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Voting Machine Problem Reports Already Rolling In 386

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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @07:45PM (#41901351)

    Well, I think all of Nevada has it right. At least here in Las Vegas the voting machines here are held to the same standards of slot machines. I could be wrong, but I think the gaming commission goes over them too, but I could be wrong. The rest of the nation has it wrong sadly :-(

  • 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?

  • Re:Stupid. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @07:56PM (#41901481) Homepage Journal

    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?

  • by sl3xd ( 111641 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @07:57PM (#41901499) Journal

    Harder than an ATM machine? Harder than a nuclear power plant control room? Harder than a 787 Dreamliner fly by wire system?

    The key problem: Price.

    Your examples can be counted on to be in use pretty much all of the time.

    Not so with voting machines, where they sit unused in warehouses for months on end.

    As a result, it's hard to justify to "fiscally responsible" election committees that your more expensive device is the best for the job.

    One of the easiest things to cheap out on is the touchscreen. The touch sensors on your iOS or Android device are generally top of the line capacitive sensors - and even they have trouble from time to time.

    If you go for a cheap resistive touch sensor, you can be pretty screwed. I know my office's HP DeskJet all-in-one has an extremely low-end touch screen - it's best described as "touch the screen, and get anything except what you intended to press.

    I'm far more willing to chalk it up to deprecated, cheap-ass touch sensors than I am to call it fraud.

    Frankly, we need the guys designing slot machine or video poker to do our voting machines - with the same regulations too (ie. full source code disclosure, full schematics, and so on). I think it's criminal that we require casinos to prove their machines aren't hacked, and require full source code and schematics -- but the same standard doesn’t exist for voting machines.

  • Re:Stupid. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Goaway ( 82658 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @08:15PM (#41901677) Homepage

    You don't use a machine, and you don't hire people. You take multiple volunteers who count in public.

  • 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.

  • Re:E-votes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mitreya ( 579078 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `ayertim'> 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.

  • Re:Stupid. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amRadioHed ( 463061 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @08:32PM (#41901887)

    Why is vote count delay even an issue? I know the 24 hour median wants results in prime time, but who cares about that? The president isn't sworn in until late January, let the counters take as long as is needed to do it right.

  • by Beardo the Bearded ( 321478 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @08:33PM (#41901901)

    a few glitches......are you kidding me?

    Are you seriously telling me that a 38-word post was tl;dr and you ERROR: VOTE ALREADY RECORDED.

  • Re:Stupid. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @08:36PM (#41901925)

    The problem with hand counting paper ballots is that there is no reliable way to hand count 90 million ballots.

    The process is the same as counting 100 ballots. Counting by hand scales linearly, without problem.

  • Re:Stupid. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Goaway ( 82658 ) on Tuesday November 06, 2012 @09:22PM (#41902279) Homepage

    The high cost in volunteer time. Just because volunteers are paying those costs, doesn't mean they don't exist. And it isn't a good excuse to take advantage of them.

    You can't afford an afternoon every few years to keep your political system running well?

    How do you ensure that you have volunteers from "all" sides of the political spectrum instead of just "both" sides?

    I don't. That's up to everyone to do for themselves. If you don't volunteer, you have nobody to blame but yourself.

  • Re:Stupid. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @12:25AM (#41903311)

    There are ~90 million ballots that are supposed to be counted. The fact that this gets divided up between thousands of different people doesn't change the fact that 90 million need to be counted.

    and its been pointed out to you, mr "I'm scared of big numbers" poster, that when you distribute it, the 'scary big numbers' reduce to more managable ones.

    you don't really 'get' the idea that big problems can be broken down into smaller ones and that adding 'computers' to the problem isn't always (or often!) the right thing to do?

    canada seems to have dealt with the distributed effort thing just fine. its a proven concept. it just does not go along with your narrative, that's all, and that seems to annoy you.

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.