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7000 e-Voting Machines Now Deemed Worthless By Irish Government 241

Posted by samzenpus
from the nice-doorstop dept.
First time accepted submitter lampsie writes "Despite spending at least 51 million euro over the last decade buying and storing 7000 e-voting machines from Dutch firm Nedap, the Irish Finance minister has announced that they are now 'worthless'. The machines were originally trialled in 2002 on three regional elections, but a nationwide rollout in 2004 was put on hold after a confidential report expressed serious concern over the security of the voting machines. According to the report, the integrity of the ballot could not be guaranteed with the equipment and controls used. Several years on, and tens of millions later, it looks like the pen and paper ballot will remain for now."
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7000 e-Voting Machines Now Deemed Worthless By Irish Government

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  • by bonch (38532) * on Friday January 13, 2012 @01:36AM (#38682788)

    It's fascinating how old and inexpensive technology, like the pen and paper, can end up being the superior technology due to reasons of practicality and security. It's another reminder to step back and realize that newer, technical versions of things aren't automatically better. There may be secure and reliable e-Voting machines someday, but certainly not with this iteration of the technology.

    I had to laugh at the picture caption in the article claiming they hoped there'd be a market for these machines in Irish-themed pubs.

    • by AHuxley (892839) on Friday January 13, 2012 @01:55AM (#38682882) Homepage Journal
      Yes, you set up a polling station, have all the parties send in trusted locals to watch, count the pencil on paper votes at the end of the day, send in the count that night.
      The staff are let go, hired for the next election.
      If its too close, a law to recount. All computers at a local level do is let people who stole postal votes in the past try some new digital hacks on very expensive machines.
      • by Shakrai (717556) * on Friday January 13, 2012 @02:10AM (#38682930) Journal

        I've been an Elections Inspector in New York State since 2004. You are seriously underestimating the logistical difficulties in counting the votes by hand. My precinct has more than 800 registered voters in it. In the last two Presidential elections we've seen 65%+ turnout. The last two Gubernatorial elections both exceeded 50%. The polls are open from 6am to 9pm; we are mandated by law to be there 45 minutes before and after these times. There is no way that we can physically count hundreds of votes in 45 minutes. It would take several hours; now multiply this by our collective $41/hr salary ($11 for the chairman, $10 for each of the other three) and multiply that by the tens of thousands of election districts across New York State. Where is that money going to come from?

        The current optical scanning technology is a fair balance. Paper ballots are retained for seven years after an election and are available for inspection by any interested party. The canvassing and certification process is watched by election officials from all major political parties, representatives of the candidates and the media. Elections officials count the votes by hand from randomly selected precincts the very the machine count. All the machines do is speed up the tabulation process.

        You'll brook no argument from me on the downfalls of direct electronic record machines where no paper backup is available. Arguing that the election should be run on pen and paper is equally insane though. I can't think of any compelling reason to do so; it opens the door for arguments back and forth on "voter intent" (whereas the machine rejects ballots for ambiguous marks and gives the voter another chance), turns the process of canvassing the votes into a logistical headache and would cost a lot more money.

        • by advocate_one (662832) on Friday January 13, 2012 @02:21AM (#38682968)
          45 minute count? You can blame your fscking stupid media for that... we publish our count results for a constituency when the count is finished, even if that could be midday the next day...

          and as for "voter intent"... anything that is not a clear mark in one box only is a spoiled paper... we don't have many of those here as our voters aren't stupid...

          • by hedwards (940851)

            That's not particularly democratic of you. The point is that everybody of age is able to vote unless they aren't a citizen or have lost their right to vote.

            What about people who change their mind or misread the ballot and have to change it? Under your view those people would lose their vote in many cases.

            • by norpy (1277318)

              Normally the solution to that is: "If you make a mistake please ask for a new ballot paper"

              The invalid ballots are removed and accounted for and you are given a new one.

              • by Tim4444 (1122173)

                That's only relevant if you screw up your own ballot. If the monkeys at the booth smudge your marks or if the voting device malfunctions behind the scenes, you won't know you need to ask for a new ballot. If we didn't consider voter intent it would be awfully easy to selectively mishandle ballots when determining which ones should be discarded for not having clear marks.

                • Smudges are only a problem for optical scanners. Hand counted ballots typically use a system of marking with a cross. The centre of a cross is pretty accurate and unambiguous, even if smudged.

                  • Smudges are only a problem for optical scanners. Hand counted ballots typically use a system of marking with a cross. The centre of a cross is pretty accurate and unambiguous, even if smudged.

                    Are you talking about Ireland or elsewhere. Many civilised countries use numbers. Weird huh?

                    • Actually I was referring to the UK. In Ireland they do use numbers. Depends on the voting system. UK is First Past the Post, Ireland is Single Transferable Vote.

          • by oobayly (1056050)

            Speaking of spoiling ballots, the e-voting machines wouldn't let me. For the Nice referendum they just gave me a yes/no option.
            How are you supported to register your distaste at the options. In my case I wanted to vote yes, however when I arrived at the polling station the local TD (MP) had parked a minibus emblazoned with "Vote Yes", completely disregarding the moratorium on campaigning within 24 hours of polling. The Guard chatting to him didn't give a shit either. I decided to spoil my ballot, then foun

        • by AlXtreme (223728)

          There is no way that we can physically count hundreds of votes in 45 minutes. It would take several hours; now multiply this by our collective $41/hr salary ($11 for the chairman, $10 for each of the other three) and multiply that by the tens of thousands of election districts across New York State. Where is that money going to come from?

          From the money saved by not buying e-voting machines? I doubt purchase and 'support' would cost less than a few hours of your time, evened out over a number of years/electi

          • by Shakrai (717556) * on Friday January 13, 2012 @02:31AM (#38683018) Journal

            Optical scanning technology != "e-voting machine"; it's a paper ballot that's simply tabulated by a machine. It's no different than the bubble tests that you took in school. If you doubt the results of the machine you are free to volunteer your time to manually count each and every ballot. As I said, they are available for inspection by any interested party.

            • If you doubt the results of the machine you are free to volunteer your time to manually count each and every ballot.

              Are you? What's the process by which that happens? Who is allowed to handle those papers? Under what circumstances?

            • by Ihmhi (1206036)

              I grew up taking important tests on a scantron sheet. If it's good enough for the SATs, it should be good enough for voting.

          • by Shakrai (717556) * on Friday January 13, 2012 @02:39AM (#38683070) Journal

            Our laws require voting technology that is accessible to the handicapped. The machines that we use here have headphones for the blind, foot pedals for paraplegics and a sip/puff device for quadriplegics. If you know a way to enable such people to independently vote without technology the New York State Board of Elections would be interested in hearing it.

            And no, this still isn't "e-voting". The ballot marking portion of the machine is exactly that; it prints a paper ballot that matches the selections made by the voter via the handicapped interface. They or a trusted third party can verify this ballot before depositing it into the scanning side of the machine. We can verify it for them as Elections Inspectors provided that one from each party assists the voter (no ballot is ever handled without one Inspector from each party present). Other voters manually mark their ballots with a pen and then deposit it into the scanner. Every piece of paper from the ballots themselves to the poll books and even the notepads the Inspectors use is retained for seven years.

            There's no conspiracy at play with optical scanning technology. I decided to become an Elections Inspector specifically so I could observe the process from the inside. Having done it for seven years I'm satisfied that our elections are fair and honest. I can't speak for the other States in the Union but I sleep quite well at night knowing that my vote was popularly counted here in New York.

        • by vux984 (928602) on Friday January 13, 2012 @02:47AM (#38683100)

          There is no way that we can physically count hundreds of votes in 45 minutes.

          Meh, my parents worked in the last election, and processed more voters than you did. (Admittedly they had a school gym, and probably 8 booths going, each with 3 staff and 2 ballot boxes divided up alphabetically... (last name Aa to Be voting booth 1 ballot box 1, Bf to Ca booth 1 box 2)... (Ca-De booth 2 box one...

          The station EASILY processed some 5000 voters.

          each booth counted their own votes, and it didn't take all that long either. 5000 votes, 16 ballot boxes is only 300 or so votes per box. Took about half an hour to count them. Each box got counted twice, and they were out in about an hour and half.

          Not a big deal.

          You had 4 people doing 800, you say... that scales pretty much right in line with their 25 people doing 5000.

          Now, you mention $41/hr to run the election, with say its a 12hrs day... around $500 bucks.

          And the voting machine doesn't eliminate everyone... instead of 4 of you, there still needs to be at least to of you...to instruct votes and ensure the machine doesn't break or get tampered with etc... so you only eliminate half the labor cost.

          The voting machine is going to have to be less than $250 per unit. And it can't break down or your fucked. And it has to sit in a warehouse for a year or so... so your pretty much gauranteed to need a bunch of technicians check each unit before each election... so there goes the rest of your savings.

          Seriously... paper processes get it down to around $2 per vote to count after materials and labour and training. You aren't going to get a machine anywhere near that anytime soon.

          • by Grishnakh (216268) on Friday January 13, 2012 @03:48AM (#38683356)

            How many different selections were on your voting forms? Here in AZ, a typical election has dozens and dozens of different people and propositions to vote on; not only the big national candidates for Pres and Congress, but state and local candidates, and several dozen judges. Then there's usually a dozen propositions too.

            I really don't think you'd hand-count 5000 votes here in 30 minutes in an accurate way.

            • by BasilBrush (643681) on Friday January 13, 2012 @05:21AM (#38683678)

              And that's the reason why American views on this story are not very valid. Ireland, like most of the world, have ballots with a single choice. The USA is unusual in having such complicated elections.

              • by Grishnakh (216268)

                A single choice? You only have one elected office in the entire country? Or do you make people come back day after day to elect all the other positions?

                • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

                  by Anonymous Coward
                  I believe the Irish system is similar to the English, Canadian, Australian, etc. system. In a federal election, a member of parliament is elected. The leader of the party with the most representatives is the prime minister. The leader of the party with the second-most is the leader of the opposition. Dog catchers are not elected, local elections are held separately, and if a national referendum is to be carried out, then that is a separate event too. Which other elected offices were you thinking about?
                • I can't speak for ireland but in the UK we elect

                  MPs every 4-5 years (it's up to parliment when to call an election with a limit of 5 years between elections)
                  Councillers every year (normally one third of the council is replaced each time)
                  MEPs every 5 years

                  Some places also have an elected mayor and there are also occasional refferendums (either local or national)

                  Sometimes more than one thing is decided at the same time but when it is there are seperate ballot papers for each. IIRC there are seperate ballot boxes too.

                  Propositions are completely alien to us as is the idea of electing judges and minor government posts.

                  • "Propositions" are indeed alien and in Europe it's what we pay our politicians to do. Sure, they should put major questions to referenda - like do we join the EU, do we allow part of the Kingdom to become independent - but anything else is part of their job description. If not, why don't we do away with politicians and put every single issue out to the public via some kind of X Factor mass participation programme?
                • You vote for a Member of Parliament about once every 5 years. The leader of the party that gets an overall majority of votes becomes Prime Minister. If there's no overall majority then parties may have to form a coalition government.

                  You vote for a councillor for the local government about once every 4 or 6 years.

                  On the occasions where that falls in the same year as a general election, they do both elections at the same time with two separate ballot papers.

              • by dbIII (701233)
                That's not entirely true everywhere. In some elections you could just about use the Australian Senate ballot paper as a tablecloth.
        • by hedwards (940851)

          Around here we went a step beyond that and built our facilities so that the public can watch from all sides the process and verify that the count is being done correctly. Of course they do use an optical system which is probably similar or the same as the one that you're using.

          Ultimately, we had to go that direction of pretty much complete transparency as the GOP isn't going to accept the results that reflect the will of the people without being forced to. They're still yammering on about voter fraud when t

        • by hairyfeet (841228)

          That is the way it was done in my area last election and I have to say it was a pleasant experience. Nice easy to read touchscreen that when you chose printed your choice on a nice easy to read ballot, when you were done they took the electronic votes to give the media for early election results and counted the paper ballots with a scanner. the nicest part to me is there was NO disenfranchisement of voters, not at all. While I was in line (which took less than 10 minutes) there were two ahead of me that wer

        • by aepervius (535155) on Friday January 13, 2012 @03:58AM (#38683398)
          I have been in many election in france with even *bigger* number of voters. And we had all vote counted in 30-40 minutes. Why ? Because they simply knew participation and numbers, and then simply asked for volunteer to stay longer and help the democratic process. Then they gave ~70-80 stapple of paper vote to a table of 4 volunteer. 2 to count, to to observe, then reverse. There were about 8 table at last election, then those who finish counting earlier get another staples. That is also why big circumscription also do get to vote in big meeting room or similar big room. It is not to give voter privacy, but because once the vote is finished by whatever hour/time they will put a lot of table for the volunteer to count. I have participated in a lot of such a count. It works well and is quick. By the way once they have enough volunteer additional persons are welcome to stay and look as long as they do not disturb the counter..

          I have to wonder how it comes you could not come up with such a solution to ask for unpaid volunteer among voters, and would rather rely on a few persons counting.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by 1u3hr (530656)

          There is no way that we can physically count hundreds of votes in 45 minutes. It would take several hours

          Are Americans really unable to count without a computer?

          I've been a poll clerk in several elections in Australia. All by hand. 95% of votes are clear, and take no more than 5 seconds to decide which stack they go on. 12 per minute. One person could count all 800 in just over an hour. The ambiguous votes might be argued over with the scrutineers from the various parties, but unless the count is finely balanced, these are decided quickly.

          • by Confusador (1783468) on Friday January 13, 2012 @05:43AM (#38683786)

            As has been pointed out elsewhere in the thread, Americans generally vote for more than one race at the same election. It's not a matter of figuring out which stack to put the ballot in, but of tabulating the responses from each of 10-20 choices. Apparently we're somewhat unique in that.

            • by Sique (173459)

              And they put them all on the same ballot. Why?

              Why not have a ballot for each election?

              And if you are not registered for all elections happening in this voting office, you don't get all ballots, only those you are registered for.

              Problem solved.

              • It's not possible to not be registered for all the elections at a particular polling station, so that's no issue.
                Handing out a booklet of ballots is certainly a possibility, but carries with it its own problems. Who is responsible for sorting them? If it's the voter, how do you account for ballots placed in the wrong box (keeping in mind, we're talking a dozen of the things per voter)? If it's the election judges, it doesn't save you any time when they go to tabulate them.

                Really, the optical scanning mac

                • by ais523 (1172701)
                  In the UK, this is handled by making all the ballot papers different colors. The voter writes their cross on each ballot, then folds the ballot in half (so that the election officials can't see the vote) and puts it in the relevant box. The election officials check, by looking at the color of the paper, that the voter's putting the paper in the right box, and corrects them if they aren't. If a paper goes in the wrong box anyway, it can probably be moved to the right one during the count, because the papers
        • The polls are open from 6am to 9pm; we are mandated by law to be there 45 minutes before and after these times. There is no way that we can physically count hundreds of votes in 45 minutes. It would take several hours; now multiply this by our collective $41/hr salary ($11 for the chairman, $10 for each of the other three) and multiply that by the tens of thousands of election districts across New York State. Where is that money going to come from?

          That's a, probably unintentional, straw man. No one is arguing that you should organise an election in the way you are proposing. Much of the world uses hand counted paper ballots, so clearly it's perfectly workable.

          In Britain for example the ballots are not counted at the polling station, but taken to a central count, with a different team to do the counting from those that manned the polls.

          Sure there's an extra salary cost on that one day every few years. But there's also a cost in the millions that get w

        • by Demonoid-Penguin (1669014) on Friday January 13, 2012 @05:20AM (#38683676) Homepage

          I've been an Elections Inspector in New York State since 2004. You are seriously underestimating the logistical difficulties in counting the votes by hand.

          You bet - we've had an Electronic Scrutineering (Vote Counting) system in use for almost a decade in Canberra and Tasmania (Australia). It's fast and accurate, cheap, and a hell of a lot harder (virtually impossible) to cheat

          Previously votes were counted by volunteers - it was common practise to dispute unclear numbering, and even "fudge" votes with a quick pencil - very common to invalidate votes for other candidates.

          I'm no fan of electronic voting though - that's putting all the eggs in one basket, and I've yet to see a system proposed that was likely to prevent manipulation of the results.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 13, 2012 @05:35AM (#38683734)

          I don't know about Irish elections but in Finland, the ballot is a folded piece of white cardboard with a large, friendly circle inside. That circle has a single number penciled in. Real quick to sort and count.

          American ballots are of course the opposite extreme: literally dozens of multiple-choice questions on a legal-size, multiply folded sheet of cardboard, where your counting is distracted by the lengthy questions.

          The American system is so democratic that it renders itself anti-democratic. It takes hours to do the necessary online research to make half-sane decisions on 10% of the questions on the ballot. "Do you agree that never-heard-of-before will be nominated District Jugdge blah blah." "Pick three of the following to be on the park district board." "Should the state borrow 4.37 billion dollars, of which 3.78 billion will go to road maintenance, 582 million will go to hospital emergency services and 8 million to the governor's children's college fund?" And: "By the way: who should be President of the United States of America?"

        • by digitig (1056110) on Friday January 13, 2012 @05:43AM (#38683782)

          I've been an Elections Inspector in New York State since 2004. You are seriously underestimating the logistical difficulties in counting the votes by hand. My precinct has more than 800 registered voters in it. In the last two Presidential elections we've seen 65%+ turnout. The last two Gubernatorial elections both exceeded 50%. The polls are open from 6am to 9pm; we are mandated by law to be there 45 minutes before and after these times. There is no way that we can physically count hundreds of votes in 45 minutes

          I think that most of that is irrelevant to Ireland. As I understand it, in US elections there are usually many posts up for grabs; as I understand it, in Ireland there are usually only one or two, so the count is much simpler. Secondly, as I understand it there's no silly 45-minute count rule. Certainly in the UK we take as long as it takes, which can be days.

          You're worried about the cost? $41/h for a constituency of 800? That's about 5 cents an hour per constituent. Suppose it takes 10 hours; that's 50 cents per constituent. How often do you hold elections? Every 4 years? That's about a quarter of a cent per constituent per week. It's sad that you don't think democracy is worth that. In Europe we do.

        • Yes, but other places manage situations such as high population and compulsory voting by planning ahead and allocating enough resources and not stupidly holding the election on a weekday. When it gets down to it, a lot of volunteers make pencil and paper ballots both a swift operation and one open to a lot of scrutiny. 800 people? Is that supposed to be some sort of big deal? In the last election I voted in there may have been as many as half of that number in line in front of me but with a lot of volun
        • I've been an Elections Inspector in New York State since 2004. You are seriously underestimating the logistical difficulties in counting the votes by hand. My precinct has more than 800 registered voters in it. In the last two Presidential elections we've seen 65%+ turnout. The last two Gubernatorial elections both exceeded 50%. The polls are open from 6am to 9pm; we are mandated by law to be there 45 minutes before and after these times. There is no way that we can physically count hundreds of votes in 45 minutes. It would take several hours; now multiply this by our collective $41/hr salary ($11 for the chairman, $10 for each of the other three) and multiply that by the tens of thousands of election districts across New York State. Where is that money going to come from?

          Wow.

          So you guys would be in deep shit if a meaningful percentage of voters turned out!

          Its probably a good thing that you have such a pitiful turnout of voters or your electoral system would likely collapse under the strain!!

      • by Sique (173459)

        You don't need the parties to send in trusted locals.

        Why not have everyone watch who is interested? It works fine here around.

    • by mcavic (2007672)
      I agree that legacy technology should not be forgotten, because newer is not always better. But I have to believe that the voting machines would be secure and reliable if they had been designed correctly, and that there are a number of human beings on the planet capable of getting it done today.
      • Paper ballots are a clear transparent verifiable system, I have seen no system that replicates that

        The nearest is where you let a machine print your ballot with your choice (so no spoilt papers and easy to count) but then the papers are then counted ....

        As soon as a machine counts the papers then accusations of fraud creep in ...and cannot be proved wrong easily so transparency is lost

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drkstr1 (2072368)

      There may be secure and reliable e-Voting machines someday,

      If some were capable enough to create such system, it stands to reason that some would also be capable of breaking such a system.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Theoretically electronic voting machines should be a lot more efficient than pen and paper is. That being said, it's not generally properly implemented and typically you don't end up having any reason to trust the machines.

      Diebold for instance patched machines in Georgia during the 2002 gubernatorial race in Democratic leaning precincts. I don't believe that it's ever been properly answered as to why those patches were being made and why they were only patching machines in those precincts, but it does lead

    • by lordholm (649770)

      I would suggest the following requirements before anyone designs an electronic voting system:

      1. Must allow for anonymous fair voting et.c. (standard stuff from your country's constitution)
      2. Should be robust against attacks from individuals.
      3. Any attack should preferably leave a trace somewhere.
      4. Should a local attack occur, the results should not affect the general results.
      5. Voting mechanisms (not necessarily the mathematics, but the actual counting process) must be verifiable by non domain expert. It s

      • I would suggest the following requirements

        There's some things which you are missing:

        7) Must be fully understood by and explained to all of the people responsible for running the election, including all of it's basic security implications.

        8) those people must have the full capability to monitor and verify all of it's functions whilst at the same time not being able to actually see who has voted for what.

        Elections are mostly run by retired people and, to some extent the unemployed, who are responsible for defending against, identifying and mit

    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      Not exactly. Newer technology can be better if it's done right, but can be worse if it's done half-assed. In the case of voting machines, the idea is quite sound, but every implementation we've seen so far has been anywhere from half-assed to totally horrible.

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      That's an overly simplified view of the issue. The question comes down to what we expect of the technology. Is it practical to hand count millions of pieces of paper when computers exist to sum everything ? No. It's also quite error prone. Security is also a big question. With every election there are many human elements each of which can be compromised. Did Russia used e-voting in their last laughable election? No. The election was still plagued with fraud.

      Our problem is that we won't accept a e-voting rol

      • Did Russia used e-voting in their last laughable election? No. The election was still plagued with fraud.

        With a hand counted paper ballot system, everybody is capable of understanding how the entire system works, and how it might be cheated. With electronic voting systems, that's not true.

        With hand counted paper ballots its reasonably obvious to observers to what extent they are straight or fraudulent. With evoting it's not. The world has a good idea to what extent the Russian election was fraudulent. With electronic voting no one would ever be able to tell the difference between a straight Russian election an

      • by Rockoon (1252108)

        Is it practical to hand count millions of pieces of paper when computers exist to sum everything ? No. It's also quite error prone.

        Errors arent a meaningful issue. If counts are within a margin of error, then recounting will be demanded. The issue is always tampering.. where the count doesnt resemble any statistical reality.

    • I'll tell you how it works in a country where its successfully automated. The main benefits are speed and fairness.

      With manual voting, sometimes the minor parties don't have enough people to witness counting in all places, so the big parties can do what they want with those votes...

      Anyway the machines are not connected to a network. Only at the end of the day, they connect to a server (using isolated secure links) to send results; should this fail, a memory card is physically sent.

      The machines also do somet

      • by TheLink (130905)

        With manual voting, sometimes the minor parties don't have enough people to witness counting in all places, so the big parties can do what they want with those votes...

        And how do the electronic voting machines prevent the big parties from doing what they want with those votes?

        With paper votes, yes people can destroy/change the votes, but it's a lot harder to do on a massive scale. They need to work for each vote and each ballot box they stuff/swap. Whereas a million electronic votes can be tampered with in less than a second.

        Fact is if you are in a country where paper-pencil voting is being rigged on a massive scale, electronic voting isn't going to be better at all. Thin

  • by GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) on Friday January 13, 2012 @01:45AM (#38682828)
    You have a verifiable paper print out for every person who votes. They validate it is correct info and it goes into a box for storage. The voting machines give a quick result, but you still have people verify the votes in the next couple days to make sure paper matches electronic voting.

    I voted "protest e-vote" in the 2008 presidential elections. This problem if not tackled in the US, will tackle us.
    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      Why not just the count the paper votes and wait those couple of days to see who wins? And skip the machines entirely.

      • Waiting is for chumps. Also, if you don't have a proper way of marking the paper, you end up with malformed votes which are hard to count: Look at Florida. An evoting machine with a printout will not have these problems.
        • by nedlohs (1335013)

          Note that Florida was a voting machine. Use paper and pencils and you have no such issues (sure the odd person who fills the thing in incorrectly, but do you really want their vote to matter anyway?)

      • by artor3 (1344997)

        Because if the machines are working, they're more accurate than a hand count. They need to be spot checked to make sure there aren't any bugs or fraud occurring, but you could just check 10% of the precincts at random (plus any that seem odd) to be reasonably sure of that.

      • by artor3 (1344997)

        Because if the machines are working, they're more accurate than a hand count. They need to be spot checked to make sure there aren't any bugs or fraud occurring, but you could just check 10% of the precincts at random (plus any that seem odd) to be reasonably sure of that.

      • by riverat1 (1048260)

        I agree with you but we live in a world of instant gratification. We want everything NOW!

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      "Verify as correct" is exactly what a large number of these machines can't do. There's been plenty of attacks on machines that have shown to print one thing and record another. So we're back to manual counting. Counting is the very thing you're trying to get rid of. Why bother going digital if you need to manually count.

      Ok ok I conceed maybe you should only count when there's a reason to which leads to two questions:
      1. When do you decide to do a manual recount?
      2. Just how ape shit do you think the country w

    • by laron (102608)

      In fact, you could use a slightly modified McDonalds cash register as a voting machine, they seem to be designed for just that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 13, 2012 @02:15AM (#38682946)

    Exactly those machines (and others) were outlawed a few years ago by the dutch government, after years of protesting from the http://wijvertrouwenstemcomputersniet.nl/ [wijvertrou...ersniet.nl] action group (translated: 'we don't trust voting machines'). In this action group were a couple of notable hackers and ICT experts - people with some authority when it comes to ICT, who argued that such a black box can not be trusted by the voter in any case.

    Options like printing voting tickets - to get both of best worlds (fast counting and verifyable counting) were considered, but quickly dismissed as there was no ready available hardware.

    So - luckily - we are now back to voting with paper and pencil. Not everyone is happy with that (because it's slightly more inconvenient - a rubbish statement if you ask me for something you'd do on average once every two years, and especially when you compare it to all other paperwork bureaucracy forces us too). Among the groups against are the more uneducated people (sorry for that statement), and an incidental parlementarian.

    I'm glad to see brittain saw the flaws of electronic voting too. I can only hope other countries that still use electronic voting will see it too. If i'm not mistaken, USA has got it's scandals too when it comes to voting machines.

    And in practice, voting on paper works out just fine. May take a day longer for the final count, but the newspapers won't complain because now they can bring the news again, instead of the television.

    • by laron (102608)

      Options like printing voting tickets - to get both of best worlds (fast counting and verifyable counting) were considered, but quickly dismissed as there was no ready available hardware

      I find that strange, every supermarket cash register does just that: You (or the cashier) press a button, the item or vote is counted electronically and the machine prints a reciepe that you can check and throw into an urn. Voila: Instant results and you can still count the paper votes.

  • If only they hadn't network the voting machines the cylons wouldn't have won all the elections and outlawed humans!

  • Not in America!!! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by acidradio (659704) on Friday January 13, 2012 @02:20AM (#38682964)

    What the Irish deem to be a tremendous flaw equals profit potential just an ocean away! Security in voting? That's overrated. You could make a mint on these things in the US. One man's trash is another man's treasure! The same deadbeat candidates from one of two overly polarized parties keep winning anyways. Get those questionable voting machines on the next steamer to New York today!

  • Yawn... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Friday January 13, 2012 @02:29AM (#38683002)

    The only surprise about this is that a public official is admitting it.

  • Wimps (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bob9113 (14996) on Friday January 13, 2012 @02:30AM (#38683010) Homepage

    "the Irish Finance minister has announced that they are now 'worthless'. ... after a confidential report expressed serious concern over the security of the voting machines. ... the integrity of the ballot could not be guaranteed"

    Come on, Ireland, where's your sense of tenacity? On this side of the pond we have shown over and over again that voting machines are insecure -- we even had a CEO of one of the voting machine companies promise to deliver his home state of Ohio to to GWB, then had a precinct in Ohio that was using his machines report more votes in favor of GWB than the number of people in the precinct -- and we are still using them.

    You can't let a little thing like "failing to provide an accurate and trustworthy tally of votes" keep you from insisting that voting machines provide an accurate and trustworthy tally of votes. There are corporate profits and lobbying money to consider. Are you going to ignore the will of the lobbyists who represent the voting machine companies just because they stand directly opposed to the best interests of the nation? You would not last a second in American politics.

    • by splutty (43475)

      One small problem with this is that in almost all European countries lobbying is illegal....

      Although seeing the US is starting to become the garbage dump of western civilization anyway, they'll be posted to you soon!

      (I think is was Ghandi: "Mr Ghandi, what do you think of western civilization" "Yes. That would be nice.")

  • I think the Finance Minister greatly underestimated the resale value in the US. But we'll take them for free.
  • by Xeranar (2029624) on Friday January 13, 2012 @03:11AM (#38683202)

    Since the 1950s the area of PA I grew up in used electric voting machines (i.e. electric tally machines) that were in fact infallible barring a mechanical breakdown. Nobody could tamper with it, it kept a tally using mechanical reels and could tally into the 10s of thousands from what I understand of it. Each unit would print out a simple list tallying who won in what race by column and number (it was up to the person to put in the appropriate slip for name and position, all were printed at a central place and placed into the machine by verified workers with multiple oversights). The machines were accurate, simple, and they only needed to be plugged in to produce a light, close the shade, and run the reels themselves. Hand ballots are confusing and illogical in that people must either write on them or punch through them. Electronic voting can be tampered with and is utterly insecure by comparison to the other two options. Yet nobody ever contemplates a mechanical solution because that is far too old-fashioned it seems.

    I'm sure it is possible to game a mechanical counting machine given enough time and effort but if Florida had had these machines installed the election would have been decided almost immediately and require next to no time to recount. The sorry reality is though that Diebold and their compatriots got paid huge sums to build somewhat secure devices that are too easily tooled with and nothing is going to change that because they have the lobbying power to keep going. To be fair though, I doubt fraud in 99% of cases. I'm more worried for general bugs and failures that cause these machines to malfunction.

  • Pen and paper ballots. Thanks for keeping them!

    This will keep the pace at the analogue level and minimize cheating.

    I could think of the benefits a decision like this would have on the stock market!

    More people employed, slower decisions, worldwide, annual reports, sub-minute transactions not allowed. No electronic gadgets, like the computer machine allowed, cardigans and hot tea. Hmmm...

    Can you image what the Anonymous, the fat brats from North Korea, nepotists in Florida, communists in Belorussia, and any o

  • I've kept all the alt.risk from 5-2000 to date. This is from Risks Digest 24.36

    Date: Fri, 21 Jul 2006 22:20:30 +0200
    From: removed
    Subject: Voting machines in Ireland and The Netherlands

    According to EDRIGRAM, the on-line newsletter of "European Digital Rights",
    number 4.14:

    On 4 July 2006, the Irish Commission on Electronic Voting released its
    second report on the secrecy and accuracy of the e-voting system purchased
    by the Irish Government.

    The summary remarks at the beginning of the 200 page report say: "The
    Comm

  • Irish elections are decided by a transferable vote in multiseat constituencies; the counts are quite difficult, most take a whole day and recounts in individual constituencies can take days and, on a few occasions, weeks. One perhaps surprising thing is that we like the delay; one reason the insecurity of the electronic system was take seriously was that were was a general lack of enthusiasm for speeding the count. Irish votes are first sorted and then counted, in public; a species of political activist,
  • by anonieuweling (536832) on Friday January 13, 2012 @09:38AM (#38684922)
    See http://wijvertrouwenstemcomputersniet.nl/blog/ [wijvertrou...ersniet.nl] for the Dutch story on voring machines. Yes, we were earlier to abondon the computers. We vote with a pencil.
  • by DrXym (126579) on Friday January 13, 2012 @09:48AM (#38685012)
    The Irish government ignored expert advice that the voting machines used during trial elections were not suitable for more widespread use, lacking an auditable paper trail for one thing. Instead of heeding this advice they went and bought a bunch of these machines that a subsequent independent inquiry confirmed (again) were not suitable. So they've sat in warehouses for the last 6 years costing money just to store.

    The amazing thing is it ever got as far as it did. Politicians of all people should be able to grasp the importance of fair and transparent elections. If a machine can be tampered with in an undetectable way then there is a huge incentive for people to do it. If a store can print out a slip of paper when I buy a chocolate bar then there is absolutely no excuse that a voting machine cannot do likewise.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.

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