back and then determine if that comports with their intended vote. Then after this proofing (human and/or computer) each voter has a reasonable expectation that their ballot is valid and accurately reflects their intention.

      I was part of the appointed group that recommended a set of voting machines for Champaign County, Illinois' elected County Board. Due to some not-completely-honest measures about only hearing from "approved" vendors, and a bunch of poor choices, I was pushed into picking the least-worst which happened to be a set of ES&S machines (one scanned and/or produced a paper voter-verifiable ballot, the other counted that paper ballot and physically retained it in a locked cabinet). Champaign County ended up with ES&S machines, only one of which had been approved for use by the state (in the state's bound-to-be-bullshit testing regime). The hurdles to overcome aren't ridiculously difficult. It will be hard to get some people to understand that it's beneficial to have local control over the voting machine so the machines can be reprogrammed to meet local needs (including changing the software to accommodate non-first-past-the-post voting, and generally fixing bugs or adding enhancements a county decides they want after the voting hardware contract is signed).

      One thing that would really help (nothing like the power of a good example) is a free software voting machine that works just like the ES&S paper ballot scanning machines. These machines have a remarkably simple interface, good and adjustable voice, clear display, and headphone jacks. But these machines run on proprietary software which ES&S isn't willing to relicense (despite being their customer). So you're stuck with them for "support" and that means hoping they'll share your county's idea of what your voting system should do.

      • Concur (Score:2, Informative)

        by happyslayer (750738)

        I was in the same position: Asked to come in as a technical consultant to look over the proposals for the electronic voting system to be used.

        Again, it was "least deficient" when I made my final recommendation. ES&S at least tried to look like they were supplying a system that following the boilerplate RFP (Request for Proposals, a govt term meaning "I want a system to do this; waddaya got?"). One item that particularly stood out was the following:

        • RFP specified a three-tier database system. (For n
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by palegray.net (1195047)
      Voting as a concept never has been complicated. However, you have to consider the fact that a huge portion of the American voting public cannot name:

      1. The Vice President

      2. The Speaker of the House

      3. Their own state governor.

      4. Any member of Congress.

      When this is your voting public, how do you expect them to (a) understand, or (b) work up the gumption to care about voting issues? To most people, something's not an issue if they don't see it on headline news at 6.
  • Simple = Better (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Goalie_Ca (584234)
    In canada we have a piece of paper with a check box for each candidate. They manually count it and results are known by the end of the evening. Recounts are done by the next day. Not expensive, not confusing, it leaves a paper trail, and it is as physically secure as any computer box could ever get.
    • by idiotnot (302133)
      And Ohio, alone, has a third of Canada's population. In large precincts, this is becoming impractical, if not impossible. I'm sure it'd work in smaller cities in the US, too.

      They use the optical scan ballots where I used to vote (I just moved last month), and they're very easy to use, and very accurate.
      • Re:Simple = Better (Score:5, Insightful)

        by flyingfsck (986395) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @09:36PM (#21852922)
        It scales perfectly with population count. India is the world's largest democracy and they still use mostly paper ballots.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by fm6 (162816)
          Any process scales if you don't care about the quality of the result. Vote rigging is rampant in India, and all that hand-counting is often blamed.

          There's also the slight difference in the cost of labor in India versus the U.S.
      • Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Senjutsu (614542) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @09:59PM (#21853040)

        And Ohio, alone, has a third of Canada's population. In large precincts, this is becoming impractical, if not impossible. I'm sure it'd work in smaller cities in the US, too.
        Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is complete and utter bullshit. Ohio has fewer total voters than Ontario, but paper ballots work in Ontario. Ohio's largest city by metropolitan population, Cleveland, has a population of 2,114,155, doesn't hold a candle to the metropolitan population of Toronto, 5,555,912, and yet paper ballots work in Toronto. Paper ballots work. They work in small populations, and they work in big populations. This "abloo abloo abloo the US alone is too big for paper ballots" meme needs to die. It's utter bullshit.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by rtb61 (674572)
          It is the very definition of modern corporate marketing. Computerised voting is only needed to inflate the profit margins of politically biased corporations. The unimaginably stupid idea of second chance voting is ludicrous. Voting is meant to be secret and anonymous but some corporate slug comes up the the marketing bull shit of checking peoples votes, which is inherently the most anti-democratic obscene idea.

          Corrupting election based upon manual systems requires a huge amount of effort and in countries

        • Elections in Canada are very different to those in the United States. Canadians are likely to be voting for a single office (or very few) and likely never combined with referenda. In the U.S. It is standard to be voting for dozens of offices and issues. These offices vary greatly based on geographic region causing a single region to have hundreds if not thousands of variations of ballot combinations. Yes in the U.S. we have one ballot for everything, not separate ballots. For only a primary election one reg
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Roger W Moore (538166)
        We have the same system in the UK and it works fine for higher population densities (200 times that of Canada) just fine. From what I understand of the US system it was perfect for coping with the communication system of the 18th century but come on guys it's the 21st century now! In fact I think the US system was actually best summed up by one of your past presidents (Carter IIRC) who stated that if a dictatorship adopted the US system it would not be recognised as fully democratic by the UN.
        • What? Like the Electoral College? I totally agree with you Bond. The population of the United States has never elected a President thanks to the current system of elections. That's why I'm abstaining from voting this year.
    • lawsuits (Score:3, Funny)

      by ArchieBunker (132337)
      If the US govt implemented this idea then everyone who was illiterate or born without arms would sue under the disability act.
    • by zestyping (928433)
      This is why that doesn't work (in general) in the United States.

      http://vote.nist.gov/ballots/il_chicago_20041102_01.pdf [nist.gov]

      One ballot = 90 contests.
      • by dryeo (100693)
        I didn't actually DL the pdf, 8 MBs on dialup is just too much. Still if the ballot is that big and has 90 separate contests on it how the hell are people supposed to make an informed choice, I mean 90 informed choices?
    • by iabervon (1971)
      That system is essentially what the ACLU is complaining about: if a ballot is unclear, there's no way to allow the voter to try again. The advantage of optical scan machines in the polling places is that they reject unclear ballots when the voter tries to cast them, so the voter can cast a replacement. The physical ballots, after they're scanned and accepted, go into a box and can be recounted by humans if necessary.

      Ohio wants to do the scanning in a central location, which is approximately equivalent to co
    • Re:Simple = Better (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SydShamino (547793) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @11:07PM (#21853414)
      I really don't mean to flame, but every single voting issue thread attracts at least one post from someone explaining how Canada votes, and how simple it is, and how the U.S. could just do it the same way. Most of the time this post gets modded up insightful.

      About half the time, someone responds, explaining how U.S. elections are more complicated than those in Canada, because U.S. elections usually feature a dozen or more separate items to vote on; in addition to national elections (up to three at a time), there can be a dozen state, county, and municipal elections, plus votes on city propositions, bond packages, and constitutional amendments (almost every year in Texas). It's simply not possible to count all of this quickly and accurately by hand in one day.

      To this post, someone from Canada usually responds, asking why we have to vote on all that stuff, and wondering why we don't let our elected officials decide some of that for us.

      To which someone else responds, pointing out that our system of government doesn't work the same as Canada's; once we elect someone we are pretty much stuck with them for two, four, or six years, so if our officials start doing things we don't like, we don't have the opportunity to call new elections and replace them. We also only have two viable political parties, so it's less likely that we agree with our elected representatives on every issue. Thus, we like to have a chance to directly vote on more items than most other countries. Also, to increase the likelihood of high voter turnout, we combine elections to minimize the number of election days. In Texas, I believe there can only be three election days a year: the March primaries (if needed), and the May and November general elections.

      ------

      So, in summary, this concept and its responses have been beaten to death. If you feel the same way I do, do as I will and start modding all "Canada votes like this, why doesn't the U.S., too?" redundant.
      • > We also only have two viable political parties, so it's less likely that we agree with our elected representatives on every issue.

        I'm still trying to wrap my head around this one...
        With 2 parties, they winners had to compromise with lots of people in order to get elected, so you end up not so much with "the favorite" person, but the "least unfavorite"... the one who is likely to piss the fewest people off.
        With 10 parties, you don't have to compromise as much, so you end up with someone who will piss m
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by can56 (698639)
        "once we elect someone we are pretty much stuck with them for two, four, or six years, so if our officials start doing things we don't like, we don't have the opportunity to call new elections and replace them."

        Do you believe that Canadians have the opportunity to boot elected officials we don't like at any time??

        Narf

      • It's simply not possible to count all of this quickly and accurately by hand in one day.

        Who said it has to be all finished in one day? Give them two weeks and let them do it correctly. The problem is we are all obsessed with finding out the results within 24 hours, as though it were a sporting event or something. In order to garner the most advertising revenue, the television networks have turned politics into a spectator sport that takes place every four years, like the Olympics. People apparently no

        • by pizzach (1011925)
          Mod parent up. There were plenty of people who had posted earlier that they wouldn't mind waiting about two weeks for results. On another note, having the counting slowed to two weeks destroys the effects of live counting by the networks on the people who still haven't voted yet.
  • Oh Please.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by idiotnot (302133) <sean@757.org> on Saturday December 29, 2007 @09:27PM (#21852868) Homepage Journal
    If that's the standard, then every method used is probably illegal. How can a voter verify he pulled the correct level? Handwritten ballots can't be relied upon, either.

    Optical scans have historically been regarded as the best, and practically everyone who went to school since 1960 has filled out a scantron sheet.

    The ACLU is a bit off base here, IMO.

    Off topic....the "Related Links" this time were interesting.

    Compare prices on YRO Products

    What, exactly is a YRO product?
    • Two options: one [mozilla.org] two [slashdot.org].
    • by reboot246 (623534)
      Since when has the ACLU been on base? Until they are in favor of some form of voter ID, I'll ignore everything the ACLU says.

      If optical scanners aren't reliable, then maybe my old test scores really were higher. :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Kilz (741999)
      Im an election judge in cook county IL. We have touch screens and paper ballots. When a voter fills out the paper ballot it is feed into a scanner that checks for errors like no votes in a race, or to many people voted in a race. The scanner returns the ballot on error. The voter is told that there may be a problem with the ballot and asked if they want a new ballot. If they want a new ballot, the old one gets SPOILED written in big letters on it and placed in the spoiled ballot envelope. If they dont want
    • by v1 (525388)
      I think what would make a nice system if they wanted to go electronic is some method by which the voting resuls were electronically transmitted to a central counting location, and that every voter had a "confirmation number" of sorts receipt on their ballot, that they could take home and punch in on a web page along with say, their ssn, that hashes to their ballot, allowing them to look up and verify their ballot. This would allow people to verify that their votes were counted, which is not something the c
      • by ajs318 (655362)
        Allowing voters to "look up" how "their vote" was counted is a perfect smokescreen for a vote-rigging system. Besides which, it misses a point:

        It's not how your vote was counted that makes the difference. It's how everyone else's vote was counted that makes the difference. Since you cannot know how everyone else voted, you cannot be sure that the result is correct. Most people's social networks are smaller than the margin for error; so even if you checked up your friends' and families' votes, they co
        • by ajs318 (655362)
          And now, the rest of it ..... it was half past two and I had to get to the shops.

          Suppose the voting goes something like this:
          1. Conservative
          2. Labour
          3. Conservative
          4. Liberal Democrat
          5. Conservative
          6. Conservative
          7. Green
          8. Labour
          9. Liberal Democrat
          10. Independent
          11. BNP
          12. Conservative
          13. Labour
          14. Green
          15. Conservative
          16. Independent
          17. Liberal Democrat
          18. Conservative
          19. Labour
          20. Green

          This gives us an actual result of: Conservative, 7; Labour, 4 (11); Liberal Democrat, 3 (14); Green, 3 (17); Indie, 2 (19); BNP, 1 (20). But the result is declared a

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @09:35PM (#21852914)
    Paper - pen - checkbox - count

    What the hell is wrong with that system? It's in effect in nearly every other country. What is so terribly different in the US that this system won't work as flawlessly as it works everywhere else? Pardon the blunt question, but is it too hard to find enough people intelligent enough to effing count slips of paper?

    What the hell is the deal about it all? We're wasting billions of dollars every year on worthless junk, flying our politicians around to pointless debates and toilet seats to boot. I don't think spending a few bucks to get good ol' paper elections done, which are tried, proven and simply and plainly working, is going to break the budget's back!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by flyingfsck (986395)
      The problem is that USAsians votes on every gawddamm thing on the same day. The rest of the world has the good sense to have separate ballots for separate levels of government.
    • by hedwards (940851)
      I believe that the issue is that it doesn't work flawlessly everywhere else.

      Here in WA we are about to move to completely absentee voting sometime in the next year or so. The system that we use is similar to a scantron. We fill in the generously sized square with a sharpy, and the ballot is then mailed into the elections office where it is scanned and stored until at least the time when the election is certified.

      It works well over all.

      The problem though is that it is virtually impossible to know that a give
      • by anagama (611277)
        I'm in WA and I really miss going to the polling place. Doing it by mail feels like I'm mailing off a bill and I'm really bothered that I have no idea whether it arrives. I've been dropping my ballots off at the courthouse but that just isn't the same.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Frosty Piss (770223)

      Paper - pen - checkbox - count

      What the hell is wrong with that system?

      Paper ballots are soooo... last century.

      And among a significant percentage of the US population, especially those in charge of huge piles of public money, everything is always "better" when done with technology. And did I mention the huge pile of money these people have to spend? Everybody likes new toys!

      • New = better is the same balony that old = better is.

        There are things that need no improvement. They are already good enough, and the "improvement" often is none. For reference, see XP and Vista.

        And the money thing... isn't there a sizable debt to take care of? I know, nobody likes paying bills and paying off that mortgage is less fun than buying a new computer, but some things just have to be done.

        Why do we have such irresponsible politicians these days?
  • it is a seriously dumb idea. increases attack vectors, makes something that is inherently transparent opaque

    paper

    pencil

    optical scanner

    end of fucking problem

    really

    i expect this wisdom to enter the brain of bureaucrats everywhere sometime around 2050

    hopefully we won't be a theocracy or fascism by then, hastened along by malignant voting schemes
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fm6 (162816)

      paper

      pencil

      optical scanner

      end of fucking problem

      Sigh. Everyone points to paper ballots as a guarantee that votes will be properly counted. May I point out that rigged elections predate electronic voting by many centuries?

      Ok, so your hybrid system allows you to double check. But when do you double check? If we can't trust the electronic system (and if we did, what's the point in having a dead tree backup?) then you end up with the loser demanding a hand count every time. So you might as well do i

      • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @10:55PM (#21853358) Homepage Journal
        I don't think anyone claims that using paper ballots is a sure-fire guarantee that fraud won't take place. But electronic voting machines make fraud easier, and it's absurd to pretend otherwise. With paper ballots, you have to have a much larger number of people in on the scheme to change a large number of votes and cover your tracks afterward.
        • by fm6 (162816) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @11:57PM (#21853664) Homepage Journal

          With paper ballots, you have to have a much larger number of people in on the scheme to change a large number of votes and cover your tracks afterward.
          Only because you have a lot of people monitoring the process. Give me 5 minutes alone with a ballot box, and I promise you a surprising shift in votes for that precinct. But there are a ton of people who are busy making sure I don't get that 5 minutes.

          By the same token, you can design an electronic voting system so that every step is an open book. And I promise you that a zillion geeks and computer scientist will have nothing better to do than spend hours picking nits with your system. This is a level of double-checking no paper system can claim.

          Any system is trustworthy to the degree that it is transparent.
          • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Sunday December 30, 2007 @01:03AM (#21853924) Homepage Journal
            Five minutes alone with a ballot box, and you can change the count for that ballot box; it may be enough to change the results for the precinct (or it may not) but it probably won't be enough to throw a statewide election. Five minutes (or much less) of entering commands to an electronic voting system, and you damn sure can change the results of a statewide election, and furthermore, you can do it in a way that leaves no physical evidence. The "every step is an open book" and the "zillion geeks and computer scientist [who] have nothing better to do than spend hours picking nits with your system" idea is a red herring, since electronic voting systems aren't designed that way and probably never will be. They're all proprietary, with the inner workings protected as a trade secret, and given the insane state of US IP law and corporate/governmental mutual backscratching, that's not going to change.

            The most reasonable assumption is that at some point, no matter what voting system you use, someone will compromise it at some point, so the best thing to do is design the system so that the least damage will result. Paper ballots fit this requirement much better than electronic systems do.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by laron (102608)
            >Give me 5 minutes alone with a ballot box, and I promise you a surprising shift in votes for that precinct.

            And why on earth should you ever be alone with the ballot box? Not to mention that the box should be locked and sealed anyway.

            After the last voter has voted and the polling station closes, you dump the ballots on a large table and start counting. Everyone is allowed to stay and watch: party representatives, concerned citizens, international observers...
            You can even add a surveillance camera or thre
          • # of attack vectors:

            electronic > mechanical > paper

            beginning and end of discussion. all other observations you can make fall secondary to this overriding observation and do not modify or reverse it

            we should always use paper. forever. in all countries

            faith in the democratic process is not something you want to mess with simply because computers are neat-o
      • electronic > mechanical > paper

        voting is not a problem that needs to be solved better. the K.I.S.S. prinniple is something all programmers can appreciate: keep it simple stupid

        please lose your technophilia on this question of voting, faith in democracy is way too important in this world

        electronic, mechanical even, merely represents a more complicated way to do something

        unnecessarily

        with marginal benefits outweighed by serious problems
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Lumpy (12016)
      i expect this wisdom to enter the brain of bureaucrats everywhere sometime around 2050

      You sir are an Optimist.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by klevenstein (1209886)
      We have that exact system in New Mexico.

      After 2004, we formed a voter advocacy group in NM to study the problem.

      Now, if you don't think this is a crucial issue for the future of our government (and consequentially, your entire future in this country), you haven't been paying attention.

      We studied the various systems, looked for vulnerabilities, and came up with a legislative proposal that resulted in this system. We educated Governor Richards about it, and got it implemented in time to use it for th
    • The article is not about electronic voting. It's about an optical-scan voting system that is implemented in a way that may not comply with state law (something that it is up to a court to decide).
  • Ohio's Alternative to Diebold Machines May Be Equally Bad

    For God's sake, let us as Americans, do just one thing right before the year is out. This year has been dogged by negative news from A to Z. I certainly need a break.

    • For God's sake, let us as Americans, do just one thing right before the year is out. This year has been dogged by negative news from A to Z. I certainly need a break.

      I got laid last week. Does that (ahem) count?
  • First - the title is sort of misleading. This is not state wide. This is in one county - Cuyahoga. Their elections are a mess and they are grasping at straws.
    Second, the one thing that electronic voting equipment does really well is informing the voter of "stupid" errors. If you have voted for more than one candidate in one race it can complain at the voter and force him/her to fix the error immediately. If you fill out a paper ballot and vote for two candidates in the same race the error won't get discover
    • Well it would seem to be a good idea to use the machine to help people verify their votes, and once satisfied submit them to be count by hand.
  • Well before the fiasco of 2000, I voted in a precinct that had a local optical-ballot counter.

    You filled in an optical-scan ballot and put it in the machine.

    If the machine detected an over-vote or a spoiled ballot it spit it out. This was a clue to check your ballot for errors.

    If you insisted on voting that way anyways there was a manual override.

    It didn't care about undervotes, it rightly counted those as abstentions.

    At the end of the day, the election judge turned a key and it spit out an unofficial tota
    • by Bartab (233395)
      The only thing missing was machine-assisted voting for those who couldn't read

      At some point we, as a society, just need to step up to the reality that illiterates don't matter. It's irrelevant if you can't read because you're retarded, or just because you don't care to learn. You don't know enough to intelligently vote, and most everybody doesn't really care if you get to or not. Just some loud and shrill people like to scream about things at the top of their voice. The what doesn't matter nearly as much as
      • by Phroggy (441)
        You misunderstood. Let me clarify:

        The only thing missing was machine-assisted voting for those who couldn't read [an optical ballot] or mark an optical ballot.

        He wasn't talking about illiterates. Blind people can't fill out a Scantron form, but they can use a computer with an audio or Braille interface which can fill out a Scantron sheet for them. He was saying the system he used didn't have this, but it could easily be added, and everything would work great (except that blind people couldn't verify their printed ballots before casting them, but they're a small enough minority that I wouldn't consider this to be a serious pro

  • Elections are not simple, much as we might like them to be so.

    Keep these points in mind:

    • Ballots in the U. S. typically have dozens of contests -- sometimes 60, 70, or more contests. Hand counting is significantly less practical in the U. S. than in say Canada, where your ballot is just a vote for a single candidate in a single contest.
    • Electronic voting has real security risks. Most folks here know that already. The risks can be big.
    • Electronic voting has real potential advantages. The number of un
  • " ... The ACLU believes the intent of election law is to ensure voters can be notified immediately of a voting error and be able to make a second-chance vote. ..."

    Okay, either this is a rather new thing the lawmakers came up with for No-I-Give-Up-Tell-Me reasons, or it's a poorly crafted law with unintended consequences, or the ACLU is reading a lot into the legislation that simply doesn't exist. One thing I know, however, is a vote is a vote, in any nation on Earth. Second chances are strictly disallowed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      How, exactly, can there be a voting error in the first place? The voter votes. Done. The voter "made a mistake?" Same answer: "Done. Try better next time, sir."

      Voting error usually means that there was some problem, technical or otherwise, that prevented the voter from communicating the vote to the tabulator. This can be as sinister as intentionally losing ballots that vote for an opposing party. It can also be as benign as the voter accidentally checking one box, erasing it, and checking another box, an

      • Voting error usually means that there was some problem, technical or otherwise, that prevented the voter from communicating the vote to the tabulator.

        And this, right here, is yet another reason to ignore the ACLU. There's already a perfectly good term for this: "spoiled ballot." It's been in use, probably, for well over a century. There's no reason, other than stupidity, to invent such an unintuitive term as "second chance" to replace the current, well-understood one of "spoiled ballot." Proof, if su

  • the powers-that-be (corporate or governmental, take your pick) don't trust us, We the People, to count our votes inaccurately enough for them.
  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Saturday December 29, 2007 @10:51PM (#21853334) Homepage Journal
    I've been an ACLU member for years, and I was just about to renew my membership when this came up. Here's what I sent them:

    ===

    The Associated Press reports today that the ACLU is pressing Cuyahoga County, Ohio, not to go through with a planned switch from electronic voting machines to optical-scan paper ballots. This is a terrible position to take, and it is honestly enough to make me question whether or not I should renew my membership for the year.

    While I appreciate the ACLU's hard work for voting rights in many areas, the simple fact is that electronic voting machines may be the single most pressing problem our electoral system faces. They are by their very nature unaccountable and amenable to large-scale election fraud. Any move to abandon these machines (which are manufactured and operated almost exclusively by private companies with right-wing ties) should be applauded, not suppressed. This is an issue of particular note in Ohio, given that electronic voting machine fraud in that state in 2004 may well have been responsible for the outcome of that year's Presidential race, with its terrible consequences for our nation.

    I sincerely hope that the ACLU will reverse its position on this case and take a strong stand in favor of paper ballots. Silence on this issue is a barely acceptable position for America's leading civil rights organization; supporting the wrong side in this battle is not acceptable at all, to me and I suspect to many other people who have supported the ACLU for years. If the ACLU persists in opposing the planned Cuyahoga County move, I will regretfully conclude that I can no longer support this great organization.
    • They aren't taking a pro-electronic voting position. They are challenging a new system that they think does not comply with state law. They have taken the position of requiring a paper trail [aclu.org] when touch-screen voting systems are used. Their concern here (if it is correctly placed; I'm not familiar enough with the law and circumstances in Ohio) seems consistent with their earlier positions.
    • by JimBobJoe (2758)
      This is an issue of particular note in Ohio, given that electronic voting machine fraud in that state in 2004 may well have been responsible for the outcome of that year's Presidential race

      While there may have been problem with the 2004 Ohio vote, electronic machines were not the cause because they weren't used.

      In 2004 70% of Ohio counties had punch cards, the rest had scantron, and about 3 or 4 had old style "Shouptronic" machines. Ohio counties did not start adopting DREs until 2005.
  • If you are too stupid to fill out the ballot correctly, or more likely so damn lazy that you didn't bother to figure out how to fill it out correctly, why is the state under an obligation to FORCE you to change your vote? It's not an IQ test, and even the infamous florida butterfly ballots were figured out correctly by the vast majority of voters. So when a good faith effort is made to ensure that the ballots are reasonably easy to fill out correctly, why is the state under any obligation to change what t
  • Ballot machines should be limited to printing out a card with the votes clearly displayed and a big barcode at the bottom.

    No networking, no outside connections, no storage of information, just a printer and a stack of cards.

    This gets you electronic counting, full paper trail, accountability, etc.

    Of course the politicians may actually be eyeing up the possibilities for cheating when there's no audit trail....

  • Let's see now. . .

    If you are a high ranking manager for the Dark Side then here are several realities which color every last one of your actions and decisions. . .

    1. You are a psychopathic creature who looks human but who doesn't grasp the concept of compassion.

    2. Destruction and misery are your bread and butter on a very fundamental level. It's an addiction.

    3. The Earth is in for a big change. It may include sudden glacial rebounding, (if the Gulf Stream cuts out, most of Europe will be under ice), comet
  • ... I am not sure, we benefit from their opinion anyway.

    Now, even the smartest people can make an accidental mistake, but there will not be a pattern — a disproportional number of accidental mistakes among supporters of a particular candidate or party.

    If, on the other hand, the disqualifying mistakes are due to wider-spread illiteracy, then, maybe, it is a good thing, that those votes aren't counted?..

    Yes, I am for discounting the stupid people's votes...

    The only problem is, without the system

  • When manufacturing got driven out of here by globalization, our main industry (of the remaining residents unable to leave) is now shifted to corruption. The next following is cleaning out mistakes left by Reagan. This isn't a surprise.
  • Fraud proof? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nem75 (952737)

    "It's not the votes that count. It's who counts the votes."

    Old Stalin was not the first and not the last to know this. It doesn't matter what kind of elaborate systems you think up to make elections fraud proof - in the end there will always be successful efforts to change the results, no matter what you do.

    So you might as well stay with the pen & paper method. At least there the evidence of fraud is a bit harder to get rid of then opposed to changing some numbers in a machine.

  • by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2.earthshod@co@uk> on Sunday December 30, 2007 @10:07AM (#21855928)
    Simple solution:

    Count the fucking ballots by fucking hand in the fucking polling station in the fucking presence of the fucking candidates.

    There is no machinery, therefore no systemic failure modes that are not universally comprehensible. By definition, none of the candidates trust each other; so they'll all be watching extra-hard in case anyone else makes a mistake. There are more than one person there, so disputes can be resolved easily: if a majority cannot agree that a ballot is correctly filled, it is rejected. No ballots can get lost because they stayed in the polling station the whole time. The process can be parallelised in each polling station, so the final result is available as soon as the slowest count is completed.
  • I just don't get it. In Canada, we use computers to tabulate paper ballots. The results are available in time for the 10pm news. Why do jurisdictions in the United States insist on presenting the voter with a computer screen?

    When did marking an X become too difficult?

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