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Verified Voting 363

Joe from the EFF writes "Verified Voting has just gone live with a number of tools for all you data-hungry election nerds out there. Amongst the goods: an election guide for geeks, a voter's guide to electronic voting, the Verifier database of county-by-county election information and the Election Incident Reporting System (EIRS) which will be used on E-day by attorneys and observers in the field to collect data about election incidents called into the Election Protection Coalition's hotline, 1-866-OUR-VOTE. The geek community is playing a particularly active role in this year's eleciton via VV's TechWatch program. However, we could still use the help of the slashdot community, and all you have to do is click: We need to test the resiliency of the Verifier database and the EIRS before the election.
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Verified Voting

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  • ouch... (Score:4, Informative)

    by bje2 ( 533276 ) * on Thursday October 28, 2004 @03:17PM (#10656538)
    ouch, the page is already loading very, very, slow, and i'm getting constant run time errors when i scroll over their map...not a good start...
    • Already barfing with a cannot connect to mysql server. What a joke...
      • When will people learn that MySQL, while a useful toy, just can't compare to a real Enterprise-grade database [] running on real Enterprise-grade hardware []?
        • Re:ouch... (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Lordrashmi ( 167121 )
          When will people learn to code correctly instead of just pointing to another program as a silver bullet?
          • There's more to systems engineering than simply being able to code a bug-free application. Mastery of your tools is an important skill, but that's only one small portion of what you need to know.

            You have to know how to evaluate different technologies and pick the tool which is most appropriate for the task at hand. Only an amateur just goes with what he knows or what satisfies his political agenda.

            You have to know how to design and configure your infrastructure so that it is secure and reliable. You

            • By "code correctly" I didn't mean simply bug free. I meant well engineered. I have used many different technologies and have seen many 'great' or 'more powerful' technologies work like crap because people thought it was a silver bullet.

              To me your first comment appeared to be treating sybase as a silver bullet and by replacing MySQL with Sybase all problems would be solved. However, from your last comments I believe you were advocating a better design not just replacing the database. Without looking at all
    • by artemis67 ( 93453 ) on Thursday October 28, 2004 @03:19PM (#10656565)
      Uhhh... we vote for faster servers and more memory in 2004!
    • Re:ouch... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by remigo ( 413948 )
      All in favor of waiting until electronic voting is mature and trustworthy before deployment raise your hand...
    • EIRS (Score:5, Informative)

      by cananian ( 73735 ) on Thursday October 28, 2004 @04:56PM (#10657583) Homepage
      [I'm the lead programmer for EIRS.]

      The EIRS site seems to be holding up fine for me, with a surprisingly modest hardware investment.

      Yes, there are a lot of things I would structure differently if I were coding this from scratch -- but that's not how the Real World operates. This site was developed primarily by a single developer (me) over a period of a few months. I didn't have the luxury of starting with a clean slate; I had to build on existing tools.

      Furthermore, with no budget (because this is a non-profit) hardware is *always* difficult to come by. I would have liked to roll out a lot more machines, but it was not to be.

      The current EIRS site is two web front ends talking to a single database machine. And it's currently quite usable for me, at least.

      [Although I'm noticing that DNS seems to be very slow -- unfortunately that's out of my control.]

      Feel free to disabuse me of my naivete. And check out while you're at it -- this is a real-time map being filled with incidents being reported at the 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline (remember that number, if you need it on election day!). The core of EIRS is the ability to respond in real time to reported incidents and dispatch lawyers and technologists.

      And, yes, the machines serving the hotlines are entirely distinct from the ones which slashdot is digilently trying to take down.
  • by Spad ( 470073 )
    "Nothing to see here" and they're already slow - or maybe it's just me.
  • by keytoe ( 91531 )
    Looks like there's a lot more work to do. Only a few minutes in and ... The Usual.
  • by deathazre ( 761949 ) <> on Thursday October 28, 2004 @03:18PM (#10656562)
    did we just get someone who ASKED for their site to be slashdotted?
    • by TykeClone ( 668449 ) <> on Thursday October 28, 2004 @03:20PM (#10656585) Homepage Journal
      Looks like they've received what they asked for.
    • by AviLazar ( 741826 )
      I think /. has become the new basis for benchmarking a website. They submitted the story here to see if it can withstand pressure -it can't.
      Maybe they will up their servers for e-day which should net as much traffic as /. causes.
      Well thats just wishful hoping.
      • Re:hold on a second. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by emc ( 19333 )
        If you want to see traffic, get your site on Drudge... or god forbid... the AOL start page.

        I was working for a company that had a customer get a co-branding deal with AOL. 2 weeks of being on the AOL start page... sustained over 400MB/Sec up from around 25MB/Sec sustained.

        You could almost tell the second the link went up on AOLs page, and when it went down... the MRTG 24 Hour View of the switch port counter was a massive square wave.

        Beautiful, but insane.
    • (I'm the lead programmer on the system.)
      I actually explicitly asked that that last sentence be taken out. =(

      Oh, well.
      • Re:hold on a second. (Score:3, Informative)

        by cananian ( 73735 )
        I should probably clarify that I coded EIRS. Database errors on other domains Aren't My Fault. =)
  • Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aelbric ( 145391 ) on Thursday October 28, 2004 @03:19PM (#10656563)
    "Cannot connect to database"

    Guess that's what you get for asking to stress test a server from /.
  • by Jagasian ( 129329 ) on Thursday October 28, 2004 @03:19PM (#10656569)
    I voted early last week. Why would you risk waiting until the last second to vote? Who knows what could go wrong. You could get sick, your car could break down, you could accidentally go to the wrong polling location, etc...

    Funny thing is that on the second day of early voting, the polling location that I went to had a 30 minute wait!!! In 2000, on election day, there was no wait whatsoever! I think this year there is going to be a HUGE voter turnout. I am not sure who it is going to favor, but it is an interesting phenomenon.
    • "Why would you risk waiting until the last second to vote?

      Umm, all of us people in states that don't have early voting don't really have a choice. I think that is still most of them. Thirty two states offer some form of early voting, but only twenty-three, like Florida, offer early voting to all registered voters. Even in those states, it is not offered in all counties.

    • I voted early last week. Why would you risk waiting until the last second to vote?

      The complete lack of any sense that it matters for half a Smurf fart?

      VOTE KERRY 2004! We deserve him.

    • by liquidpele ( 663430 ) on Thursday October 28, 2004 @03:37PM (#10656746) Journal
      "I think this year there is going to be a HUGE voter turnout"

      I agree. Interestingly, I think it will be because people HATE the other candidate so much, instead of them liking theirs. Everyone I talk to seems to be "I HATE Kerry", or "I HATE Bush", but no one actually *likes* anyone anymore it seems...
      • I like Mike [].

        FWIW, I HATE Bush AND I hate Kerry (note capitalization, though).
      • I agree. When was the last time we had a candidate that the majority of the people actually liked? It sure as hell wasn't Bush or Gore. I voted for Kerry, although I'm not a fan of his (I hate Junior). I didn't like everything that Clinton did (can you say AWB?) but I think he did a fair job. Going into it I didn't really love him though. I strongly disliked Big Papa Bush. That's about the limit of my presidential memory. Did the people like Reagan when he ran?

        We need a good candidate to vote for.

        • Did the people like Reagan?
          Take a look at This []. Only Minnesota and DC voted against him.
          You can always tell when a candidate is liked, because the margin of votes between the leader and next candidate gets HUGE! (unlike last time where the percent error was larger than the margin.. whoops!)
          • That's impressive. I don't have much of a grasp on government from that era unfortunately. I was in pre-school, I think. I wonder what his exit polls were like. I do remember that he and Nancy were awfully fond of the Whitehouse staff and visa versa.
      • Having only two viable parties guarantees mudslinging. I think it's a corallary of Duverger's Law (see below). That is why a vote for a third party candidate is not a wasted vote. Although Duverger's Rule is essentially that plurality voting always degenerates into having only two viable parties, if enough of us vote for a third, it will encourage the big guys to keep it cleaner, even if we must endure a plurality system a little while longer.

        What we really need to do is equate "third party" with "none
        • Look up how Australia counts their votes for a *real* solution to the "wasted vote" problem.

          To summarize, you rank the candidates, and if your #1 looses, your vote goes to your #2 and they are all recounted to see who wins that iteration.

          That way I can vote for, say Nader, and when he looses my vote could go for Kerry, but it takes away the fear of voting for 3rd party candidates because every vote is used up until there are only 2 people left.

        • What we really need to do is equate "third party" with "none of the above" in the minds of the disenfranchised voters.

          Except, at least in this election, the third parties wouldn't be any better in office than George Bush or John Kerry.

          Nothing would get done at all, every bill would be vetoed.

          They're nice idealistic votes, I suppose, but if you want me voting for someone I reallly want to see in office, I don't see a single candidate that is viable. I'm picking from the least of 5 evils.
    • Ohio doesn't have early voting.
    • Unfortunately not every state has early voting
    • Can't vote early in PA. Letting people vote early would be a new, inovative idea and we don't allow those in the keystone state. If it was good enough for your grandfather, it's good enough for you. Heck, people are worring about electronic voting machines, we don't even have electric voting machines! I'll be voting with a lever machine that people probably voted for Truman on. Or maybe Wilson, who knows.
    • Voting early is like walking out of a baseball game in the 7th inning.
    • I voted by absentee ballot over a week ago. I think this is going to be election by lawyers, even more so than last time. This is so sad. And I do hope for an enormous voter turnout because that bodes well for my candidate.
    • I voted early last week. Why would you risk waiting until the last second to vote?

      There's a joke in Australia - "Vote early and vote often", born out of electoral corruption in a the past. It remains just a joke since the elections are organised by a central federal body and incidents of election fraud have been diminishing over the years - and the elections all happen on single days. Those that can't vote in their electorate put in absentee votes, and those that can't get to a polling booth at all that

  • Yeah. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Staos ( 700036 ) on Thursday October 28, 2004 @03:21PM (#10656591) Journal
    As a Maryland resident, I've tried to do my part. I contacted my elected officials [] and warned them about Diebold. I sent another round of faxes and emails after we learned that Diebold planned to gouge us "out the yin-yang" [] if we wanted verified voting. Final results: a couple form letter replies amounting to diddly squat.

    The most frustrating part is that my county already had perfectly good voting machines: paper-based scantron-type forms where you mark the appropriate rectangle and a simple scanner tabulates the results. Effective, verifiable, well-understood, and relatively inexpensive. In other words, the complete opposite of what the state just bought for us.

    • Re:Yeah. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by donnyspi ( 701349 )
      I took plenty of Scantron tests in high school and college and there were frequently errors. Either the scanner didn't detect that a box was shaded or it thought two were shaded and marked the question wrong anyway.... arrrgh.
    • Thankfully, my precinct was still using the scan forms during the primaries. The nice thing is that if your vote is invalid, such as checking off contradictory votes, filling in a circle that doesn't mean anything and such, it spits it back out for you to get a new form.

      I wonder what it would take to get a better electronic system. My guess is that as long as both parties think they can manipulate the system, there is no point to
    • Re:Yeah. (Score:2, Informative)

      I sympathize.

      If you'd like to do more, sign up with TrueVoteMD [] to be a poll watcher and report technical or other voting problems - there are still many precincts needing poll watchers. They're desparate for people with computer skills to be poll watchers.

      You can choose the precinct and hours... There is still 1 training session left (on Sunday), so its not too late to sign up.

    • Re:Yeah. (Score:3, Informative)

      by Gkeeper80 ( 71079 )
      Sign up to be a pollwatcher with []. I think they're still looking for people to help observer polling stations and record any annomolies. It's non-partisan and you aren't there to yell at anyone, simply to observe and record any information that can be used to discredit the machines or maybe even sued Diebold "out the yin-yang" and get some of our tax money back.
  • by nweaver ( 113078 ) on Thursday October 28, 2004 @03:23PM (#10656608) Homepage
    Slashdot 1, MySQL Server 0
  • Mr Wizard is broken (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DunbarTheInept ( 764 ) on Thursday October 28, 2004 @03:23PM (#10656614) Homepage
    They had a nice wizard at (one of the sites mentioned in the article) that would help tell you what voting technologies exist in your precinct, and what alternatives exist if you want a paper receipt of your vote. (In some places, absentee ballot by snail-mail is the only alternative to trusting Diebold, in other places there are more alternatives.) But, possibly because of the slashdot link, all the wizard tells me now is that it can't connect to the mySQL database.
  • Election "incidents" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Capt'n Hector ( 650760 ) on Thursday October 28, 2004 @03:28PM (#10656660)
    I'm no expert in polls, but isn't the best (only?) way to detect voting fraud is by statistical analysis? That is, compare paper ballots with electronic ones, and then those to exit polls. If those Diabolical... err Diebold voting machines differ from normal ballots by more than a few fractions of a percent, wouldn't that indicate some sort of foul play? Fire-alarm pulling, voter-registration-tear-upping aside, the worst threat to American democracy (heh, did I just say that) is a few lines of code in Diebold's server software, something like:
    $record_vote_function() {
    $i = rand(1,0, 0.000001);
    if($i=1 && $vote="Kerry-Edwards") {
    • Unless you know how to game the system. For example, one could write a CGI script [] that lets you decide how many counties to rig, how much to win by (to avoid recounts), and the polling margin of error so you can make your results look "real".

      But that's impossible, surely. :)


      • Actually, it would be imposible because the voting machine makers do not load in the names of the candidates. The election offices do. And this software will be on the machines permanently. So, in order to rig the elections not only would you have to re-program the software every time, you would have to get it past all the testing the counties would do everytime you re-program it. And something tells me that the counties would get suspicious if you had to reprogram the machines every time. Besides the
    • I really hope the voting machines aren't written in PHP.
    • That is, compare paper ballots with electronic ones, and then those to exit polls. If those Diabolical... err Diebold voting machines differ from normal ballots by more than a few fractions of a percent, wouldn't that indicate some sort of foul play?

      Not really. It's entirely possible that the people who are most likely to vote electronically tend to be Xians, and those who vote absentee tend to be Yians, so the percentages would differ without any foul play.
  • by ecliptik ( 160746 ) on Thursday October 28, 2004 @03:28PM (#10656664) Homepage

    While looking around for information on who/what I am voting for I came across SmartVoter [] which is run by the non-profit organization League of Women voters.

    The site is put together nicely, and by entering your street and zip it prints out a full sample ballot of what you'll be voting on and where to vote. It's completely non-partisian and has a lot of information on each issue, with arguements for and against them.

    If you're voting in either California or Ohio I'd definetly check it out before you go to the polls next week.

    I'd comment on the links themselves but they're dead.

    • Nice idea, but doesn't seem to work for Connecticut or Maryland (the two I tried.)
    • Here's another site that works for all states:

      vote-smart []

      A lot of information here about candidates for both state and federal offices, including finances, voting records, and interest group ratings. Unfortunately they don't have information about state/county/city level propositions.
  • Since the Verified Voting site is gone for the day, I took a look at []. They give me the correct place to vote, but have the wrong information on what sort of voting machines and how to use them. We don't use touch-screen voting here: the voting is done on paper ballots which are machine-read (think bubble-sheets).

    Too bad we knocked them out; I wanted to see their voting guide.

  • *clap* *clap*

    Could not connect : Can't connect to local MySQL server through socket '/var/lib/mysql/mysql.sock' (11)

    I know this'll be redundant by the time I get through clicking a few more times, typing, copying and pasting...but what the heck.

  • How Ironic (Score:2, Flamebait)

    That a site dedicated to watching over e-voting is itself not up to the task.

    Of course any operation that uses a toy database like MySQL or Access deserves what it gets

    A ducking and running PostgreSQL addict
  • Secret Message.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by donnyspi ( 701349 ) <> on Thursday October 28, 2004 @03:38PM (#10656751) Homepage
    Heh heh...

    Go to Verified Voting site and at the top right click "Edit Preferences" Click OK without typing anything in...

    Read the SeCrEt MeSsAgE!

  • by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) <> on Thursday October 28, 2004 @03:40PM (#10656770) Journal
    I don't want to start a holy war here, but what is the deal with you Bush fanatics? I've been sitting here at my freelance gig in front of (blocked outside of the U.S) for about 20 minutes now while it attempts to explain to me that Bush is doing a great job, the economy is stronger than ever, that he has never made a mistake in judgement, and that America is safer under his fascist rule. 20 minutes. At home, I can see one hundred reasons [] why Bush is unfit for duty, which by all standards should be reason for his impeachment. If not worse.

    In addition, during this fear driven propaganda-fest, free speech is confused with anti-Americanism. And everything else that has made the US a great place to live has ground to a halt. Even the ill-conceived 'freedom zones' are getting further and further away from this war-happy candidate as I type this.

    I won't bore you with the laundry list of other problems that I've encountered while listening to mouth-breathers spouting Republican talking points, but suffice it to say there have been many, not the least of which is I've never seen a Republican machine that has run faster from the truth, all the while tossing 'loyalty pledges' and cease and desist orders at anyone who may disagree, despite the millions of people who share the need to be rid of this administration. My Tandy 102 with 32k of RAM demonstrates more resolve and better judgment than Bush most times. From a leadership standpoint, I don't get how people can claim that Bush is a superior candidate for president.

    Bush addicts, flame me if you'd like, but I'd rather hear some intelligent reasons why anyone would choose to vote for Bush over other more truthful, reasoned, smarter and stable candidates.

    • Because I think Bush will do a better job of keeping us safe from terrorists. Period.

      There are other reasons, but that's the most important one for me.
  • And all I got was this ugly error message. Reported promptly to developers, though it's likely due to the /. effect.

    Db error #1044 in EIRS

    Error message was:
    Access denied for user: 'vevo4-ro@localhost' to
    database 'advokit'

    SQL was:
    insert into akeir_person (createdon,createdby,lastactivity,username, password,status,firstname,middlenames,lastname,ni c kname,address1,address2,city,state_id,postalcode,p h_office,ph_mobile,ph_fax,ph_home,ph_pager,homepag e,email,imid,imtype_id,notes) values (now(),1,now(),'sl
    • Who are the clowns who designed this thing? Several incredibly obvious security problems here:
      1. You NEVER spit a raw error message back to an untrusted user, you write it to a (protected) log file. You're leaking information that an attacker can use to compromise the system. The user doesn't need that information, the developer does.
      2. You NEVER give an untrusted user permission to run arbitrary ad-hoc SQL statements against your database -- that's what Stored Procedures are for. If only know how to use a
      • We'd love your help, if you're volunteering.

        For what it's worth, the EIRS site is run on separate web and database servers, does not give users the ability to run SQL statements, and the error reporting is a conscious choice on my part because I'd like to find errors sooner rather than later.

        I can't speak for anything except, which does seem to be still up.
    • [I'm the lead programmer for EIRS.] Where did you find the link you followed? Volunteer sign-up has been turned off on the read-only site which slashdot is currently pointed at... please go to to volunteer.
  • Kevin Shelley (Score:5, Interesting)

    by linuxwrangler ( 582055 ) on Thursday October 28, 2004 @03:49PM (#10656859)
    I find it amusing that the quote on the front page is from Kevin Shelley (CA Secretary of State) who is up to his eyeballs in scandals including misappropriation of federal voting money on Democratic consultants, accepting checks in his Sacramento office (a crime in CA), receiving laundered campaign contributions, etc. For the curious, here's just a smattering of the articles about him: ch ronicle/archive/2004/09/30/MNG9U91ANA1.DTL
    http:/ / ronicle/archive/2004/09/30/BAGPE91B571.DTL
    http:/ / ronicle/archive/2004/10/07/EDGII94AG81.DTL
    http:/ / ronicle/archive/2004/10/08/BAG4M95J231.DTL
    http:/ / ronicle/archive/2004/10/11/MNGID9748P1.DTL
    http:/ / ronicle/archive/2004/10/24/BAGML9F94221.DTL
    http: // ronicle/archive/2004/10/27/BAGGE9FSN057.DTL

    Seems like they could have picked someone better to quote.

    (My preview is showing odd spaces in the URI - you may have to fix to view the articles)
  • "Cannot connect to database". You're welcome.
  • More Kevin Shelley (Score:4, Informative)

    by linuxwrangler ( 582055 ) on Thursday October 28, 2004 @03:54PM (#10656905)
    This guy Shelley they quote on their web site, in addition to the dirty dealings mentioned in the other post, is talking a good deal but not really enforcing the paper-ballot-option requirement. From the Mercury News:

    SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - The Orange County elections office got the OK from California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley to keep quiet about the availability of paper ballots at polling places.

    All counties using electronic voting are required by Shelley to also provide paper ballots as an alternative to voters who request them. Shelley's office said in a memorandum Tuesday to elections offices that they "must educate voters" about the availability of paper ballots.

    But Orange County was allowed to proceed with plans to offer no signs or vocal notification alerting voters about the availability of paper ballots, Shelley's office said Wednesday.

    By discussing the issue with the Board of Supervisors and the media, Orange County Registrar of Voters Steve Rodermund had met the education requirement, the state said.

    "It sounds like Steve Rodermund has done the minimum that is required," said Tony Miller, special counsel to Shelley. "He has let it be known publicly."

    Registrars in Orange and at least three other counties have directed poll workers not to provide information about the availability of a paper ballot unless asked about it, saying they want to encourage the use of electronic voting.

  • The site was extremely slow and when it finally appeared I got this message:

    Could not connect : Can't connect to local MySQL server through socket '/var/lib/mysql/mysql.sock' (11)

    Nothing like waiting until a week before the election to test :) However, I guess it's better that waiting until the night before the election or not testing at all.
  • by jbarr ( 2233 ) on Thursday October 28, 2004 @04:01PM (#10656977) Homepage
    Not too long ago, I could just drive to my designated polling place, have them check off my name, vote, and a day or so later, I would read the results in the local paper or watch the results on some "breaking" TV special. Simple and easy.

    Now, I have to read countless Geek and non-geek election and voting guides so that I can come to the realization that the candidate I had chosen long ago is still the one I am actually going to vote for. Then, I'll have to file appropriate paperwork for a "conditional ballot" should I decide that my designated polling place is "not convenient" for me. Then, once at the polling place, I'll have to dodge international election monitors, and dodge partisan bullies just to get into the polling place. Then, I have to hope that my votor registration has been logged properly so that I can vote. Once on the voting booth, I then will have to thoroughly discriminate the voting process to ensure that the new e-voting machine actually works and make sure a paper copy prints so that the inevitable recounts can be handled properly. Then, when I get home, I have to monitor the countless state-by-state and county-by-county real-time returns, monitor countless voting fraud sites, all the while filtering out sincere, yet consistently contradictory election commentary on main-stream media outlets.

    Oh wait. I forgot. I live in South Carolina where President Bush is already locked in as the winner, so would I be better off just staying at home? Besides, some county in Florida will be deciding the election outcome anyway, right?

    Time to shut off the PC and go Outside(TM) for a nice walk.
  • After crawling through the public interface to EIRS, I noticed this bit:

    Is it really necessary to encrypt the public side of this tool? Or any of it for that matter? You could be beating your CPU senseless for no good reason. Try just encrypting the sensitive stuff.
  • Verification (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Thursday October 28, 2004 @04:16PM (#10657159) Homepage Journal

    I've noticed that technology exists already for anonymous verification of lottery tickets and gambling bets by the bearer. An optically read hash of the transaction is printed and saved by the issuer and can be verified at any network location.

    It should be possible for some of the same technologies to be applied to voting. AFAICT, the big hangup is limiting the paper to official boxes and official terminals to discourage vote selling where a person could produce a ticket and collect $10, a bottle of whiskey, or whatever for voting a verifiable ticket.

  • by cananian ( 73735 ) on Thursday October 28, 2004 @04:44PM (#10657462) Homepage
    A real-time incident report map is part of EIRS; follow the 'Research' link from the home page. []

    The 1-866-OUR-VOTE election hotline is open today, so you can watch incidents come into the system in real time. This system will be used on election day to dispatch lawyers and techies to trouble spots in real time. Go to [] or send mail to [mailto] to volunteer.

    [I am the lead programmer for EIRS.]

To do two things at once is to do neither. -- Publilius Syrus