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Why Does a Voting Machine Need Calibration? 398

New submitter Shotgun writes "I heard on the radio that there were some issues with voting machines in Greensboro, NC (my hometown), and the story said the machines just needed "recalibration". Which made me ask, "WTF? Why does a machine for choosing between one of a few choices need 'calibration'?" This story seems to explain the issue."
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Why Does a Voting Machine Need Calibration?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 02, 2012 @07:07PM (#41859975)

    TheBlaze (i.e. Glenn Beck) is not a credible news source. Please delete this article.

  • Nothing changes (Score:5, Informative)

    by DigitAl56K ( 805623 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @07:14PM (#41860097)

    This was a problem with electronic voting machines during the 2008 elections: [] []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 02, 2012 @07:15PM (#41860111)

    I'm speaking from a perspective of someone that regularly works as a poll worker during elections in the state of California.

    One of the first things I do once our touch screen system is set up is confirm the calibration of the LCD panel. It's typical for the registration to be off by a few pixels, as our fingers are not perfect pixel-sized points. However, I have yet to experience an issue where the calibration is so bad that the wrong selection is made on behalf of the voter. Remember there are a whole host of perfectly valid reasons why this may be more of a problem for some voters than others, certainly including finger size and physical impairment affecting fine-motor skills.

    If a voter did report a problem of this nature, recalibrating the touch screen would be one of the first things I would try.

  • Touchscreens? (Score:4, Informative)

    by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @07:16PM (#41860129)

    Touchscreens—particularly resistive touchscreens—often need recalibration. On a poorly calibrated screen, tapping on one button could select the one adjacent. Not good in a voting machine with a column full of candidates in densely packed rows.

    Note: I haven't read TFA, this is just the first thing that came to mind.

  • by wchild ( 321327 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @07:24PM (#41860219) Homepage

    Needs to be calibrated sometimes. I work elections for Clark County, Nevada. I've worked every election the last 10 years. And yes, the touchscreens can fall out of calibration and make it difficult to select the correct candidates. I can't speak to other election districts, but here in Clark County we're trained on how to perform this calibration on site (it's very simple) so that any problems reported by voters can be handled right away.

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

    by cirby ( 2599 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @07:27PM (#41860279)

    Different touchscreen technology.

    Old-school surface capacitance touchscreen kiosks often lose calibration - or can be deliberately miscalibrated for fun and profit.

  • Explanation (Score:5, Informative)

    by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @07:28PM (#41860295)

    First that letter was all about setting up a legal and public relations basis to question the election later.

    Second, yes voting machines need calibration. Different types require different kinds.

    For example the touchscreens, usually older resistive touch screens get mis calibrated on position. You have to remeber these things get locks in closets and sit in non-temperature controlled ware houses for a couple years at a time between elections, then they are jostled in trucks, cleaned with cleaners, and sometime run off various power sources. Empirically they do go out of calibration.

    I personally have a ballot I saved from an AUtomark paper ballot printer in which all the votes are off by one oval width. that is 100% of the votes are incorrect and you can tell because a few are printed past the range of ovals.

    Opscans are fairly easy to allign since they have relatively few degrees of freedom but they do get misalligned and become sensitive to printing tolerances.

    Old lever machines used to have the gears wear down.

    The solution to all this is not to require perfect everything but to have ways to check things. hand marked Paper ballots and some sampled recounts of those paper ballots such as is done in New Mexico is I believe the best compromise between transparency, robustness and simplicity. It's robust against human and machine errors so mere mortals can carry out very transparent elections. It's also robust against voter turnout variations too since it only takes more pencils to let more people vote, and if a machine breaks, you can still gather the ballots, so you dont get long lines at the polls.

  • omg haha (Score:3, Informative)

    by cultiv8 ( 1660093 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @07:32PM (#41860329) Homepage

    “He played around with the field a little and realized that in order to vote for Romney, his finger had to be exactly on the mark,”

    welcome to the age of tablet computing.

  • One (Score:5, Informative)

    by Outtascope ( 972222 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @07:44PM (#41860495)
    Dec 15th 2009, claimed that Galileo proved the earth was round and that it revolves around the sun, and that the Dems/Obama are just like the evil people that tried to shut him up (I guess Obama is a Muslim Christian then, or Christian Muslim or something like that).
  • Two (Score:5, Informative)

    by Outtascope ( 972222 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @07:48PM (#41860521)
    Claimed Sean Smith was a CIA operative sent to Benghazi to cover up Obama's involvement in the Libyan uprising.
  • Three (Score:5, Informative)

    by Outtascope ( 972222 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @07:56PM (#41860619)
    May 26, 2009 Beck claims that Hitler's "empathy" was the cause of the holocaust.
  • Re:Touchscreens? (Score:5, Informative)

    by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @08:11PM (#41860775) Homepage
    This is what we do in Canada. Voting booths are cardboard and are set up on tables. Votes are cast by marking paper with a pen. The ballots are then placed in a cardboard box. Can't get much cheaper or fool proof than that. I never understood the American fascination with making things so complicated. I know that the Canadian system works because anybody can understand exactly what's going on at every step of the process. Once you introduce computers, that all flies out the window.
  • four (Score:5, Informative)

    by Outtascope ( 972222 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @08:16PM (#41860817)

    In his book "Arguing With Idiots" (alternatively titled "My Inner Dialog"), Beck claims that Article 1, Section 9 Clause 1 of the constitution put a $10 entrance fee on immigrants coming to this country because the founding fathers "actually put a price tag on coming to this country: $10 per person. Apparently they felt like there was a value to being able to live here."

    In actuality, Article 1 Section 9 Clause 1 was intended to prevent congress from ending the slave trade.

  • Re:Not so. (Score:5, Informative)

    by fluffy99 ( 870997 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @08:19PM (#41860841)

    I've never had any calibration issues with my iPad. This kind of thing is a hallmark of older touch-screens, modern devices don't have this problem.

    That's because your iPad uses a capacitive screen. There are still plenty of low-end tablets and devices that use resistive type screens that are prone to this problem.

  • Re:Explanation (Score:5, Informative)

    by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @08:56PM (#41861125) Homepage Journal

    Because... ooh! Shiny!

  • Re:Explanation (Score:4, Informative)

    by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @10:09PM (#41861593) Homepage

    Unknown number of candidates. Basically every time it comes down to this, want to fix it, then go back to paper ballots and pencils with hand counts watched over by independent and political observers. Keep it simple stupid but no in the US lobbyists wanted to make sure their corporate funders needed to make extra profit and when it comes to cheating on election electronic voting machines and vote counting machines are in reality the only way to do it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 02, 2012 @10:20PM (#41861651)

    The electoral college, again, represents the states. This ensures that even sparsely populated states receive some weight in the process.

    Otherwise, who would care about Alaskans, North Dakotans, Wyomingegians, etc? Candidates could play the odds simply pursuing the most populous states. Thus, California, New York, Florida, etc, issues would dominate the campaign (even more so than today).

    What I'm saying is that this *isn't* a bug, it was included as a specific design feature by the founders. And if you think that's unfair, no doubt you consider the US Senate to be just as awful. How can Wyoming have the same power as California in ratifying treaties, approving presidential appointees, or removing a president from office?

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