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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 nonsequitor ( 893813 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @07:25PM (#41860247)

    Why use a touch screen at all? They should have just made the screens have bezel keys along the sides like an ATM.

  • Re:Touchscreens? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Friday November 02, 2012 @07:38PM (#41860411) Homepage Journal

    Voting machines shouldn't use touch screens at all. They should use pinball flipper switches. They're inexpensive, trivial to source (the button part anyway, there's just a leaf switch behind it) and highly reliable. They can be placed next to the display. I have heard the argument that if you do that then you have to worry about aligning options, but that pales compared to the complexity of the GUI systems they're probably using when they're using touch screens, with complete widget sets.

  • Re:Touchscreens? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @07:55PM (#41860613)

    speaking as someone who is 'aging' (cough), I can give you a solid data point: screens are great for *seeing* but lousy for *input*.

    please don't abandon hard tactile buttons. everyone of every age can use buttons and see the screen. there's no parallax or steadiness of your hands needed for real physical buttons. its just so much more reliable and easier for people.

    keep the screens. ditch the stupid idea of touching them.

    I can't remember the last time I had to calibrate a button panel that had hardware switches for its input keys.

    sometimes the older tried and true ways are still worth retaining.

  • by boom!explosion! ( 2766231 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @08:39PM (#41861011)
    But seriously, this hits close to home. I live in the Piedmont Triad (greensboro, nc area), and have voted on these very machines - this year and years past. The hype about this was way overblown and far too political. Most of the stories I've heard of potential fraud from the great north state has been on local media, and from those who may not have the best vision or may suffer from tremors due to age. It's not calibration if you can't choose the right region of the screen, due to medical conditions. That said, I work in Senior living and have not heard any complaints from residents that have voted early. In fact, they loved how easy it is - as most of them have not voted in years in a polling place. The poster seriously needs to stop listening to Clear Channel radio stations (rush radio, I'm assuming?) and perhaps some healthy NPR or our two fine college stations. Also, though it's been said: The blaze? Really, Slashdot?
  • by AsmCoder8088 ( 745645 ) on Friday November 02, 2012 @08:59PM (#41861141)

    While we're at it, let's also do away with the electoral college. And yes, I'm being serious.

    Here is a simple example:

    You have three states. The first one is 10x larger than the other two, and the voting outcome is as follows:

    State A: 500,001 votes for candidate 1; 499,999 votes for candidate 2
    State B: 49,999 votes for candidate 1; 50,001 votes for candidate 2
    State C: 49,999 votes for candidate 1; 50,001 votes for candidate 2

    State A gives ten electoral votes to candidate 1, and states B and C each give one electoral vote to candidate 2.

    As you can see, even though candidate 2 received more actual votes than candidate 1, he/she winds up losing.

    The winner-take all rule makes sense whenever there is just one state involved, but when you carry it over across multiple states, you wind up losing accuracy. Currently there are only two states, Nebraska and Maine, which actually implement proportional voting by splitting their electoral votes. But even then, that is not 100% perfect because there are an integer number of electoral votes which are based on population size, so there is still a rounding error.

    The most accurate, and to me the simplest approach is to simply add up the actual votes from each state for each candidate, and only at the very end do you compare votes to see who is the winner.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 03, 2012 @12:14AM (#41862303)

    If you read the statistical analysis showing the vote flipping that was done to get Romney a win in the primaries:

    The rigged precincts showing the rigging were 'Central Tabulator' systems (Diebolds), paper vote districts didn't show any 'flipping' for anyone let alone Romney.

    It turns out Diebolds Central Tabulator, lets the operator change the vote via a manual override screen!

    So they didn't even need to do anything special, they just changed the numbers on the central counter.

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker