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Technology Politics

Voting Machines Malfunction: 5,000 Votes Not Counted In Kansas County 127

An anonymous reader writes A malfunction in electronic voting machines in Saline County, Kansas, left over 5,000 votes uncounted. That's roughly one-third of the votes cast. Counting those 5,207 votes didn't change any outcomes in this case however. “That’s a huge difference,” county Chairman Randy Duncan said when notified by the Journal of the error. “That’s scary. That makes me wonder about voting machines. Should we go back to paper ballots?”
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Voting Machines Malfunction: 5,000 Votes Not Counted In Kansas County

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 26, 2014 @06:27PM (#48470751)

    Damn, even Kansas can figure this one out.

    • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Wednesday November 26, 2014 @06:33PM (#48470781)
      Yeah, I think that the answer is, "yes, we should go back to paper ballots."

      I like optical-scan. You mark the paper ballot with a pen with indelible ink, connecting the two marks next to the candidate's name, then put the ballot into the input hopper and watch it go through the machine and get deposited in the locked output hopper. Granted, you don't get a display to confirm that your markings were read right, but if the system is designed right then a subset of polling stations at random is audited by hand, and if the results are too far out of line then the entire election is audited by hand. Plus, you can actually perform the audit without anything more complex than a desk with an inbox, an outbox, a pencil, and some paper. Some light might help so one can work at night.

      Even optical-scan isn't foolproof; the ballot can be messed up if someone is an idiot or the machine that does the counting could malfunction or be tampered with, but at least there's a fairly easy way to recount if needed.
      • YES!
      • by reve_etrange ( 2377702 ) on Wednesday November 26, 2014 @07:11PM (#48471033)

        I've worked as an "elections inspector" (actually the head worker at one polling place) in California a few times, and this is pretty much the system used by most counties here.

        There are a few ways for voters to mess up the scanner, but in general if there are voting errors the ballot will be rejected and a new ballot card will be issued. It's possible for them to jam the machine, and we need special permission or a higher-level election worker to open it up to clear. There are a series of numbered, zip-tie-like seals which are applied in various places to ensure tampering is detected. In addition to the ballots, there are detailed logs on the memory cartridge, which are printed out in duplicate as "receipts" from the machine itself.

        All in all, I think it's a fairly low-tech, low-risk system.

        • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Wednesday November 26, 2014 @07:37PM (#48471199)
          I guess the other thing that I like about it is, if the power goes out, or the machines all suddenly don't work, or if there aren't enough machines, or if a vulnerability in the machines is discovered and cannot be corrected, the voter can still vote in the same way. It becomes the election office's job to figure out how to count the votes in that set of circumstances, but it's still possible to have the election.
          • The built in fall-back in good. Even if the polling place is just locked in the morning - we vote on the sidewalk.
        • This technology and all who know about it must be destroyed. Immediately.

      • My first election after I turned 18 (Genesee County, Michigan 2003) was the first time they used optical scan here. It's an excellent system for its accountability. You get most of the benefits of a digital system (easier tabulation of votes/easy to tell when someone spoils a ballot) and the re-countability of paper ballots all in one system. The only issue is the paper waste and that can be alleviated by recycling the paper ballots after a set amount of time (I hope they keep them for at least two years
        • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Wednesday November 26, 2014 @10:05PM (#48471785)

          The only issue is the paper waste and that can be alleviated by recycling the paper ballots after a set amount of time (I hope they keep them for at least two years but I don't know how long they do).

          (1) Paper *DOES* "grow on trees"...

          (2) There's no problem farming quick-growth trees to supply the pulp, even if you needed to, which you typically don't

          (3) Paper recycles into methanol relatively easily, if you aren't interested in recycling it into paper. Yes, I know, this makes ADM sad, since they want us all using ethanol instead of methanol, so they can sell more corn

          (4) Making ADM sad should be a long term goal anyway

          • by Pope ( 17780 )

            Make the ballots out of hemp, problem solved.

      • by fwc ( 168330 )
        In my area we use a paper, marked, optical-scan ballot. I've seen a couple different variations over the years, but they all have some characteristics in common: They're simple, can be audited by a human, and read by a machine. Our ballots are not counted at the precinct but at the county level due to the population of most of our precincts (we only have a million or so people in our entire very large state).

        To handle people with disabilities, we have machines which mark an identical ballot using a sp

      • Hoppers shouldn't be necessary for optically acquired data these days. There's plenty of digital camera sensors that can image a ballot at good resolution. Just place the camera above a platform and have the voter put the ballot on the platform, hit a button and watch for the green light. Then, the voter can personally put the paper ballot in the ballot box.

        Another thing I think would be a good idea is to use two machines, one for printing the piece of paper and another for scanning. It should be easy for
        • by TWX ( 665546 )
          The input hopper is just where one places the ballot so that the machine pulls it in. It's not a multi-sheet hopper. One puts it in, hits the button on the machine, and watches it get drawn-in through the machine then deposited in the output hopper, which act as the ballot box.

          The ballots are not printed on-site, they're printed in advance of the election. It's a lot less expensive to print en masse than to print in real-time, and so long as the polling place has enough ballots, it's not a problem.
          • The notion I had with the ballot reader was to make it with no moving parts. Even the button could be a spot with a capacitive sensor.

            The thing I like about live-print, is that the person can verify with confidence their choice, as the names of persons for whom no vote was cast need not be printed. Also, with live print there's no question about how close a person's mark is to a check box. The reading machine always gets to read the predictably formatted print of the other machine. Any person at any pollin
    • I have full confidence in the functionality and use of an electronic voting machine.
      However, I have no faith what-so-ever in the competence of the government contractors making, or the people administrating, the current generation of machines in use. The obvious issues are numerous, and that's before anyone even tries to employ them in a real world situation.

      I suspect that if anyone were to design a fully featured and as reasonably incorruptible and idiot proof system as possible/feasible, nobody would be w
    • In Sweden we have had Paper ballots forever. It has always worked. Very steady system. Doesnt cost a lot. Always reliable.

      I don't understand why US and Canada are putting a weakness into the democratic system by using electronic stuff. It is just stupid.

      • by pmontra ( 738736 )
        Some companies over there figured out they can make money by selling voting machines abd started lobbying for them. We have less electronics companies in Europe so we've been spared with that until now. Paper and pencil are just right for the task.
  • This is old hat, and honestly the horse has been beaten to powder on slashdot, but systems that are both complex as well as powerful should be open source. Breathalizers and voting machines have no intrinsic monetary value in a society. Certainly it is a need to perform such tasks, but the greater good, the preservation of liberty and the accurate as well as precise regulation of a functional society, are of such an overwhelmingly greater imporance as to render the quite visible hand of the american free
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This is old hat, and honestly the horse has been beaten to powder on slashdot, but systems that are both complex as well as powerful should be open source. Breathalizers and voting machines have no intrinsic monetary value in a society. Certainly it is a need to perform such tasks, but the greater good, the preservation of liberty and the accurate as well as precise regulation of a functional society, are of such an overwhelmingly greater imporance as to render the quite visible hand of the american free market moot. But we're hardly a capitalism here anymore. We're a plutocratic oligarchy.

      Paper ballots are pretty damn open-source.

      Just because a voting machine is supposedly running open-source software doesn't preclude tampering - hardware or software.

      • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Wednesday November 26, 2014 @07:54PM (#48471285) Journal

        Paper ballots are pretty damn open-source.

        Just because a voting machine is supposedly running open-source software doesn't preclude tampering - hardware or software.

        Feels like I've said this 100 times now:

        Electronic voting: bad.
        Computer-assisted voting: good.

        Sure, fine, have a touch-screen and pretty pictures and good usability in general, all of that is great. Then have the voting machine print a paper ballot, which is then cast normally. You can check the paper, or just use the paper yourself, if you don't trust the computer, or if it breaks, or has been hacked. And since almost all ballots will be printed cleanly, there will be little room for 2000-style "dimpled chad" and "interpreting the voter's intentions".

        • by jbn-o ( 555068 ) <mail@digitalcitizen.info> on Wednesday November 26, 2014 @08:24PM (#48471393) Homepage

          I concur. A development methodology ("open source") will not address any of the deficiencies (when viewed from the voter's perspective, the perspective that should matter most) of voting. No matter how much one trusts a voting program, there's no way to be sure that the computer used for voting is running only software one trusts. No electronic system can compete with the simplicity and recount-friendly approach of what is called for here: voter-verified paper ballots.

          So address to the question in the /. summary: You never should have stopped using voter-verified paper ballots.

          There are computers one can purchase that do as the parent post specified—the voter feeds in a blank ballot (one which they could have filled out manually if desired) and the computer (which has a scanner and printer attached) will scan the ballot, help the voter by showing the choices on a screen, reading the ballot aloud, or reading the ballot text to headphones, and then collect votes from the voter. Then the computer's printer will print the voter's votes on the paper ballot, and eject the printed paper ballot to let the user inspect that printed ballot. At this point the voter can choose to carry the voter-verified paper ballot to be counted or spoil that ballot and start again. The voter can also feed in a marked up ballot (marked by hand or by computer) and let the computer summarize the votes which that ballot specifies. These features let the blind and/or illiterate vote without losing their privacy by forcing them to find & bring in someone else to mark up their ballot for them. This is as close to computers used in voting as one should want to get.

        • there will be little room for 2000-style "dimpled chad" and "interpreting the voter's intentions".

          There should already be little room for this. "Voter demonstrates intentions by poking hole in piece of paper. No hole, no intention to vote." Very simple. The failed assumption is that every person who cast a ballot intended on voting for every position and if there wasn't a hole there was a mistake. People who had no intention of voting for any candidate got their vote counted anyway.

          This voting system was approved by both parties prior to the election. It wasn't a surprise dropped out of Heaven on an u

        • by mlts ( 1038732 ) on Wednesday November 26, 2014 @10:05PM (#48471779)

          Bingo. Having computer assisted voting that produces a ballot that is both machine and human readable is a must. Without this paper trail, you have absolutely nothing. Even with crypto, crypto doesn't protect against erasure, and an "accidental" erasure of votes on a voting machine can sway an election.

          I was working on an e-voting prototype using Java in the late 1990s. No matter how it worked, there was no way to secure it, so I gave up on the project, because if the device couldn't be hacked, the data on it was destroyable. Distributed storage could easily be hacked/tampered with, and would be hard to admin by volunteers. The hardware could be made more secure, but it would completely destroy voter anonymity.

          Instead, David Chaum's Verifiable Voting system is the absolute best thing out there. It provides not just anonymity for votes, but validates ballots were done correctly.

          • by treczoks ( 64329 )

            I've read the stuff from David Chaum, and it is bullshit. Sorry to be so harsh, but you'll lose secrecy if you want verifyability - this is part of his method, and he even states this so. So even in a perfect world, this would not work. It might give you a verifyable vote, but not a democratic one when compromizing a key factor. Sorry, David, but you'll need a spoonful of reality.

        • The only problem I see with computer printed ballots is that it allows for easier ballot box stuffing. When everyone manually fills in the circle or completes the line you get a lot of variation even with that simple action. Printed ones look all time same and would be more difficult to verify as cast by humans.

      • by Midnight Thunder ( 17205 ) on Wednesday November 26, 2014 @09:41PM (#48471691) Homepage Journal

        Paper ballots are pretty damn open-source.

        Just because a voting machine is supposedly running open-source software doesn't preclude tampering - hardware or software.

        I can remember one wise lecturer in my computer science course gave a challenge to come up with a system to solve a customer's problem. Being CS students we designed everything requiring the use of a computer. At the end he asked us if we had considered whether a non-computer based system would have actually have done a better job. While in the particular case the answer was no, it did show us that sometimes we use technology for technology's sake and not to solve the problem in the best possible way. Voting machines should be approached in the same way and the opti-scan mention by another poster certainly seems to strike the right balance between solving the problem and not throwing the wrong technology into the mix.

    • I'd like to see good electronic FOSS options, but the I just don't trust total electronic voting. My state uses the touch screens to print paper ballots that are human readable and machine scan-able. The paper trail provides the good backup evidence you need. I just don't trust an entirely electronic system.

  • I think with all the programmers on this site , we should be insisting on paper voting. At least there is a reliable record to go back to (and no chads jokes please) recount.

    Otherwise, why bother voting on a machine you don't get to see the source code for. You having a choice will not matter to whomever controls the code.

    • There is no perfect system, but using one that makes it possible to electronically alter results is a bonehead move. Windows still gets regular security updates after all the time it has been around and despite all the resources under Microsoft's command. We're not likely to see secure voting machines any time soon, and we don't see potential cases of hacking investigated like breaches of banks or businesses would be.

      So, we put less resources into securing electronic voting than we put into gadgets and
    • To avoid the chads problem I think we should stick with the 'fill in the bubble' or 'finish this line' type optical scanning ballots. Easier to write what counts and what doesn't, as well as easy for verification/counting by hand if necessary.

      It's less about absolute accuracy than it is about being auditable.

      • You can even get the best of both worlds by having a computer prepare the ballot for you, to get the many accessibility, correctness, etc. benefits of a computerized system. Just, for the love of liberty, make sure there's a paper ballot that can be verified by the voter and audited in case of discrepancies.

  • What if the cast votes simply went to the system equivalent of /dev/null? That would be the electronic version of shredding ballots, with no unsightly cleanup or disposal of shredded paper. Votes? What votes?
    • What if the cast votes simply went to the system equivalent of /dev/null?

      Flash memory systems (SD cards, Compact Flash, etc) never just die do they? That's never happened, ever, ever. Yeah, that's never happened to me, apart from all those times when ... Really, we have nothing to worry about.

      Sarcasm aside, with enough memory cards, it's going to happen to some. What's plan B?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Sarcasm aside, with enough memory cards, it's going to happen to some. What's plan B?

        More memory cards.

  • by ZipK ( 1051658 ) on Wednesday November 26, 2014 @06:37PM (#48470801)
    We switched to permanent absentee voting the moment they introduced electronic ballots in our county.
    • We switched to permanent absentee voting the moment they introduced electronic ballots in our county.

      We're still using all-paper balloting and we've been "permanent absentee voting" for several years now. Welcome to Oregon, where elections run for two weeks or more, political robocalls happen at least twice a day for the entire time, and if you want to vote just go to the post office and look in the trashcan for a discarded ballot.

  • " ... Should we go back to paper ballots?"

    Because we know that there have never been any missing votes or other irregularities with paper ballots.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It doesn't have to be perfect: we should switch to paper ballots if they are better than current voting machines. Someday we can switch back to voting machines if they become better than paper ballots.

    • by treczoks ( 64329 )

      Because we know that there have never been any missing votes or other irregularities with paper ballots.

      Most incidents and irregularities with paper votes are quite small-scale, and usually they can be resolved by re-examining the ballot paper. There might be some clearly invalid votes, but that is expected, either becasue the voter intended to do this or was incapable to cast a correct vote. Yes, with a good manipulation skill one can cast two votes into the ballot box insetad of one. But as the vote relies on a physical medium, manipulations are quite difficult, especially if you want to mass-shift an elect

  • by pubwvj ( 1045960 ) on Wednesday November 26, 2014 @06:40PM (#48470821)

    The old systems work. The electronic system is too prone to failure and abuse. Paper or pottery shards.

  • Yes. Next question? (Score:3, Informative)

    by bfwebster ( 90513 ) on Wednesday November 26, 2014 @06:41PM (#48470829) Homepage

    Seriously, the rush to electronic voting after the 2000 Presidential election was just a bad idea all the way around -- and, frankly, most IT people with any experience were saying so. It is vastly, vastly harder to change physical media than to change electronics.

    • Seriously, the rush to electronic voting after the 2000 Presidential election was just a bad idea all the way around -- and, frankly, most IT people with any experience were saying so. It is vastly, vastly harder to change physical media than to change electronics.

      Which of course nicely, nicely explains the rush to electronic voting after the 2000 Presidential election.

  • by Presto Vivace ( 882157 ) <marshall@prestovivace.biz> on Wednesday November 26, 2014 @06:47PM (#48470875) Homepage Journal
    the more they do not trust dre voting machines. Voting Machines Elect One Of Their Own As President [theonion.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Voting needs a system where lay people can look at the entire process and spot irregularities. That means a simple system, using well-understood technology. Paper and pencil fits the bill. Integrated circuits anything, not so much. And that's before we get into tussles with voting machine vendors that insist their source code is a "trade secret". Secrets in our voting machines? We can't afford to stand for that, no. So yes, yes we should go back to paper, and stay there.

  • Midwest Midterm Midtacular - E-Voting Pt. 1 [cc.com] and Midwest Midterm Midtacular - E-Voting Pt. 2 [cc.com] These are from 2006, can't believe we are still talking abou this. Paper Ballots Now!
  • by ColaMan ( 37550 ) on Wednesday November 26, 2014 @06:56PM (#48470941) Homepage Journal

    So there's about 15000 to 18000 votes to count?

    Paper ballots. Electronic sounds awesome, but it's a lot of hassle for a small amount of votes.

    Say you've got 5 polling stations with 4 people at each one, so 20 people. 350 or so ballots per station, each person has to tally up 100 votes at the end of polling.

    You could count the entire lot twice in an hour at 4 ballots a minute per person.

    So your 5 voting machines cost, what, $5K each? So $25K all up?

    You can pay those 20 people $500 for that one day and spend $10K on wages.
    You print 30,000 voting forms (at 5 cents each that's $1500) and getting some nice locked boxes ($2000) and storage of ballots for 12 months ($1000) in case of recount.

    Oh look, you've got $10.5K left over. Use that to make a park nice and pretty somewhere.

    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      Because electronic voting machines are "use once, then throw away" items?
      • Because electronic voting machines are "use once, then throw away" items?

        No, because they are "use once, then throw away your vote" items.

      • How much does maintenance and auditing of the machine cost? How long does that take, how often does it have to be done, and what do you do with the machines between polls?

        It costs a lot more to verify the security of an electronic voting machine than it does a wad of paper ballots.

        • by msauve ( 701917 )
          You're the one claiming increased costs, so the impetus is on you to document them as part of your argument.
          • Nice counter argument - "make my argument for me, and if you didnt then your argument doesnt stand!!"

            Before a ballot, I have to verify that the machine is running the right code base, that the code base has been authenticated and signed off, that its loaded correctly, that it tests OK, and that its not been tampered with.

            With paper ballots, I just have to check to make sure the ballot has the right names on it. And I can do that while handing them out to the voter.

            If an electronic voting machine breaks in

            • by msauve ( 701917 )
              So, you can't support your argument with facts. Meh.

              I only objected to the OP, which made a case which was valid only if the electronic system was purchased anew for every election, which is clearly not the case. Now, you're resorting to straw man arguments totally unassociated with cost. If you want to support the claim that it's more expensive, you need to put some factual numbers behind it.
  • by ourlovecanlastforeve ( 795111 ) on Wednesday November 26, 2014 @07:07PM (#48470995)

    What an astounding surprise that voting machines malfunction so frequently.

    That's totally not what I would expect from the US government.

  • by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Wednesday November 26, 2014 @07:08PM (#48471003)

    The article is a little vague on exactly what happened.

    A malfunction of electronic voting equipment left 5,207 votes out of the original Nov. 4 Saline County vote total, but no election outcomes were affected, according to the Saline County Clerk’s Office.

    Then at the end

    Outcome wasn’t affected

    Merriman said that had the extra votes resulted in a change in the outcome of the election, everyone would have been notified immediately.

    The problems occurred in machines at four voting locations in the following precincts: 12-13-14; 17-18-19; 20-22; and 15-16.

    Votes for Sen. Pat Roberts, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, Gov. Sam Brownback and Kansas Secretary of State Kobach all slightly increased.

    Opposition to the jail/justice complex increased from a 953-vote difference to 1,748 votes, or from 53.95 percent to 55.08 percent.

    So they evidently found the missing votes. But I'm not sure how.

    Saline County Clerk Don Merriman said after the meeting that four of the 34 PEBs, or Personal Electronic Ballots, were not reading correctly on election night, which left the votes out of the original count. The problem has been fixed, he said.

    He said the missing votes weren’t discovered until after votes were canvassed on Nov. 10. Merriman said he learned of the error during a “triple check” with flash cards from the PEBs.

    ...

    The error was found the afternoon after votes were canvassed when flash card totals were compared to the printed totals.

    “We always pull those flash cards and check those final totals to make sure we are OK,” he said. This is the first time we’ve had the PEBs act up like that. I’m pretty sure it is the programing in the PEBs.”

    So which was missing votes? The flash cards or the printed totals? What are the printed totals? Just a summary or actual printed ballots?

    If the printed totals were actual printed ballots that voters checked then I don't think there's anything to worry about.

    But if there's no actual per vote record and people are just relying on the machines to correctly record the votes then I have to wonder how monumentally stupid people are to use or even create a system that insecure.

  • Paper trail (Score:2, Redundant)

    by steveha ( 103154 )

    Should we go back to paper ballots?

    Yes, yes, yes.

    I live in the Seattle area of Washington State. We used to have a nearly perfect system and I would like to see it adopted everywhere. (We now have mail-in voting only, which is convenient but I worry about fraud.)

    Here's the perfect system:

    Ballots are stiff paper/very light cardboard, printed with oval "bubbles" next to the things for which you can vote. You vote by filling in a bubble with an ink pen.

    Once you are done voting, you feed the ballot into an o

    • Once my wife had a little ink smudge on her ballot, and the machine kicked it back. It was designed to err on the side of absolute clarity; if it accepted a ballot, that ballot was unambiguous.

      Yeah, one of the ways in which we got Bush was that machines like these used in Florida were set to silently accept errors instead of rejecting them.

  • We have always been told electronic voting is quick, secure and completely error free so there must be something else going on.

    Therefore, it is inconceivable that these votes were not counted.

  • by amxcoder ( 1466081 ) on Wednesday November 26, 2014 @07:36PM (#48471195)
    I recall seeing some video's online of electronic voting machines performing vote switching on the users within a day of this last election. Not to be trusted, any malicious algorithm can be slipped in to mess with the vote. I also saw them 2 years ago after that election. When it's happening enough, that people can get a cell phone video of it happening, it's happening too much. How many people don't realize that the machine mis-recorded or switched their vote between the time they selected the candidate, and the time they press the submit button?

    Here is one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] and another: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    Whether voter fraud, calibration issues, or electronic malfunction, it doesn't matter, as in all cases, there is no way to go back and re-check and re-count the ballots.
    • Same thing can happen with paper ballot counting machines, it's all just centralized in the elections office. A fold through a voting mark or a stray mark from rough postal mail handling, whatever. There are public testing periods before and after each election to inspect the behavior of the software in counting ballots. Feel free to stop by your local elections office and observe sometime. Or just keep watching youtube videos of people with unfettered access to voting machines finding vulnerabilities which

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I'm coming to think that all federal elections, or at least presidential elections, should be hand-counted everywhere. Sure, you can use a machine to tally it, but it should be verified with an additional hand count. I don't care how expensive or slow that'd be. It'd also provide some temporary jobs.

      • You seem to have missed my last sentence, that with paper ballots, if problems are discovered after the fact, the votes can be recounted after the fact by referring to the original ballots and hand counting with human eyes that can decern the difference between a fold, or smudge and a legitimate mark on the paper ballot. That is not possible with electronic vote casting.

        Also, the you tube videos aren't depicted of people with unfettered access to the voting machines and finding vulnerabilities, they see
      • Same thing can happen with paper ballot counting machines, it's all just centralized in the elections office.

        Which is why you don't bother with machines, period.

        Up here, it's paper ballots, marked with pens, counted using Mk1 eyeballs at the polling station in full view of witnesses from any candidates that wish to send one. The only machines involved in anything are the printers used to make the ballots and the telephones used to call in the stations' results to the Returning Officer.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    No of course not! Electronic systems makes it much easier to rig the system for our political 'elite'.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The state of voting machines is pathetic. Old, slow technology maintained by a company who bought the company who bought the company who contracted with the dead guy who wrote the system. Running Windows XP machines just to be able to count the damned cartridges with unsupported ATA Flash card hardware. Running Windows XP to count paper ballots at about 100 cards per minute when we used to pull 1,000 cards per minute on our old decertified system (thanks Florida).

    Over $20 million+ down the toilet for 2 year

  • by Anonymous Coward

    My local precinct uses electronic black box voting machines. On election day (Nov. 4, 2014) I requested a paper ballot. They told me I could not vote with a paper ballot. I told them that I had checked with the election division of the secretarty of state office for my state and that I did in fact have the right to vote using a paper ballot. They asked me to wait, they called a supervisor. The supervisor then called the secretary of state office. After a few minutes they issued an apology to me and sa

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It is not possible to verify a vote with an electronic voting machine.

  • They can be hacked, fooled, or in any number of ways made to provide bad numbers.

    Paper ballots find their way to peoples home for safe keeping only to stuff the boxes themselves (cite:/. article)

    But paper ballots are actually the only way to go and how I vote. but by mail only, I'd much rather stand in line to fill out my "paper ballet; I'm never sure it's filled out properly and counted or even made it to it's destination.

    Yes electronic voting being outlawed long ago is my feelings on the matter; now votin

  • I am an officer of election. We use DRE machines. We black-box test them before each election, the exact same technique that is the gold standard for software testing by any reputable QA team. A properly-tested machine is far better than any paper-based system. It provides immediate feedback to the voter. It can display in large fonts. It can be used by the disabled. It has almost no moving parts. It cannot get jammed. It does not have to guess what a vote is, it is unequivocal. Paper is a miserable mediu
    • by Anonymous Coward

      It may be better, but there is no way to prove it to the public. Paper ballots that can be recounted, with constant supervision of ballot boxes by both sides, is necessary for the public to trust the election process. Electronic reading of the paper ballots should be supplemented by random manual recounts, and full recounts should be required is enough random counts differ.

    • NO ONE counts paper ballots by hand.

      The entire nation of Canada says you're full of shit.

  • I miss New York City's steampunk mechanical voting machines. Designed in the 1920's, and still in use through the new millenium, though I think they have been phased out by now.
    • We had those in my state as well. They were awful.

      First, they had a "master lever" so that people wouldn't have to think about their votes (except for the non-partisan races that people using the master lever often neglected...)

      Even more egregious was that the commit action was tied to the curtain release lever, so people who needed help with something would sometimes (maybe as much as half the time...) pull that to open the curtains, ending their vote, and it was not reversible.

      The final tallys had to be

  • by treczoks ( 64329 ) on Thursday November 27, 2014 @03:40AM (#48472853)

    Many years ago our company was asked if we could develop electronic voting systems for elections (we do, in fact we invented electronic voting systems decades ago for conferences and audience interactions, so we basically were a logical choice). The customer intended to buy a complete electronic voting infrastructure for a whole country, so this was very tempting. I was tasked to research into this topic, and have examined this very thoroughly from every angle possible.

    My conclusion: There is no, absolutely NO way to get the level of democratic voting quality from electronic ballot systems that is comparable to classic paper ballots. The risks are immense, the gain neglectable.

    The electronic system is in no way verifyable by the average voter or voting administrator. Anybody can look into a ballot box before the vote starts and see that it is empty, people can watch over the whole thing to verify that everybody casts only one vote, and wittnesses and recounts can see that every vote from the box is counted for the right candidate. But nobody can do this in an electronic voting system. Yes, they can click on a button and the system tells them "0 votes in ballot box", but they cannot verify this. The voters cann press "A", and the machine tells you that your vote was cast for "A", thankyouverymuch, but internally it could just drop the vote or count it for "B" or "C". Nobody could check this. At the end, the machine would display some numbers for A, B, and C, and you have to believe them.

    And this is just the logic part of the problem. On top of that there is the question of technical reliability and user errors. There have been voting systems with touchscreens that needed to be calibrated before use, and there have been several cases where mis-calibration led to votes being cast for the wrong candidate/party (just as an example, whoever knows a technical system will know thousand ways it could fail). How does the system cope with a power loss during voting? Has the vote you just cast been counted or not? And what about the ease of vote? You and I can cope with "press candidate button, verify choice, press submit button", but an astonishing number of people can not (anyone who ever did tech support will not be that surprised).

    All the key requirements to a democratic vote cannot be established simultaneously with an electronic voting system: Verifyability, integrity, secrecy. Yes, you can do a lot in the realm of integrity (like they do in Vegas for the one-armed bandits), but the stakes are way higher and so is the temptation to fix the game in a way that will go undetected even by the toughest inspection (and you cannout tough-inspect every electronic ballot box after every election!). And if you want a really reliable system, you will loose the secrecy factor. If you want secrecy, the verifyability and integrity will go down the drain. It is in fact worse than the business classic "Iron Triangle" (Fast, Good, Cheap, pick any two), it is more or less a "pick one". And for a true democratic vote, you will need all three.

    The only advantages that an electronic ballot system can give are the results seconds after the closing of the ballot station and no problematic votes where people have to decide whether a vote is valid or not. Thats why the politicians LOVE electronic voting - it gives them nice results in time for the evening news. But do you really want to sell away the integrity of the last democratic instrument left for the citizens for saving a few man-hours in each ballot station? And I'd rather wait for the morning paper with the final results from a paper-based, democratically obtained election result than seeing grinning polititians congratulating themselves in the evening news, claiming their win from a quite doubtful, error- and manipulation-prone process.

    In the end, I had a long and intense talk with our company founder and CEO and could convince him that electronic voting is a bad idea for democracy, and he communicated this very result to the customer. And as the customers intention was to have a democratially sound election system, he agreed.

  • I used to work on casino games, and gosh, with all that money at stake we never lost track of a penny in the field.

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