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Microsoft, Unisys & Dell To Make New Voting System 463

Posted by Hemos
from the well-duh dept.
About twenty million - alright, slight exaggeration, but a whole bunch of people sent the story about Microsoft, Dell and Unisys to build a new voting system. Microsoft will do the software, Dell the hardware, and Unisys will assemble the systems.
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Microsoft, Unisys & Dell To Make New Voting System

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  • What better way way for Bill to become President? First he gets the government to pay billions for a new voting system, then every time they use it, he comes out the winner. "Geez, I dunno, we could recount again, but I'll bet the results will be the same."
  • by locust (6639)
    Perhaps because the US has approx. 260 millions residents, whereas Canada has less than 29 million (source:

    Wrong bigger. When an election is held in canada, (federally) we only vote on one thing: the local member of parliment. When an election is held in the US all sorts of other measures are on the ballot. Some of these are for the county, some for the state, and some are federal (some of you americans help me out here if I've missed something). Thats why county by they do thier own ballot.... which makes quite a bit of a mess. The shear number of things to vote on and number of ballots (president, congressman, senator, measures etc) mean that it takes a lot longer to count the vote in the US than in Canada.

    --locust

  • by Teratogen (86708) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @09:43PM (#512865) Homepage
    MIT and Caltech have already announced plans
    to develop a voting machine:

    http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/nr/2000/voting.htm l

    Personally, I trust MIT and Caltech much more
    than I trust Microsoft and Unisys.
  • They're not unconstitutional, they're just not nice. They happen all the time though, so there's no reason that has to change now.
  • It is an heresy to let people vote remotely. You can't vote like you'd order a pizza.

    I guess you've never voted by absentee ballot. Here in King County (Seattle, WA), more people voted absentee in the last election than actually marched down to polls.

    As for research, well, ain't the Web wonderful? I sat in front of my computer for an afternoon with the sample ballot and read pretty much every opinion piece I could find, pro and con, on every ballot initiative. I was better informed in this election than in any election I've ever voted in previously. And when I was done with my ballot, I dropped it in the mail and off it went.

  • by Seumas (6865) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @11:23PM (#512877)
    What I don't understand is why the same government that tried to tear Microsoft apart because of their unethical business practices would want to then employ them in the pursuit of a new voting system -- something which one should aspire to include only those participants who are extremely ethical.

    Remember Netscape Engineers are weinees and 'leasing the operating system' and '.NET' and recently, the backdoor account in Interbase (granted, not MS but just an example of the type of things one could not put past Microsoft)? -- Is this really the kind of risk we need to put our voting system in?

    The whole idea of a Windows-based system is frightening. Why not go for something that at least will allow an uptime long enough to complete the full voting day? Maybe Solaris or Linux or a reduced size, limited function distrobution of their own?

    Further, these are obviously going to be networked throughout the country, to a central city computer, then to a central state computer and then to a central national computer (sure, you could go directly to a national machine, but I think there may be some federal/state issues that would make regionalizing each function of the process preferrable). As we all know, anything that is on a network is potentially crackable.

    If anyone needs proof of that, look at the NSA, CIA, FBI, IRS and other government websites which have been cracked in the past.
    ---
    seumas.com

  • Government needs a company to blame if something goes wrong, not a community.

    Erm, why exactly? How does blaming a company help? Just a buck-passing issue?

  • A lot of the site is Win2000, but for example:

    (an image from my Hotmail Inbox page)
    http://216.32.182.251/lgo_msn_140x60.gif
    The site 216.32.182.251 runs Boa/0.93.17.3 on FreeBSD

    (a signup page)
    http://216.32.182.250/cgi-bin/linkdirector/signu p? _lang=EN
    Analysis of 216.32.182.250
    The site 216.32.182.250 runs Apache/1.2.6 on FreeBSD
  • by radiashun (220050) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @04:11PM (#512881)
    do I have to even try to poke fun at that?


  • Bill Gates!

    (How'd that happen...)
  • by Xtacy (12950) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @08:13PM (#512886)
    heh thats all we need, ms to screw it up, dell to charge a fortune for the screwup and unisys to patent the screwup after everyone has been using it for many years
  • by warpeightbot (19472) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @09:47PM (#512888) Homepage
    There is no reason to re-invent the wheel. The Brits (of all people) have done it for us. They wrote a program called FREE [thecouch.org] and published it under (what else) the GPL. It's a java-based secure client server that will run on most popular OS's (W32, Linux, Mac, OS/2!) and (get this) is *already in production*.

    I think we have to insist that any voting system implemented be Open Source, and specifically GPL, so no one can go and put backdoors in it without someone being able to find them. Furthermore, I think we can make it stick, to-wit: Proprietary software must be paid for, right? Which would make it an unfunded mandate, and thus unconstitutional.

    Folks, get on the phone to your congresscritter, write letters, whatever, but we can, and have to, stop this right now before it spreads. I'm not going to stand for spending several million dollars of MY MONEY to develop something that has already been developed and is out there for the asking... something I will never trust unless it is open source, and neither should anyone else.

    Once more into the breach, dear friends, and we can stop Gates' final attempt to take over the world, and have it for ourselves, and set it (ahem) FREE [thecouch.org].

    --
    If you want to end war and stuff, you've gotta sing LOUD.
    -Arlo Guthrie, "Alice's Restaurant"

  • Does this mean that if we have Back Orifice, we get as many votes as we want?

    [click][click][click]...

    "What are you doing?"

    "Making damn sure Jello Biafra wins this one."

    Silverlock
  • Our next candidate for president will be Bill Gates. He will win by a landslide; Gore - 1 vote, Gates, 279,999,999 votes.

    Soon, Gates will outlaw all free software (that is, software that's not made by Microsoft), all non-approved game systems (All systems but XBox), all non-approved hardware (non MS hardware), and all non MS lawyers.

    Soon afterwards, it will be illegal to think of thinking of linking to a page which contains instructions on how to make a manual on how to make a piece of software which might possibly be able to decrypt an encrypted work.

    Oops... how did that get in there... this is Microsoft for president, not the RIAA.

    A sad time indeed.
  • by Deluge (94014) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @08:15PM (#512892)
    C'mon, really. All this phenomenal expense, and for what? For a system which will have a million bugs (and it would anyway, even if MS wasn't involved, so shush) and which people will be apprehensive about using and which will cause an even BIGGER mess in case of a screwup, since you can't just manually examine an electronic vote.

    It's been said in almost every one of the voting stories thus far - why not go with a system like Canada's? Simple X in a box, hand counted, done in a few hours, no ambiguities, no problems. Ugh.

    ---

  • by enneff (135842) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @08:15PM (#512894) Homepage
    I hope that when they try the online voting thing, they actually do it _right_. (a worthy goal for Microsoft)

    The most obvious problems with online voting are identification and security. Voting in the United States is done via secret ballot, yet voters must first be identified. On the Web, once a visitor is identified, it is possible to track their movements and choices throughout the entire session.

    Rather than pretending to not track this data, we should allow Web servers to behave as they already do and mask the identity of the user. PIN codes or site passwords, a la Amazon, are not a viable option as they are often written down and thus easily stolen, forgotten, or shared.

    The best identification option may be the already present state driver's license or ID card. Many state cards currently have a magnetic strip that could be used to hold a voter registration ID. A better storage solution would be for states to use smart cards, like the new Visa and Amex Blue, as the basis of driver's licenses and IDs. The embedded chip could hold a variety of information, including e-commerce information, and would be read/writable. Along with helping the smart card industry gain about 250 million customers, the government will also need an equal number of smart card readers. These devices should be able to attach to computers, PDAs, cellphones, and Internet appliances.

    The question is, can MS and co provide anywhere near this ideal?
  • ... Bill Gates will be your next president?
  • by BeanThere (28381) on Friday January 12, 2001 @02:37PM (#512898)

    I still don't see how it could work, free or not. Even if you could get "the source", how would you know that that was exactly the same source code that was used to compile the system that will actually be used? It would be exceptionally easy for some corrupt person involved in generating the binaries to slip in a trojan before the software system is installed all over the country.

    This problem would exist whether the software is (GPL-style) free or not, and I can't see how this type of problem can be avoided. Making it opensource would probably make it harder to find exploits (and you can be pretty sure that somebody somewhere *will* find an exploit) but you can't get around the basic problem of corruption.

    Hand-counted votes are also open to corruption, of course, but on a much smaller scale - most people would only be able to affect the vote count in, say, their own voting station. But with a full-blown electronic system, somebody somewhere would have the potential to rig the vote on a massive scale.

  • Now I know why Bill Gates stepped down, he is going for president!

    Bill (on sharing votes): One vote for Gore, Two votes for me. One vote for Bush, three votes for me

    Bolke.
  • Ballots aren't (generally) counted by hand now.

    In many parts of the world ballots are counted by hand

    They're counted by machines. Have you ever seen the source code of the machines that are counting those ballots.

    Assuming there is much in the way of "software" involved. Tabulating punched cards is 19th century technology. Some of the machines involved appear to be pure tabulators, not even having the ability to sort the input into "valid" and "invalid".
    Anyway the cause of the recent US Federal election farce was not technical. Rather it was political.
  • It has nothing to do with size. The Canadian system scales very well to Britain with twice the population.

    To top that: AFAIK all european countries use a system similar to the canadian one on the elections for the European Parliament.
    And in the EP elections, there are more than 300 million voters, so size ain't an argument.
  • a) Voting is more importent then all those things.

    Yeah, right. Maybe it's just me, but I'd much rather wither under the rule of a despotic moron for four years than be destroyed in a nuclear holocaust.

    b) The government has the source to anything it wants, i.e. Windows, AIX, etc.

    Uh, yeah. The government controls everything. You're right. I forgot.

    c) If it feals the need then the government can require that the company employ people with a security clearence to monitor things.

    The government cannot do any such thing. They could make security clearances a requirement for government contracts, but Microsoft is rather different from Lockheed Martin. If the government told Microsoft, "All the programmers in your OS division have to be security cleared or we'll stop running Windows," Microsoft would reply, "Go ahead, quit running Windows, what the hell do we care? We have millions of other customers." And then the government would most likely keep running Windows anyway, as a result of having many of the applications they run dependent on it.

  • Darn! Who is that blue party, and why can't I vote for anything else???
  • This started me thinking about Unisys.

    Does anybody know of a single large system that they've built that actually worked as designed and was done on time and on budget?

    Everything I've heard about them is bad. "Death marches". Systems cancelled after the customer spent (mumble) millions of dollars. Severe specification downgrades. Lawsuits trying to get paid.

    They're one of the US Government's biggest suppliers. Is anybody surprised?

    --
  • by mpe (36238)
    To be honest, it's more likely because of the two party system in the U.S. It divides the country into two distinct groups, and neither party trusts the other.

    Probably what is more important is the same two parties being involved with election officials and judges. When these people really need to be as neutral as possible about the outcome of the election.
  • by PyroMosh (287149) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @11:49PM (#512924) Homepage
    Okay, I know I'm going to rile up a lot of people here, but I'm truly not flaming, trolling or whatever. I realy do feel that this is the "best" solution.

    This past election was the second election I voted in and the first presidential election. I voted in Ocean County, NJ.

    They use computers there.

    They don't run windows. They don't run Linux. They don't run BSD, or any other general computer OS. They are dedicated voting machines with dedicated hardware and software built in to the microcontroler. Much like your VCR is a computer, but it only does one thing. Your Microwave oven has a computer in it, but it doesn't run Linux or a MS OS either.

    The layout they used on this machine was simple. A bunch of buttons (similar to the kind under the plastic panel on your microwave, not the kind of buttons on your keyboard) under a paper overlay under a protective clear plastic sheet. There were probably hundreds of buttons, but only a few are ever used at a time, depending on the requirements of the individual election. Oh yes and there are LED lights next to each button, which holes in the paper so the proper LEDs could shine through.. There was also a keyboard (laid out alphabeticly) to enter write-in votes. This whole setup was perhaps 3'x3' or 4'x4' and took up the front "wall" of the voting booth.
    I don't know how the machine OUTPUTS votes, (hard drive, print out, network, etc.) but everything I saw looked fairly straight forward, simple and easy to me. I didn't hear about anyone getting confused in my community. there were PLENTY of elderly voters and I was standing in line at the polling station for a while. The only confusion was over what lines to stand in (there were seperate lines to check your voter ID card and lines for the voting machine, in addition to splitting up lines by first letters of last names for check-in.)

    Now, here's my take on how something like this should be designed:

    The modularity of the paper overlay is a good idea and can be retained. Either that, or use expensive touch screens. Either is fine, and if cost is not an issue, I believe that touch screens would PROBABLY be a better plan since paper can (concievably) shift or slide. The important part here is that the layout (since either can be dynamic from election to election) needs to be CARFULY considered for each election.

    The OS:
    - Should NOT be Linux.
    - Should NOT be BSD.
    - Should NOT be Solaris
    - Should not be Windows.
    It should NOT HAVE an "OS" in the traditional sence of the term at all! It should have a simple "dumb interface" like a VCR, digital watch, phone, microwave, etc. When is the last time your Microwave "crashed"? If it's EVER happened, I'm sure it's happened less to you than any general computing OS you've ever used. Linux has crashed on me, Windows has crashed on me, Macs have crashed on me. My VCR? Hardware has failed (motors) but the software end of it has to my knowlege never failed.

    Also, as to open source... this is a more touchy subject. I do agree that the code (probably C. the Elevator Principal [tuxedo.org] applies perfectly to this situation.) does need to be audited make the source redily available. But I don't see any particular reason that it can't be developed by a private party / company/ whatever.

    Several other people brought up concerns about "What if" people obtained the source code, edited it to their liking and installed it on the voting machines. Well, this isn't a problem with dedicated hardware/software on a microcontroler. When is the last time you heard of someone changine the software on their VCR? And without opening the thing up and breaking out the solder gun? And with people (Election officials) that don't want them to do this standing around watching to make sure they don't do this? In any concievable situation where this would be insecure, ANY method (pencil and paper for example) would be insecure due to the amount of corruption it would require. If anything, this might make coruption a little more dificult to pull off since it would require someone with in depth technical know-how AND would almost certainly take a conspiricy rather than a lone nut to rig votes.

    Now for the other end of the equation. I believe (due to the companies mentioned) that they want to use a PC type of archetecture. I don't see why. It's insecure, unstable, and too generalized for the task at hand. Life support machines don't run Windows. Missle Guidance Systems don't run BSD. Power Plants don't Run MacOS. Why should this?

    Now, I understand that this being /. and all, that one is expected to bash Microsoft.

    I think this is lame.

    Do I like Microsoft? Not particularly. Do I think they are evil? Only their business practices. But their software is the best thing out there for the home user. For the software I want to run, they and Apple are the only game in town. My web sites, however all run under Red Hat. I wouldn't DREAM of running any kind of site that recieved decent amounts of traffic under NT. However, why is Linux a good choice for VOTING MACHINES? Pick the right tool for the job people. PCs in general simply aren't cut out to going something like this. There's a reason it's called "general computing" because these machines have to be Jacks of all trades. The trade off is that they don't realy master any of those trades. They crash, they're often slower than a dedicated machine for the same task, etc.

    Computers are not nessisarily bad for voting. In fact I encourage the use of computers. However, don't use general computers. Don't do this half assed. Don't try to shoe horn in the wrong tool for the job. Use a dedicated hardware/software solution.

  • Whaddya mean the Brits (of all people). Who do you think invented the computer? The British have a proud history of inventing things, which is why so many of them are employed by large US corporations. Transatlantic flamewar ahoy ;)
  • Stupid Analogy. I think I can trust the coders who put together our missile systems. We have not yet launched a missle do to some glitch in software. Will we ever? Absolutely NOT.

    I think you missed the point of my post. I wasn't talking about trust or the competence of coders. I was talking about the fact that lots of software running critical systems is closed source. And you have to deal with it.

    However, maybe you recall the NT powered battleship? What did it do on its maiden voyage? Uhuh....

    Probably a misuse of the word "however" if your counterexample proves my point exactly. No matter how good of programmers there were writing the quadruple-checked Ada application code for your ship, it was still dependent on closed source, unverified software. And you and I just have to deal.

  • Some countries (fi Belgium) are already using a good electronic voting system for more than a few years now. Why couldn't they use an existing system instead of wasting a whole lot of money to write something from scratch. The advantage of the suggestion is that:
    • no american will be suspected of tampering.
    • you save a lot of money
    • the system has already proven itself.
  • I already discussed it several times:
    It is an heresy to let people vote remotely.
    You can't vote like you'd order a pizza.
    You have to carefully read the candidates programs, their bios and then to stand up (yu know, this mean just leaving your machine and pointing your face outside).
    This has to be an effort.
    Because your live depends on it.
    And BTW, we all know about the "friendship" between "GB" and "BG"...
    Wouldn't you actually prefer to use a non GPL'd voting system to express your opinion ?
    --
  • by mpe (36238)
    When an election is held in the US all sorts of other measures are on the ballot. Some of these are for the county, some for the state, and some are federal (some of you americans help me out here if I've missed something). Thats why county by they do thier own ballot.... which makes quite a bit of a mess. The shear number of things to vote on and number of ballots (president, congressman, senator, measures etc) mean that it takes a lot longer to count the vote in the US than in Canada.

    The implication here is that it is possible for several elections to use the same ballot paper/form. Which easily leads to complicated forms and complicated counts.
  • Or are you seriously claiming that elderly people and minorities are not really entitled to vote, because they base their votes on different criteria to your own?
  • by mpe (36238)
    Here in Belgium it's not unusual to have several ballots. One for local, one the power level above, and one national. Each one identifiable by a different color and title.

    But these are completly separate ballots. Each one could be counted separatly in parallel (Especially if they each went in different ballot boxes.)
    If I understand correctly it's possible in the US to have a single form which covers all sorts of elections.
  • It isn't my democracy, but I can understand American citizens being worried about a company with a history of poor quality products being asked to write a system that determines who will run their country.
  • In other systems, one person may miscount on purpose, but it is (usually) likely not to have any outcome on who is chosen as the winner.

    It's difficult to do this whilst other people are watching.
  • Just click on the "Election Fraud Wizard" for easy setup...
    --
  • The application software itself doesn't have to be written outside of the states. It doesn't even need to be open-source (though it would probalby be a good idea). But the OS, at least, is a better alternative.

    And there isn't necessarily any greater shame in a multi-national effort to create software for elections that any country can modify and use than there is in using software from Microsoft.

    I just don't see the need for the bloat of a Windows-type operating system. All you need the system to do is check a database and see if the person in front of it is a registered voter and if they have voted yet. Then provide a text-based list of choices, accept an input from the voter, prompt the voter to confirm their choice, encrypt the results for that individual and send them back to the database. Once the database confirms receipt, start over again.

    You don't need Microsoft's bloated code. You don't need some snazzy system by Dell. All you need is a network connection, a form of encryption, a cheap display unit and input device, a tiny single-purpose operating system and an old box with about enough processing power as an 286.

    Instead, I'm sure we'll end up with a closed-source, buggy Microsoft operating system with a horribly expensive license, and a $2500 machine by Dell that I'm sure that in addition to whatever original funding the government has to pay for development, they'll end up paying $25,000 per voting device, just like they overpay for wrenches and toilet seats.
    ---
    seumas.com

  • While there were technical problems with the Florida ballot, to an outsider it seemed like the real problems were created by politics rather than lack of technology.

    If there had been purely technical problems then the thing would not have dragged on for so long.
    Even if there was a need to another ballot where poorly designed forms caused confusion.
    Working out why a punched card won't read is hardly rocket science anyway/
  • God knows I don't. Microsoft has proven time and again that their only driving force is their own survival.

    Interesting, how we have the right to vote, but no control over the voting system.
  • 2. OTHER LIMITATIONS: COPYRIGHT AND OTHER INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS. Title to all copyright and other intellectual property rights in and to the CONTENT, and any copies of the CONTENT, are owned by Microsoft Corporation and/or its suppliers.

    The CONTENT is what you are voting for, it's owned by the MS.
  • You know what? (wait for it) I agree. 100%. Those who've been here a while may know I'm not a Linux/OpenSource guy. I use (and program on) Microsoft products and, for the most part, don't care about OpenSource.

    But a voting system should be open. No question. This is a no-brainer.
    ---
  • If voting should be the result of logic, what we need is not electronic counting machines, but electronic decision machines. After all, once we all agree on the right logic, we don't need voting at all since that just reflects people's emotional deviation from the norm.

    Of course, we need an ace programmer with great logical skills to do the job. Are you up to it?


  • I can't think of anything better than something made by Unisys, Dell and Microsoft, especially if it is part of the American political process. Heck, the only way this could get better is if we got DoubleClick involved! New for 2004: Microsoft DirectBallot.

    But seriously, this is lunacy. I don't think that computerized voting is the way to go. Paper ballots have their place. It's a lot harder to make votes magically appear when they are represented on paper rather than bits. And one standard for voting makes some kind of security compromise easier... as screwy as it looks, having a variety of different machines making marks on paper makes an election harder to rig.

    And please -- no comments about the last Presidential election, we've been there and done that.
  • by tonyPick (161066) on Friday January 12, 2001 @12:32AM (#512981) Homepage

    "You have registered your vote, please restart the electoral system for this to take effect"

  • by ElJefe (41718) on Friday January 12, 2001 @12:38AM (#512984)
    Here's the corresponding Caltech link:
    http://www.caltech.edu/events/mitcit/citmit.html [caltech.edu]

    -Chris
  • by ca1v1n (135902) <snook@guanotr[ ]c.com ['oni' in gap]> on Thursday January 11, 2001 @08:17PM (#512994)
    Will they show us the freaking source? I think the point was exemplified by the battleship dead in the water, but I fear it may not have been taken to heart. Voting should be a completely transparent process with the sole exception of what goes on in the booth. I don't trust MicroSoft to even count right at this point. I want to make damn sure that nobody is going to work out a buffer overrun and move a few votes here and a few votes there and rig a close one. This needs to audited rigorously, and the source sounds like something that ought to be available at the least under the FOIA, and if the government can't get that right from MicroSoft, we shouldn't be using the software.
  • Don't forget the piece of string. The pencil must be tied to a piece of string. And the pencil has to be a carpenter's pencil, not a normal one.
  • by NumberSyx (130129) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @10:36PM (#512998) Journal

    The problem with electronic voting is there will be no way to verify a vote after the fact. The software will be by Microsoft and therefore proprietary. The Hardware by Dell and will therefore be proprietary. This will be cross checked by a "Third Party" Unisys, but of course there will be no means to independently check for backdoors or vote skewing code, we will have to take their word for it. Even if everything is on the up and up to start with, will this system be on a network ? If so, we all know how safe and secure networks are. Can anyone say "Self Propagating VB Script".

    I say No, lets go back to the old fashioned way, a printed ballot with check boxes and a pen. Then each precinct is responsible for counting their votes on location and accessible to the public. Once the count is done, the votes are sealed, locked up and impounded to prevent tampering in case a recount is necessary. Results are then reported to the county, first by phone, then later in writing, which then reports to the state, who then reports to the Federal Voting board. Everything is nice and clean, with a clear paper trail of accountability.


    Jesus died for sombodies sins, but not mine.

  • by TrevorB (57780) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @10:38PM (#513002) Homepage
    OK, a co-worker of mine were talking on the way back from lunch about a month ago on how to make an "electronic voting system" work. Let me first say that I'm Canadian and as FFFish's post states, our hand counted, hand marked ballots scale very well for 30 million, and I see no reason why it wouldn't scale well for 300 million. Whatever. Here's our idea.

    The problems with a pure electronic system come with recounting, either due to a close vote, or to questions of tampering, is that there's no true way to do a physical recount. But regular ballots take "too long" to count.

    Why not create a hybrid system. Each person comes to their polling station, is checked off a list and is given a "voting card", perhaps like a punchcard, but with no holes. They go back to the voting machine, close the door (or whatever), and insert their blank card into the machine. they vote via touch screen, and the result is printed on the card, which they (perhaps only as a symbolic gesture), insert their card into a box. When the elections end, you use the computers to tally the votes, but have the paper votes available if you need a true recount.

    Now of course, all of this is meaningless unless the Americans can standardize their voting procedure. If one county has electronic voting and another punch card or another X'ed by hand, you're back in the same boat.

    One thing FFFish may be wrong on is that it "Can't happen in Canada". Sure it can. Effectively, Bush and Gore tied within counting error. The same could happen in our system. Fortunately minority "tied" governments could exist in Canada without causing constitutional gridlock... (Just parlimentary gridlock, after a few weeks of which the government would collapse and we'd get to hold another election! :)

    At any rate, I hope you guys can sort this all out by 2004.
  • Machine voting systems just fuck things up. What is it with America's love of voting machines? They don't use them virtually anywhere else. It's precisely because Americans useing voting machines that their voting system is such a mess. There are reasons why virtually rest of the world uses simple hand ballots - they work & they work perfectly

    Haven't you bloody Americans learnt the KISS system - Keep It Simple Stupid.

    This means no bloody machines, period !!! If Australia (& also virtually the rest of the democratic world) can do hand counted paper ballots, then so can the US.

    The only reason they use machine systems in the US is to cut costs, but the simple fact is they arn't as good (they invalidate more votes then hand counts do, they intimidate & confuse a good percentage of voters & they increase the odds of something fuking up (murphy's law)

    Look at the mess, as well as the fuked up punch card machines you have counties with lever machines, other with optical machines, toggle switch machines, push button machines & also touch screen systems too. Then there are places like Oregon where all votes are of the mail in variety (which obviously discriminates against the homeless & disorginised ). The simple fact is that huge numbers of people are intimidated with this complicated mess that's one of the reasons why most Americans don't vote & why the US has about the lowest voter turnout in the OECD.

    Look at all the people that are intimidated by machines & even now still refuse to use Automatic Teller Machines, & there are plenty more people like that then just the illiterate, the elderly & immigrants that have poor 2nd language skills.

    Its as if the bureaucracy in the US are on purposefully trying to discourage the masses from voting.

    The only way to go is to Keep It Simple Stupid. Which means aiming at the lowest common denominator & designing a system that the stupidist simpleton can understand.

    Which means 'X marks the spot' hand ballots.


    That means a peice of paper with the candidates listed in a columne & another columne of boxes on the side with just one box next to each candidate.

    Here are a couple of examples of 'KISS' paper ballots [geocities.com], the 1st one is an example of an Australian preferential ballot (any Americans who support 3rd parties should be demanding that the US system be made either preferential or proportional, otherwise no 3rd parties will ever make any long term headway), the 2nd ballot is an example of an ''X' marks the spot' ballot.

    As far as counting goes the US should be doing what Australia does (& most of the rest of the developed world does similar) & hold the vote on a Saturday (I wonder how many blue collar workers in the US chose not to vote because of the incoveniance of voting on a Tuesday), using local schools as voting centres. Then leasing indoor stadiums & convention centres nationwide which are to be used as counting centres for the thousands of temp workers employed to count the votes. Each counter also has a Labour & conservative scrutineer looking over his/her shoulders.

    Sure its labour intensive, but as any UN election observer will tell you this is the best system if you want high turnouts with low rates of invalid votes & a result that's as accurate as can be, by Monday morning at the latest (actually in the vast majority of elections we know who's won by about 8pm the same night).

    Also all politicians must be removed from any decision making processes as far as the running of elections are concerned, etc.

    Look at the way democratic afiliated local officials OKed the hand count iin Palm Beach & then the Republican Florida SoS blocked the hand count (& she was Bush's co-campaign manager, which makes it an even worse conflict of interest). That sort of thing is unheard of in Australia. Where an Independent Australian Electoral Commision [aec.gov.au] administers federal elections & the various state electoral commisions administers state & local elections.

    No politians are involved anywhere in the decision making process (except for calling the date of the election). As far as recounts, re-votes, referendums [aec.gov.au] (in Australia politions can't amend the constitution, only the people can through referendums. Where a majority of the total votes & a majority in a majority of states, responds 'yes' to the amendment) & by-elections, etc are concerned only the electoral commision can make decisions regarding them. Although anyone can appeal to the commision's court, for a recount or re vote or something. Whether such appeals are successful is another matter.

  • by tarka69 (159890) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (evetsakrat)> on Thursday January 11, 2001 @08:18PM (#513011)
    You might want to have a look at the Bruce Schneier (inventor of the Blowfish algo. and crypto pundit) on electronic voting systems [counterpane.com].

    Basically, he says they are a dangerous thing ...

    The comforts you demanded are now mandatory -- Jello Biafra
    --

  • New slogan: Who do you want to rule today?
  • > ... and also look at the last few volumes of Risks; all the ones since the US election, basically. Much detailed analysis, mostly with the conclusion that it can't be done well.

    Actually, I didn't understand them to say that it can't be done well, but rather that it can't be done well with a naive effort. There's a serious danger of snake oil solutions here folks. (Which is probably why MS jumped right on it. There's megabucks to be made here in the wake of the Florida vote count. And megabucks more to be made when v. 1.0 turns out to be snake oil, and you can get them to shell out again for v. 2.0. And v. 3.0. And v. 3.0 Second Edition. Etc.)

    BTW, of insterest to many /.ers will be the fact that the RISKS discussions frequently listed "open source" as one of the essentials of doing it well.

    As illustrated (yet again) by the Inprise fiasco, the public should not be buying closed source software, period.

    --
  • In the immortal words of Homer Simpson

    ``Oh God Oh God Oh God Oh God''
    --
  • It would cost tens of billions of dollars to
    change over the country to one of these new
    "improved" systems. Whare does that money come?
    And if it turns out to have serious defects?
    That is why many places keep systems for decades.
  • I have heard the following defense of the electoral college.

    In the early days of the republic, it was felt that there would be a plurality of qualified, semi popular candidates for president, many being local ones. Obviously, if plurality of the popular vote elected the person who got 4 perscent of the vote, rather than one of the other 50 candidates, such a system would inevitibly be attacked as unfair.

    So, the solution, would be to allow the people to appoint agents, who might rationally turn a convuluted "local popular feeling" into some sort of solid choice.

    Obviously, though, to give such a power to regular legislators-- as in a parlimentary system, would destabilize the "balance of powers" and further elevate the legislature in this contest. So the solution was the electoral college-- a quasi legislature with one role-- to elect a president and vice.

    However, a simple prefernce sytem, whereby a voter could give a "first class" vote to Ralph Nader-- indicating a strong preference, and a 'second-class" vote to, say, Al Gore, indicating "If I can't have Nader, Gore is better than Buchanan, Bush or McReynolds." This is called a Borda Count system, and if properly implemented, could achieve the same theoretical purposes as the Electoral College as originally concieved.
  • Yeah, yeah, whatever.

    Look, if you didn't want to look at the MS-bashing jokes, what are you doing reading the comments on this comments on this story? Heck, what are you doing reading Slashdot at all. It's like going to a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert and complaining about the rednecks.

    And as far as this power-user is concerned, any OS that doesn't come with a C compiler and Perl is sorely lacking. And virtual desktops! Damn I hate it when I have to use a GUI that doesn't have virtual desktops! Even the loathsome CDE has virtual desktops. Why haven't Microsoft and Apple given their customers virtual desktops?

    (Okay, IE 5 is pretty nice. I'll admit that.)

    [Grumble, grumble]
    --
  • I prefer paper and a pencil. Reliable and more difficult to forge.
  • Yes... its possible... and rather painfull to follow.

    TO give you an idea, on the same ballot that I voted for president, I also voted for federal senate, state senate, local judges (one position had the same person 'running' in all available parties... makes you wonder why to even bother voting), and then off to the side on the bottom right were propositions such as wether the state should float bonds to be put toward transit (none of which apeared on the sample ballot posted so you could read about them beforehand).

    It can be a bit overwhelming, especially since a lot of people vote on the way to work, wait in long lines and then rush to get to work.
  • by Black Parrot (19622) on Friday January 12, 2001 @01:37AM (#513038)
    > I'll show George W. Bush that he's not the only one who can rig an election.

    Be the first city council in your state to buy the all new Microsoft George voting machine! Features include:
    • Microsoft's famous quality control and Dell's famous low prices.
    • Rigorously tested by Mindcraft, Inc.
    • Tasteful blue screen provides privacy between voters.
    • Uses a special release of Borland's InterBase db server to keep track of the votes.
    • Auxiliary USB port with no documented function.
    • Coin operated version available by special order.
    • Framed Certificate of Authentication, signed by Katherine Harris.
    • Recommended by Jeb Bush and the RNC!
    Testimonials:
    • I'm not worried about fair elections anymore. -- George Walker Bush
    • This simple device convinced me that the American Way (tm) would be to hold fundraisers at US corporations like Microsoft, rather than Buddhist temples. -- Al Gore
    • I'd trade my entire cell for such a voting system! -- Slobodan Milosevic
    • In jurisdictions where it has been adopted, I find that I don't have to waste scarce money by contributing to both sides anymore. -- Bill Gates

    --
  • Damn, Slashdot needs a "Score: 100, STOP PRESSES". Because that's literally what should be done. The system should be Free Software, and being written in Java is just another plus (you get the "freedom" of running it on many OSes with little recompilation/reconfiguration/debugging hassle).
  • by Coulson (146956) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @08:24PM (#513044) Homepage
    This could go a long way towards reducing voting confusion (ala butterfly ballots). You could have a well-layed-out touch screen rather than being limited to the size of a paper ballot. Voting in an elderly county which has a lot of with people poor eyesight? Increase the font size.

    At the end of the session, after people have picked their candidates, you can present the information to them again and ask them to verify that the choices are correct. No dimpled chads, no half-punched holes, no double votes. It won't eliminate problems, mistakes, or complaints entirely, but it allows options which are unavailable on paper.

    So the system may be buggy at first: treat it as a critical systems project (life support, chemotherapy machines). The best part of all -- instant and accurate tallies, where the numbers stay the same no matter how many times you add up the votes!

  • Unisys also said it has already developed an electronic voting system for Brazil and Costa Rica, and has partnered with the state of Minnesota to develop a voting system that posts results directly onto the World Wide Web.

    Wow. A system that posts the results of the elections directly to the world wide web... guess we won't have as much of a problem with the web-site calling the state early :)

    On a slightly more serious note, this is yet another example of why Jessie Ventura should be President (heck, Ronald Reagan was an actor who became goevernor and then president... the difference is?). He speaks his mind, listens to issues, and even makes informed choices. Heck, he's what politicians are SUPPOSED to be, not the drivvel we've ended up with.

  • by locust (6639)
    When we have local elections in Munich, Germany, we can choose between approximately 300 Candidates.

    Wow! Thats a lot of candidates. Must be quite a headache to sort out. How do you prevent votes from being siphoned of? I mean 1 out of 80 wrong (intentionally or unintentionally) is with in the real of human possibility. Maybe the answer to america's vote counting problems is to bring over a whole pile of germans once every 2 years (presidential and midterm elections). :)

    --locust

  • so what. companies develop things all the time, it doesn't mean anyone will buy or use it.

    the paper machines are awfully cheap...and a lot of rural counties are poor and have elderly or non-technical people manning the voting stations.

    personally, i think the study currently under progress at MIT and cernegie mellon (as i recall) will be more fruitful.

    my opinion? just standardize the voting machines and ballot layout to the most accurate system in use. once that is done, come up with a validation system that the voter slides their ballot through.

    such a validator should also print a slip. that way, the voter knows the ballot is punched properly, and they have a "grocery style" receipt showing what they voted for -- for instant review.

    computers for voting is asinine, at least at this point in time.

  • Voting electronically is a great idea. In theory. In practice, the only system that I would be comfortable with is a touch-screen or equivalent version of what we already have. Same polling places, same booth design. In my design, these stations are connected to a small server, which IS CONNECTED TO NOTHING ELSE. When polls close, you print the tally, seal it, hand it off, and go home. You could send it through email, but that would defeat the purpose of not going all online anyway. If you make a system closed to the outside world (read: offline), then we don't run any of the risks associated with online systems.
    In that case, it wouldn't matter how ugly the MS software was, or how crappy the server was. And you wouldn't need unisys at all. Heck, you could probably just use palms or handsprings in a docking station to record your vote. This would be easier to impliment, far less expensive, and probably more reliable.
    But we are talking government here. oh well...

    help me jeebus!!
  • Peter G Neumann, the moderator of the RISKS forum, has collected information [sri.com] and recommendations [ncl.ac.uk] on electronic and Internet elections.
    __
  • by Stephen VanDahm (88206) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @08:27PM (#513073) Homepage
    OK, everyone knows that the only things that Microsoft makes well are joysticks and mice. So they should be doing the hardware. Dell ships computers with Linux preinstalled, so maybe they should be doing the software instead. As for Unisys, people who say "Democracy" and "Unisys" in the same sentence should be shot. Wait, did I just...damn....


    ========
    Stephen C. VanDahm
  • I would be grateful if someone would tell me where to place bets on how long it will take to develop a hack for the system that allows vote manipulation. This seems almost inevitable if Microsoft is involved. I can imagine the headlines "Romanian Hacker Breaks into US Electronic Voting System" or "World Workers Party Wins Suspect Presidential Election." Imagine, fourteen year old IRC addicts and foreign citizens could also add their votes. This sounds great!!!
  • The following is a sample from the special issues section of the 2004 election ballow:

    Should the breakup order dividing Microsoft, Inc., a corporation in the state of Washington, be set aside and made null and void. Click yes if you believe the breakup should not be ordered. Click no if you believe the breakup of this fine American corporation should be so ordered.

    [YES] [microsoft.com] ________ [NO] [slashdot.org]

  • I prefer paper and a pencil. Reliable and more difficult to forge.

    Hell, I'd perfer Florida's current system.

  • Do I have to point out Microsoft's track record for being the most reliable system ever? I might as well. :)

    Hmmm... let's see:

    It's a VXD which has crashed - which means it's a driver error, and probably not Microsoft's fault.

    The airport in question is running Windows 95 or 98, which means (more than anything else you might read into it) that they're stupid for not running Windows NT.

    Simon
  • Well, it will just make cheating easier. The one who win will be the one who give Microsoft the biggest bucks. Eventually, the whole democratic system will be reimplaced by an auction stuff. There will be a private company who will deliver the presidence to the most generous candidate, and who will deliver its benefits to its shareholders. Something really transparent, indeed.
  • The United States would not be the first or by any means the only country that uses machines of this nature to count votes. Brazil, for example, uses devices not too much different from those proposed by this inititative. In fact Unisys has experience supplying this technology to several other countries.

    Computers offer some real advantages compared to doing this by hand, as long election experience has shown. Hand marked ballots are subject to various interpitations by the all too human counters, and in the case of very close elections can be subject to great dispute. A correctly designed computer system offers the ability to make a positive re-affirmation as part of the vote process - push the button, and on the screen it might say "Did your REALLY want to vote for George W. Bush"?

    This would make a terrific reduction in both voter error and remove pretty much all ambiguity from the process of placing a vote.
  • If microsofts involved, they will have to change the slogan "Rock the vote!" to "Hack the vote!". Microsoft wouldn't know a secure operating system if it jumped up and bit them in the arse. I see an election full of BSOD (blue screen of death) and stack overflows. I certainly wouldn't trust any election where they were involved.
  • Jesse Ventura has been quoted many times as saying that he wouldn't take that job - He hates the concept of the career politician, and believes that nobody should be allowed to serve more than one term in ANY office. After he's done as governor, he promises he intends to resign.

    Of course, if he does not keep that promise, that's a sure sign that he's eminently qualified to be a politician in Amerika.
  • Ballots are machine counted it's true.

    It's based on the mistaken claim that it eliminates human error.

    Unfortunately, human error will always come into play in an election.

    The Voters are human.
    The candidates are (presumably) human.
    The designers of the ballots are human.
    The builders of the vote tally machines are human.

    Therefore, it's impossible to eliminate human error. In fact, machines merely *automate* the process of human error.

    That's what I have to say to all those fucking republican assholes who were saying it would be unfair to recount the vote because of the element of human error. Duh, mutherfuckers, the statisticians figured that shit out many years ago.
  • The Quebec referrendum was just about as close, and if there were errors in counting the wishes of a separatist movement, the result could have been far worse.

    IIRC it was somewhere around 49.99% vs 50.01%. The results were instantaneous. I do not know if they used similar procedures as the municipal or federal system.

  • Folks, get on the phone to your congresscritter, write letters, whatever...

    One addition to this: Please concentrate your efforts on you STATE reps. Since this is more of a state issue, they'll have more power when it comes to actually making a decision.
  • what's worse, is that they THINK they invented beer and cars. (er - automobiles).
  • In the end, there was nothing wrong with the current voting machines. The problem was with the voters. Rather than spend millions on this, why not spend a small percentage of that on a public awareness campain to educate voters to not be so stupid in the future.

    Here are some items to be presented in this campain...

    - Voting is an awesome responsibility. Don't take it lightly.

    - When you get a sample ballot in the mail, read it, don't ignore it. If you don't understand something on it, you should ask the local elections department. You have plenty of time to do this BEFORE the election. Don't wait until you're in the booth.

    - Don't complain about the percentage of "undervotes" in your county after the election when the percentage was really no different than is has been in other past elections. You have the right to raise these issues with the local election department BEFORE the election.

    - Know where the polling place is. Go there BEFORE the election so you know where it is. If you're unable or unwilling to drive or otherwise transport yourself, just ask for help. There are MANY volunteers willing to help get people to the polling place.

    - DO NOT make decisions on whether or not to vote, or who to vote for, based on exit polls and news reports. Those reports can be flawed.

    There. Drive these points into the minds of voters and save millions on updating equipment.

    -S
  • Of course Joe CEO gets more face-time with the Pres.

    George Bush met last week with the CEOs of the nations top 30 companies - to supposedly get a ground-level view of the economy.

    Gee, when do *I* get my private, closed-door meeting with George Bush to tell him what I think of the economy? Where *I* think the tax-breaks should be directed? What *I* think about the death-penalty, church-state separation issues, education, defense, social security?

    Hm. I guess I have to keep climbing that corporate ladder, don't I?
  • ...President: Bill Gates
    ...Vice President: Michael Dell

    What a coincidence. And, they weren't even on the ballot!

    -b
  • It's a good chance for Russians to hack into the voting system with the same loophole hacked M$ before and elect a dumb president. - No recount!

    Solution? Use framerelay, or any other switched ATM system.

    Heck - use a modem to call a home system, instead of an internet connection, and use caller ID to make sure that only authorized systems even get the modem to pick up on the receiving end.

    Simon
  • After Microsoft has been directly responsible for disabled battleships, countless security holes (need I remind you why the Army's servers went Mac?), and general screwups because of depressingly low-quality software, the government would go back to them for something this important?

    I'm not going to say who should be the builders of something like this, because I'm not certain who should, but clearly Microsoft should be among the last people the government should want to do this.

    Great; so now we'll have machine counts that are so unreliable we'll have to go through this crap of endless recounting every four years, because hand-counting actually will be more reliable and less error/tamper-prone than Microsoft's stuff.

    Of course, given that this is a government thing, perhaps it would be possible to demand the source code under FOIA? It'd be sad if this were the only way to get at it, but this is one of those things where the source absolutely must be made public.
    ----------
  • by Shoeboy (16224) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @08:32PM (#513120) Homepage
    This is so cool!
    I need to go refresh my collection of rootkits.
    I'll show George W. Bush that he's not the only one who can rig an election.
    --Shoeboy
  • There is a flaw with many proposed electronic voting systems. It is not a techical problem per se, it is a problem inherent in the design.

    There are many voting systems. For example, punching a card of some sort that is later tallied by a group of people. I personally, for all of the problems with this system, trust it more than most electronic systems.

    Why is that? The answer is that electronic systems are centralized. One could say that the other systems are too, but with an electronic voting system one person can serepitiously alter the results in a way that will be guarenteed to change the final count. In other systems, one person may miscount on purpose, but it is (usually) likely not to have any outcome on who is chosen as the winner.

    On the other hand, one crafty person on the inside of an electronic tallying system could simply press a few buttons and automatically have every fifth vote for person X go to person Y.

    Could it happen?

    Conspiracy theory time!
  • I sort of abide by the policy that if he doesn't really want it, he might be the better choice :)

    I've seen what these guys that REALLY want it do. :)

  • by Hard_Code (49548) on Friday January 12, 2001 @06:07AM (#513129)
    Well, here's my letter...before I fire it off, anything obviously wrong or stupid?

    Dear sir,

    I am a software engineer employed in New York state. This morning, I
    read on Reuters a report that Unisys Corp., Dell Computer Corp., and
    Microsoft Corp., are teaming up to develop an electronic voting system.
    Dell Computer Corp. is the number two PC manufacturer in the United States,
    and Microsoft produces the de facto standard computer operating system
    software, "Windows", used worldwide, and is currently in hot water with the
    DOJ. I suggest that proprietary computer and software companies which
    have large shares, if not monopolies, in their sector, may not be the
    best entities to entrust with inventing a secure, fair, open, and
    accountable electronic voting system.

    In my opinion, both professional and personal, such a system is best
    developed under a Free Software/Open Source model. I refer you to
    descriptions of Free Software,
    http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html, and Open Source,
    http://www.opensource.org/osd.html.

    Loosely, Free/Open-Source software is distributed under a license
    which guarantees the freedom of people to obtain and inspect the source
    code of such software. I believe only with this freedom of inspection
    can we ever trust that software does what its originators claims it does.
    Obviously this would be of utmost importance in an electronic voting
    system. Furthermore, Free/Open-Source software has the additional
    benefit of allowing many people to verify that the software is free of
    bugs and performs as expected. This has the side effect of producing
    software which is frequently more reliable and robust than software which
    is developed behind proprietary curtains. Much of the infrastructure of
    the internet is based on such Free/Open-Source software. Recently the
    operating system Linux, also developed under this model, has been
    receiving a good amount of attention and accolades.

    Lastly I would like to point out that such a Free/Open-Source software
    system for electronic voting already exists: FREE, "Free Referenda and
    Elections Electronically": http://www.thecouch.org/free/. I am sure
    there are other such Free/Open-Source projects.

    As a professional, the practical benefits of Free/Open-Source software
    are apparent to me. But as a citizen, I believe the social and ethical
    benefits to state operated systems are paramount, and I could never
    entirely trust with my vote, software whose source code I, or a trusted
    party, cannot inspect. I kindly suggest that research into electronic
    voting systems explore Free/Open-Source software possibilities.


  • Yes, Interbase has a backdoor. But as a friend of mine said, we know where that backdoor is, and can nail 2x4's over it, and the next release will come with the 2x4's already in place. Could be worse. He coulda said M$ SQL Server 7. Or some other proprietary server.

    --
    If you want to end the war and stuff, you've gotta sing LOUD.
    --Arlo Guthrie, "Alice's Restaurant"

  • > - why not go with a system like Canada's? Simple X in a box, hand counted, done in a few hours, no ambiguities, no problems

    Not just Canada's. Actually, everywhere else in the world, they do it like that too. It's actually the US that is the exception, not the other way round.

  • by firewort (180062) on Friday January 12, 2001 @06:41AM (#513183)
    IBM declined to get involved in voting mechanisms in the 50's under Thomas J Watson, and declined again this past year, when Lou V Gerstner was approached about the matter.

    Voting is too important, and IBM has always chosen to keep their hands clean of ethical quandries, where possible. Besides, it's bad for business if fraud is committed on your machines.

    What are the ramifications here? That if fraud is committed on a MS box, all /. will say, "yes, we knew it would happen, " the rest of the world will say "How could this happen?" and because MS is ubiquitous, it won't really hurt their bottom line, proving that they are a monopoly, regardless of what Judge Jackson's pursuit of them results in.

    A host is a host from coast to coast, but no one uses a host that's close
  • If there is one single thing that I have learned about security is this... There is none.

    If you want it safe, you dont want an electronic method like that. The more people involved, the more it (at least appears to) lessens the chance of seriously tainted results.

    They shouldnt object to an open audit of the code, seeing how there isnt this huge demand for US Election Wizard 2.0, and they wouldnt have to worry about competitors.

    I can honestly say that if I was involved in the project, and had access to the data in anyway, I would at the very least consider the idea of fixing the results.

  • by FFFish (7567) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @09:01PM (#513198) Homepage
    To elucidate on this point a bit further, Canada's system *works.* We might not like the results (and who does? Inevitably, a politician is elected. Seems a rather unfair consequence, really.), but it works.

    Voting centres are set up most anywhere that there's adequate floor space: generally, gymnasiums and halls. A greeter asks to see your voter registration card, and then directs you to the appropriate tables; a wholly unnecessary step, because the tables are clearly marked with a pair of letters that indicate what range of names ("Aa"rdvark to "Bo"gart, etc) they're taking.

    Being Canadian, you line up nice and neatly, and patiently await your turn to vote. Pushing ahead in the line, or making catcalls at a particularly slow voter, would be un-Canadian, and we'd all have to scowl at you and possibly mutter under our breath.

    Once you get to your voting table, you're greeted by at least two, and perhaps three, volunteers. They're from opposing parties, to keep each other honest.

    One of them takes your voter registration card and scratches your name from the master list. The other waits until that process is complete, and then tears a voter card from a booklet. You're then instructed, using the same words you heard given the previous voter, on how to clearly and properly mark the card. The volunteer pre-folds the card and hands it to you.

    A short cardboard booth is set up at the end of the table. You can see over it, but no one can actually see what you're marking down. It's a little discomfiting; seems to me that last time, our booths completely hid us from sight.

    The voting ballot has a black background. 1.25cm (that's half-inch, in obsolete terms) white strips line the page. In each strip, printed large, is the name of the candidate and their party affiliation. Directly beside the white strip, to the right, is a white circle.

    The names are in alphabetical order, last name first, first name last. You place a mark across from the candidate you want to elect. Because each region elects only a single Member of Parliment, you only mark off one circle.

    You fold the card, and fold over the retaining flap, so that the card doesn't flop over. You hand the card to the volunteer, who makes sure that the flap is secure, and then drops it into the vote box as you watch. I believe there's every chance that the volunteer asks if you marked off one, and only one, candidate.

    And away you go, happy to have participated in a futile ceremony that will surely see no real changes made to the social, political or economic fabric of the country. No, I'm not bitter. Not at all.

    After the polls close, the volunteers dump the votes out on the table and begin counting them. There's a paid overseer with a big bullwhip that makes sure they do the job quickly and correctly. Quite possibly, there are plenty of party representatives watching over the vote-counting process.

    There are no pregnant, well-hung, dimpled chads. There's either a clear mark in one circle, or there's an invalid ballot. The count goes quickly. All the ballots go into a lockbox, for safeguarding.

    I suspect that only the Australians have a better system, and that only because it seems that their elections office is self-supporting, because it does such a fine job that it contracts itself out to provincial, municipal, union and other votes.

    The American system, on the other hand, is appallingly asinine.

    --
  • by me.at.work (249034) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @09:03PM (#513226)
    "It looks like you are trying to rig the election, do you need help?"

  • by fortunetroll (303786) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @08:53PM (#513254)
    Microsoft is well known for producing top of the line quality software and is well respected around the industry as well as unanimously praised in all forums as being the saviours of mankind and the leaders of the free world.

    You better start believing it, boy... they run the elections.

    On Monday mornings I am dedicated to the proposition that all men are created jerks. -- H. Allen Smith, "Let the Crabgrass Grow"
  • by Malc (1751) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @09:14PM (#513264)
    It has nothing to do with size. The Canadian system scales very well to Britain with twice the population. They too normally have the counts finished in one evening/night. It's because the counting occurs in parallel. It's the old divide and conquer approach.
  • by FFFish (7567) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @09:21PM (#513270) Homepage
    The residents of Nunavut voted on the name "Bob," but the government told them that that name wasn't allowed. So, yes, now they're Nunavut, and, yes, they are "created."

    It seems to me that the USA has an orderly system of schools, despite having ten times the population of Canada. Is there any reason the school gymnasium couldn't be used as a polling station for the immediate area?

    You see, the key to success hasn't anything to do with size: it's to do with having the polling stations a reasonable size.

    My town's main polling station had about a dozen tables set up. Even if *every* person in this town--including children--were to have voted at this station (but we had three), each table would have processed only 2500 people during the day. It'd take well under and hour-and-a-half to tally those votes.

    The hand-counted ballots aren't a problem: the USA can do that.

    The problem is with a godawful ballot design, voter registration irregularities, voters being hassled by The Man while heading to the polling station, ballots lockboxes being lost, etcetera, etcetera.

    Fixing the ballots would be a first, and probably small, step in fixing the tragicomically broken US election system.

    --
  • by llywrch (9023) on Friday January 12, 2001 @07:42AM (#513294) Homepage Journal
    Take a look at

    http://snopes2.com/business/genius/spacepen.htm

    Geoff
  • by TrevorB (57780) on Thursday January 11, 2001 @10:46PM (#513296) Homepage
    Speaking of space...

    The following was posted frequently to sci.space for the past 10+ years. I'm uncertain of it's origin. Perhaps it's relevant here...

    During the heat of the space race in the 1960's, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration decided it needed a ball point pen to write in the zero gravity confines of its space capsules. After considerable research and development, the Astronaut Pen was developed at a cost of about $1 million U.S. The pen worked and also enjoyed some modest success as a novelty item back here on Earth.

    The Soviet Union, faced with the same problem, used a pencil.

No user-servicable parts inside. Refer to qualified service personnel.

Working...