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Voting Machine Problem Reports Already Rolling In 386

Posted by Soulskill
from the let-the-conspiracy-nuttery-commence dept.
Several readers have submitted news of the inevitable problems involved with trying to securely collect information from tens of millions of people on the same day. A video is making the rounds of a touchscreen voting machine registering a vote for Mitt Romney when Barack Obama was selected. A North Carolina newspaper is reporting that votes for Romney are being switched to Obama. Voters are being encouraged to check and double-check that their votes are recorded accurately. In Ohio, some recently-installed election software got a pass from a District Court Judge. In Galveston County, Texas, poll workers didn't start their computer systems early enough to be ready for the opening of the polls, which led to a court order requiring the stations to be open for an extra two hours at night. Yesterday we discussed how people in New Jersey who were displaced by the storm would be allowed to vote via email; not only are some of the emails bouncing, but voters are being directed to request ballots from a county clerk's personal Hotmail account. If only vote machines were as secure as slot machines. Of course, there's still the good, old fashioned analog problems; workers tampering with ballots, voters being told they can vote tomorrow, and people leaving after excessively long wait times.
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Voting Machine Problem Reports Already Rolling In

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  • Stupid. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @07:38PM (#41901275)
    It is called paper. It works.
    Voting machines are a solution to a problem that doesn't exits.
    Nothing beats a paper ballot and a #2 pencil.
    • Re:Stupid. (Score:4, Funny)

      by Iniamyen (2440798) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @07:41PM (#41901301)
      Maybe you should have mailed this comment to /. instead of posting it then.
    • Re:Stupid. (Score:5, Funny)

      by Rockoon (1252108) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @07:41PM (#41901309)
      A paper ballot and a black marker beats the hell out of the paper ballot and the No. 2 pencil.
      • #2 pencil is conductive. That makes it easy to read it by machine. I suppose you could do the same thing with a camera and a computer though.
        • Re:Stupid. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by hawguy (1600213) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @08:21PM (#41901735)

          #2 pencil is conductive. That makes it easy to read it by machine. I suppose you could do the same thing with a camera and a computer though.

          Does any modern scanning equipment use electrical conductivity of pencil marks to read forms? I could see maybe back in the 60's when cameras and photo sensors were expensive, but I'd be surprised if anything built in the past 30 years doesn't use optical sensors.

        • All the machines I've used to import test answers didn't require conductivity, it was optical so a #2 pencil or a black marker would work so long as the mark was dark enough.
      • Re:Stupid. (Score:5, Funny)

        by Sponge Bath (413667) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @07:59PM (#41901513)

        A paper ballot and a black marker beats the hell out of the paper ballot and the No. 2 pencil.

        Paper also beats rock. But watch out! Here comes the scissors.

        • by X0563511 (793323)

          Ladies and gentlemen! The 2012 election results: Obama beat Romney 3 out of 5!

          There was some minor rioting as various claims of "hey no changies" were issued.

          • See, THIS is why we need a Constitutional Amendment to declare Rock, Paper, Scissors as a game between 1 man, 1 rock, and 1 pair of scissors, period. No additional rules, no changies, no shotgun.

            • Actually, the game should be between 1 rock, 1 piece of paper, and 1 pair of scissors, which is a refinement we will make sure to be in the actual draft.

            • Cutlery United says that scissors are people, too.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by fm6 (162816)

      A problem that doesn't exist? How about the high cost of counting ballots by hand? The fact that it's extremely hard to do a proper audit trail on dead tree media?

      Paper ballots aren't even that reliable. Elections have turned on judgement calls over how sloppy a ballot can be before it's ignored.

      And one more time: they are not a safeguard against fraud. Where do you suppose the term "stuffing the ballot box" comes from?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Velex (120469)

        I just cast a paper ballot an hour ago. There are bubbles I fill in next to my choices, and then a scanner reads the ballot for instant reporting. Then, if there are any problems, the paper ballot, minus any way to identify who cast it, remains to be recounted by hand if necessary.

        Paper ballots aren't perfect with regards to fraud. They still beat the pants off any electronic system, though. At best, electronic systems that print a paper trail that the voter can visually inspect are still vulnerable eve

      • by khallow (566160)

        The fact that it's extremely hard to do a proper audit trail on dead tree media?

        I must admit that it's a lot easier to do proper audit trails on electronic media. Whoever controls the media pretty much decides who gets elected. Can't get much simpler than that.

      • Re:Stupid. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Goaway (82658) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @08:16PM (#41901691) Homepage

        How about the high cost of counting ballots by hand?

        What high costs? You volunteer to do it.

        And one more time: they are not a safeguard against fraud.

        Having multiple volunteer workers from all sides of the political spectrum is.

      • At least with paper ballots someone has to commit a crime to tamper with them. It can't be just an 'undocumented feature' of the voting machine.

      • Re:Stupid. (Score:5, Informative)

        by realityimpaired (1668397) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @08:33PM (#41901905)

        We use paper ballots in Canada... counters get paid a small stipend (something like $30) to count the ballots, there's scrutineers to make sure they're counting properly, and any party can send a representative to watch the counting. When a ballot is counted, the person reads out loud who the vote is for, and shows it to another person to confirm. Any party can request a recount on the spot, and there's an automatic recount when the two leading candidates are close enough together in votes. Because there's paper ballots, we can keep a physical record of the voting, and in the event that there's a discrepancy or challenge, we can always go back and tally the votes again.

        Since each polling station isn't more than 200-300 voters (most voting locations will have 6 or 7 polling stations each), we're still able to have results by the end of the night.

        Considering that your current election is costing an estimated $1billion, I think you can afford to use paper ballots.

      • Re:Stupid. (Score:5, Informative)

        by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @08:56PM (#41902069)

        A problem that doesn't exist? How about the high cost of counting ballots by hand?

        Canada does it. Its pretty efficient.

        Oh noes you will cry out, America has 10x the population, and it will cost 10x as much, and require 10x as many people.

        This is all true. But that 10x cost is divided by 10x the population, making it cost the same per capita.

        Another way of looking at it would be to consider that the 50 states each essentially run their own elections, and even the most populous states aren't more populous than Canada.

        The point is that Canada manages it just fine, and there is no valid argument that it can't be scaled in the USA.

        Paper ballots are counted by elections canada temporary staff, with oversight by full time employees, and members of the party. I've participated in a couple myself.

        My observations:

        Disputes over spoiled ballots are pretty much a non-issue.

        Their are several protocols in place to safegaurd against fraud. Stuffing the ballot box would not be simple at all. Each station has a ballot box linked to a list of voters, and a record of who voted. The votes are counted against the number of voters on the list who voted.

        Per the procedures:

        At the polling station specified on the voter information card, the poll clerk crosses the voter's name off the voters list. The deputy returning officer hands the voter a folded ballot with the initials of the deputy returning officer on the outside.

        (At this point the voter goes behind the voter screen to make their mark.)

        The voter then re-folds the ballot so that the deputy returning officer's initials are visible and hands it to the deputy returning officer. The deputy returning officer checks the initials and the number shown on the counterfoil, removes the counterfoil and discards it, and returns the ballot to the voter. The voter, or the deputy returning officer at the voter's request, places the folded ballot in the ballot box. The poll clerk then places a mark in the "Voted" column beside the elector's name on the voters list.

        The ballots themselves have counterfeit protections, and are carefully accounted for. As each vote is cast serial numbers are checked. (But not recorded alongside the voter who placed the vote.)

        Really you'd have to corrupt a pretty large chunk of the polling staff, then they could simply ignore the votes and write down whatever totals they wanted as long as it added up to the number of people who voted, and certify and transmit the results them. You'd still have to get it past the other parties observers, but they usually don't send enough people to watch everything all the time.*
        And then as long as no one called for a recount, no one would ever know.

        * Of course they *could* and if fraud were a significant problem, they probably would. In my experience we usually have a couple party affiliated observers in a polling site with 6 or 7 polling stations. The closer the anticipated race the more scrutiny.

         

      • by Jeremi (14640)

        How about the high cost of counting ballots by hand?

        I've been a poll worker here (in California) several times, and the only hand-counting of ballots we did was literally just that -- counting the number of paper ballots in the box at the end of the day, to make sure it matched the number of signatures we had gathered in the log book. With a team of 5 poll workers doing it in parallel (and checking each other's work), it takes about 30 minutes to complete. Given that poll workers are paid a flat fee ($100 or so for the day), the cost isn't high.

        The actual

    • by Desler (1608317)

      Voting machines are a solution to a problem that doesn't exits.

      Vote count delays? Issues with recounts? The ease in which paper votes can be "lost" in transit to the counting facility? The ease with which paper ballots can be tampered with? The fact that there are plenty of people who can easily screw up a paper ballot (aka hanging chads)?

      • Re:Stupid. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Goaway (82658) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @08:18PM (#41901713) Homepage

        Vote count delays?

        If done right, it doesn't take more than evening by hand.

        Issues with recounts?

        What issues?

        The ease in which paper votes can be "lost" in transit to the counting facility?

        They are to be counted on location, not transported anywhere.

      • by hawguy (1600213)

        The fact that there are plenty of people who can easily screw up a paper ballot (aka hanging chads)?

        If hanging chads are a serious problem, then don't use a marking method that can result in chads. I like my precinct's solution, each candidate has an arrow with a gap pointing to the name:

        --- ---> John Doe
        --- ---> Joe Schmo
        --- ---> Jane Doe

        To vote for that candidate, you just fill in the gap with a marker.

        Ballots are fed into a machine and read instantly. A confirmation beep ensures a good read. Paper ballots are retained for validation and/or recount.

        Electronic voting is not immune to

      • Re:Stupid. (Score:4, Informative)

        by compro01 (777531) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @09:03PM (#41902135)

        1. Delays? What delays? In Canada, barring extremely close races (where it's going to take you days regardless), we know the results before bed.

        2. What issues with recounts?

        3. Lost? Counting facility? The ballots are counted in the same building, often the same room, as where they're put in the box.

        4. Tamper with? In what manner? During the counting? That's what the observers from each party are there for, in addition to the elections officials.

        5. Chads? You put an X in the box. No stupid "punch a hole in the sheet with a herring" or "draw a line across the page" nonsense.

    • by CHIT2ME (2667601)
      Here in Missouri, we use a paper ballot that you just darken a box for your selection. It is then read by a machine and tallyed. Pretty simple! Also, there is a paper ballot to fall back on if there is a recount or any problems. Until electronic voting becomes more secure and foolproof, I think this is the best possible procedure.
    • by MtViewGuy (197597)

      Better solution: mark-sense paper ballots that are filled out with a _permanent_ marker. That way, they can be both machine and hand counted.

  • Disgraceful (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fox1324 (1039892) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @07:40PM (#41901289)
    One day we'll figure out how to vote like a civilized nation. Today is not that day.
  • by Liam Pomfret (1737150) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @07:40PM (#41901291)
    I recall that several countries wanted to send election monitors to oversee the vote, and that at least one Republican AG was trying to prevent that happening. What happened with that?
  • E-votes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Citizen of Earth (569446) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @07:40PM (#41901295)
    "Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything." -- Joseph Stalin
    • by mark-t (151149)
      Those who count the votes might decide everything, but they are still accountable to anyone who might be witness to them doing said counting.
      • Re:E-votes (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Mitreya (579078) <mitreyaNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @08:28PM (#41901843)

        Those who count the votes might decide everything, but they are still accountable to anyone who might be witness to them doing said counting.

        That's probably why the electronic machines are being pushed as a replacement.
        So that there is no counting that can be witnessed.

        • by mark-t (151149)

          which, ironically, makes the machines unaccountable to anybody... and if an error occurs, there is a greater chance of it remaining undetected.

          If that's the whole point, then kudos to the American election system.

  • Embarrassed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @07:46PM (#41901359)

    As an American I am embarrassed by these problems. Is this due to incompetence? Not enough people caring? How can we expect government to grow and manage things like disaster relief, healthcare, and retirement when we simply can't get a working election system. This morning I went to vote in DC. I waited 60 minutes in line to get inside a church that had one working machine. Really? In the middle of a city we have a voting station with a single voting machine. Should I expect a single nurse for my flu shot?

    • by aXis100 (690904)

      I'm embarrased for you too. It's not that hard to get voting systems right and they scale with population perfectly fine - the fact that America can make a complete arse of it is a sign of how far you guys have fallen.

      20 years ago - "leaders of the free world"; Today - broke, unemployed, corrupt, and cant even hold simple elections.

  • can you keep on walking into the wall. Year after year all you hear is problems with voting machine. Who is paying whom to keep having those thing year after year instead of paper?

  • by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @07:52PM (#41901433)

    Look guys, it's a few glitches. There are what, 350 million people in the US, half are eligible to vote, so 175 million voters. A couple of thousand counted wrong is tops a few VOTE RECORDED: MITT ROMNEY

  • inevitable problems involved with trying to securely collect information from tens of millions of people on the same dayk

    Some problems are inevitable. But most of the ones we have are avoided by other major democracies.

    http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/05/opinion/frum-election-chaos/index.html [cnn.com]

  • Our number one export apparently, in terms of money spent. And yet, we can't actually have democracy at home. How much of a banana republic do we need to become before the UN starts to intervene and forces us to be monitored by their people to make sure we have a fair election?

    • Our number one export apparently, in terms of money spent. And yet, we can't actually have democracy at home.

      The joke at the time was, "And if it works in Iraq, we'll try it at home."

  • I live in a small town outside San Francisco. It seems that two local districts vote in the place I went this morning, so a guy at the door routed voters to table A or table B depending on our street addresses. The problem was that competing teams of little-old-lady election volunteers were engaged in a turf war over who "owned" which voting booths. When I got my ballot from table A, the booths closest to it were occupied and the volunteers directed my wife and I to the ones nearer table B.

    You would have thought I had peed all over the table B volunteers' Thanksgiving turkey.

    Little Old Lady: Sir? Sir! These are for table B! You're supposed to use the booths over by table A!
    Me: Umm, is there a difference?
    LOL: Yes! These are for table B! If they're all filled up, table B people won't be able to vote!
    Me: Well, table A's booths are all filled up and I'd like to vote, too.
    LOL, whining and angry: But these are for table B!

    Man. Hell hath no wrath like the elderly women proudly doing their quadrennial duties.

    • I think that the answer may lie in your second sentence: "It seems that two local districts vote in the place I went this morning, so a guy at the door routed voters to table A or table B depending on our street addresses."

      .

      I am guessing that the booths tabulated results for two different voting precincts/districts, and that the routing/sorting of voters as they entered was based upon which distrist contains their address.

      This answer would make sense if the voting occured in the booth electronically. If,

  • ES&S IVotronic (Score:5, Informative)

    by JumboMessiah (316083) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @08:47PM (#41902005)

    The machine in the video [youtube.com] is an ES&S IVotronic terminal. It's the same terminal I voted on this morning. It directly appears the digitizer is incorrectly calibrated. What the video author doesn't show is the paper tabulator in the lower left corner. It would of clearly showed his vote being tallied incorrectly. Perhaps he was voting Romney and didn't want his cast vote shown, but the paper trail recorder clearly shows your selection in the window. It even shows when you got back and correct a selection. Now, they key is that each candidate field on the screen is independently calibrated and can be re-calibrated [wired.com] in under a minute by any third party.

    At minimum, this terminal should of been isolated and inspected for tampering. Hopefully that was the ultimate outcome. I know I would of not left the area until a proper election official arrived.

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