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United States Government Politics

Florida to Scrap Touch Screen Voting? 221

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the dangling-chads dept.
AlHunt writes "Florida Governor Charlie Crist is calling on the Florida Legislature to spend $30M to replace the troublesome touch screen voting machines with an optical scan system that allows a voter to mark an oval next to a candidate's name before slipping a ballot into an electronic reader."
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Florida to Scrap Touch Screen Voting?

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  • by Harmonious Botch (921977) on Friday February 02, 2007 @01:46AM (#17855306) Homepage Journal
    ...because I know it when I see it.
    • I can now predict the winner of the 2008 presidential race is Al Gore (or other Democrat, preferably Gore).
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Near the end of that special the Supervisor of Elections for Leon County Florida (Tallahassee) did a demo trial of their optical-scan machines and allowed hacker Harri Hursti to supply the memory card for the demo. Mr. Hursti had discovered that there was a hook for executable code in the memory card, which is certainly a serious problem as you probably realize. Of course, the election was completely hacked (go watch the video, it's on Google Video) using a randomly selected optical scan machine made by D
  • by symbolic (11752) on Friday February 02, 2007 @01:51AM (#17855326)
    I think one is certainly due - faulty, unreliable equipment that failed to deliver as promised.
    • by SeaFox (739806) on Friday February 02, 2007 @02:21AM (#17855512)
      Are we talking about the voting equipment or the candidates on the ballot?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 02, 2007 @02:40AM (#17855614)
      "I think one is certainly due - faulty, unreliable equipment that failed to deliver as promised."

      You say this as if it were uncommon for a government contract.

      +1 Sad.
    • I really really really don't get what is so difficult about voting machines. It's just a series of accumulating registers. The user touches this button, this register gets incremented. At the end of the election you print out the totals. Maybe instead of Diebold we need to just get HP, Casio or Texas Instruments to design these things... I never had these problems with my calculator.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        At the end of the election you print out the totals.

        Printing out the totals at the end isn't really good enough. How do you re-count a total? You don't. I want to see it marked who I voted-for, on the piece of paper, and I want all of those pieces of paper retained for several months after the election so that they can be re-counted by optical scanners and by hand, if necessary.

      • by Intron (870560) on Friday February 02, 2007 @11:07AM (#17858810)
        • What about power outages?
        • What about machine breakdowns or corrupted data?
        • What about aligning the display with the touch input?
        • What about making sure totals aren't added twice?
        • What about making sure totals aren't skipped?
        • What about preventing people from voting twice?

        Anyway, it's about time we got rid of the fiction of "one person, one vote". Just put the candidates on eBay and let people bid on them. Give every voter a certain amount of toy money to select the candidates they want. They can either put $10 on every candidate they like, or put it all on the presidential candidate, or split it any way they want. When the auctions close, the highest bid candidate in each race wins. This makes the most sense in a capitalist, market-driven society like the US.
      • by plover (150551) * on Friday February 02, 2007 @11:18AM (#17858988) Homepage Journal
        The difficulty is not in the machines, but in the very idea of the machines. It's all about the concept of "trust". Sure, the machines have some code just to paint a couple of boxes marked "John Jackson" and "Jack Johnson", and some more code to count button clicks. But how do you, the voter, know what happened in the mind of the machine? What assurance do you have that when you clicked "John Jackson" that the accumulators for Jack Johnson weren't accidentally or deliberately incremented? You have none.

        The short answer is that without the machine producing a physical token (usually in the form of a printed receipt) representing your vote, you don't know. More importantly, you can't know. Any screen you can see assuring you that the machine is perfect can be faked. Promises that the code is perfect are based on inspections and testing, not mathematical proofs. Even if they were, how would you know that they weren't being faked? A bad guy could always replace the program with one of his own that paints a copy of the official "Seal of Assurance" screen.

        There are some difficult-for-the-common-man-to-understand signature schemes that could offer more confidence that the program is honestly the one that is supposed to be present, but none of those are in place; even if they were, they can only provide assurance that the program is the one that was signed. They do not offer proof that the code actually works properly.

        As I said, physical tokens are the only way to ensure the machines are working accurately. After the election, you count tokens and compare them to the accumulators. But if you have to go as far as producing and counting tokens, why not simply vote by token instead? It's worked for thousands of years, it's as cheap as a pencil and paper, and everybody capable of voting can understand it. You can even count the tokens by machine if you're in a hurry, as long as you can count them manually to prove the machines are honest.

        There's a reason Americans vote in November but the politicians don't take office until January. It's to give time to count the votes and certify the elections. Nothing in our laws requires the T.V. news to inform us of the election results within 15 minutes of the polls closing. That's a fabrication that sprung up recently, and has nothing to do with democracy.

      • Your calculator can easily be checked for accuracy at any time and any place. Voting machines only have to fake it long enough to get into the election.

        Here in Virginia we've used paper optical-scan ballots for years, and I've never figured out how those grotesquely overpriced, overcomplicated touch screen machines could possibly be seen as better. Sure, no system is perfect, but marks on paper can always be recounted in different machines and even hand-counted.

        It was always a no-brainer in my opinion. F
  • by GodInHell (258915) * on Friday February 02, 2007 @01:53AM (#17855338) Homepage
    Oh right, poll worker says: Democrats use blue ink, Republicans use pencils.

    Hmm.. here's a thought - why don't we give out slips of paper with the names of the candidates on them, then you CIRCLE your candidate.. and then (get this) PEOPLE count up the ballots. Woah.. and SOOO much more expensive right?

    -GiH
    • by gfxguy (98788)
      You're being facetious, right? All the man hours and propensity for mistakes? And you think it'd be cheaper than card readers?

      With card readers, at least when democrats win, we won't have to recount.
      • by GodInHell (258915) *
        Most election workers are volunteers - free. Regardless, most recount laws (flordia's included) require hand recounts.

        And no, I'm serious - this is how they count votes in canada still.

        -GiH
    • by Excelcia (906188) <kfitzner@excelcia.ca> on Friday February 02, 2007 @02:37AM (#17855604) Homepage Journal
      Canada's last federal election used machine-read paper. A sheed of paper with circles you mark an X in. They are put in an envelope you can't see through, then given to the election official who feeds the paper into a reader. You get a green light if the machine was able to read your vote, at which point the paper is sucked into the lock box in case a manual recount is needed. If it didn't read it, it is spat back out and you are given the option of destroying the ballot and getting a new one.

      A certain number of polling stations in each area randomly have their machines opened and their electronic count matched against a manual count. If they are off by one, the entire district is manually counted.

      All in all, this is the best voting system I have ever seen. Quietly implemented, without a fuss. Designed by people who are more interested in an accurate, quick, efficient system than they are interested in partisan politics or winning contracts for their favourite corporation.

      I love living here.
      • by dfenstrate (202098) * <`moc.liamg' `ta' `etartsnefd'> on Friday February 02, 2007 @02:41AM (#17855618)
        We do a very similar thing here in New Hampshire except you put the sheet in the scanner yourself and the election officials are nearby.

        Eliminating the election official's handling of a marked ballot reduces the opportunity they have to mess with it. No sleight of hand tricks are even remotely possible.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by raehl (609729)
          Eliminating the election official's handling of a marked ballot reduces the opportunity they have to mess with it. No sleight of hand tricks are even remotely possible.

          Nor necessary. Who do you think handles the scanners?
        • by vtcodger (957785)
          ***We do a very similar thing here in New Hampshire***

          Likewise in this part of Vermont. Seems to work fine.

          But the liklihood that the mudheads who dominate American politics are going to look to small rural New England states, much less to Canada for viable solutions to problems seems to be close to zero. I mean, why use proven technology when you can have Diebold quality for just a few dollars more?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by cmacb (547347)
        "Quietly implemented, without a fuss."

        That's your problem right there. You Canadians don't have enough clueless gadflys hanging all over the process. Here, take some of ours, PLEASE!
      • In the end the only way I see electronic voting working is in an object oriented fashion. There is a scanned ballot that you can fill out by hand, or you can have the machine fill it out for you. It's humanly readable and the vote counts when it get sucked into the vote counting machine.

        The issue that touch screen was supposed to solve was that blind people can not vote in privacy. All the touch screen machines were supposed to have a audio link that would read the ballot to you. and allow you to vote usi

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dfenstrate (202098) *
      There is no need to discuss your political leanings with poll workers so your point is... well, you don't have a point.

      Everyone in the country should have filled out a scantron sheet by now. The technology is widespread and decades old. Filling in a little dot next to the one person you want to vote for is as simple as it gets.

      Circling isn't (as) machine countable and since the boundaries for marking your vote aren't pre-defined there is room for interpretation after the fact. We don't want room for interpr
      • There is no need to discuss your political leanings with poll workers

        That is true in the 'final' election, but here in Florida we have 'closed primaries'. When you registered to vote, you chose a party (I guess N/A is an option). When you show up at the polls, the poll worker looks-up your party affiliation, so that they know which ballot to give you. Only Dems get to vote for Dems, only Reps get to vote for Reps.

        One exception: if the primary is going to decide the election (e.g. 2 Reps running for do

      • by GodInHell (258915) *

        Everyone in the country should have filled out a scantron sheet by now. The technology is widespread and decades old. Filling in a little dot next to the one person you want to vote for is as simple as it gets.

        No. Everyone in the country above a certain age will have filled out a scantron by now. Just to remind you, Florida is the retirement state... they have more older citizens than nerarly any other state (though I hear AZ is catching up). Many of these people may not have ever encountered a scantron.

        As for identifying a democrat.. it's really not that hard. Part of the fiasco that was 2000 was the felons list - they used very wide terms (first or last name match + doB, same person) to select large numbers o

    • I'm with GodinHell (Score:5, Insightful)

      by chocolatetrumpet (73058) <slashdot@jonCHIC ... t.com minus city> on Friday February 02, 2007 @03:38AM (#17855906) Homepage Journal
      The counting of votes must be observed by humans. Since people can't see electrons moving, no electronic vote counting should ever take place.

      I'm willing to wait for election results. Isn't that a worthwhile price for democracy?
      • What good is observability if you neglect accuracy to get it?
        • by Jeremi (14640)
          What good is observability if you neglect accuracy to get it?

          100% accuracy isn't necessary ... if there are random mistakes made, there will be about as many mistakes made in one party's favor as another's, and in the end they will more or less cancel each other out. Given a large enough number of votes, the mistakes will be statistically insignificant.

          Much more worrisome is the possibility of fraud -- that's why observability is so important. It needs to be verifiably obvious to all parties that the coun

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ajs318 (655362)
        Exactly.

        Mere observability isn't enough. You can add LEDs that light up to show processes working, but it still misses the point that what is "observable" is only an indirect representation. Manual counting has the advantage of being Universally Comprehensible. Any school leaver with passing grades can understand how it works. Not to mention that it's scalable, parallelisable and verifiable.

        Each candidate's representative at the count counts "their" ones from the pile. Then they pass their papers t
    • by glenrm (640773)
      People make mistakes. The optically scanned ballots are used here in Seminole County, FL. You probably haven't seen Seminole County in the news even in 2000, because with optically scanned ballot you get a quick count and a paper trail, the best of both worlds. Our new Gov. is off to a quick start, we seem to have picked a smart guy who want to get it right. Luckily we didn't get hung up on the fact that he is single and all that other stuff...
  • by ScentCone (795499) on Friday February 02, 2007 @01:59AM (#17855372)
    I mean, we all know that Florida voters have a perfect track record of meaningfully, unambiguously, carefully, and thoughtfully placing a mark next to the right name. Yes, the scanner will kick out the badly marked ones... but I seem to recall they've been down that road before. What they hell is wrong with touch screen machines with a spit-out paper trail? Yeesh.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Gnavpot (708731)

      What they hell is wrong with touch screen machines with a spit-out paper trail? Yeesh.

      Are you saying that the machines in questions actually makes such a paper trail?

      The article says the opposite (Given the last sentence in the quote below, I assume that "card" means some kind of electronic data card):
      "In a touch screen system, a voter receives a card and inserts it into an ATM-like machine and touches the screen to record choices. The card is sent to the supervisor of elections, where the choices are do

      • by ScentCone (795499)
        Are you saying that the machines in questions actually makes such a paper trail?

        No. I'm saying that if you don't like your (paper-trail-less) touch-screen machines, totally abandoning them for a fill-in-the-circle-and-scan system seems less useful than bolting on some print-out-paper-trail hardware on your existing fleet of touch screen platforms. And I think it matters because, as I noted, the touch screen systems help get you around the problems of parallax, or much of the confusion that landed Pat Buc
        • the touch screen systems help get you around the problems of parallax, or much of the confusion that landed Pat Buchannon so many votes in 2000.

          The optical-scan machines can also prevent the Buchanan problem. The biggest problem was people voting for Gore and Buchanan for President (the layout of the ballot was confusing and illegal). All of the optical-scan machines that I have heard of will automatically kick-back your ballot with an error message, if you vote for two different candidates for the same

    • It's the principle of KISS. Keep it simple & stupid.

      The voting paper trail and the tallying method are the same with bubble sheets. The touch screens are an unnecessary complexity.

      Any unnecessary complexity invites defects and abuse.
      • by will_die (586523)
        But touch screen give one major advantage, you can change your mind or correct an answer.
        With the bubbles or punch you run ballots that have bubbles not fully ereased or the infamous dimpled chads.
        • That's why there are extras. Take the sheet to an election official and get a new one.

          How precisely to handle erronous ballots is something open to debate but you can change your mind up to the moment you feed the ballot into the machine.
        • by ajs318 (655362)
          There has to come a point where your choice is made irrevocably. With hand-counted paper ballots, you have ample opportunity to study the names before writing a figure "1" next to your favourite, then a bit longer to choose your second-favourite, and so forth. If you make a mistake, you ask the presiding officer for another ballot paper. The spoiled one is kept; and at the close of proceedings, the number of spoiled papers handed in should exactly match the number of "extras" handed out.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Because another problem with the touch screens was that they frequently failed to work properly. So having it continue to print out the wrong answers wouldn't really have been that helpful.

      I definitely agree with your point, but the fact is that ANY voting system will have potential areas of failure. However, the lower-tech the system is, the less likely that the error will be due to the technology (still leaves the possibility of voter error - that's unavoidable). The fill-in-the-bubble followed by an i
    • by darkonc (47285)

      What they hell is wrong with touch screen machines with a spit-out paper trail? Yeesh.

      People had problems with the touch screens reacting in strange ways and sometimes not accepting votes for certain candidates, etc.

      With an OCR system, even if the computer melts down, you can go ahead with the vote, and (as long as the paper ballot is designed properly), you have clear knowledge of what a voter wanted to mark.... At that point, the computer simply becomes a method of providing a quick vote result, rather than a possible bottleneck in the system.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ajs318 (655362)

      What they hell is wrong with touch screen machines with a spit-out paper trail?

      What's right with them?

      If the journal printer is hidden from public view, then there's no way to be sure that the printed vote matches your actual vote. If there is an observation window between the print head and the take-up spool, so you can see your vote before it winds up into the bowels of the machine, that's still not much better, and you don't know for sure your vote hasn't been changed. (Maybe if the take-up spool wa

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by mhall119 (1035984)

      I mean, we all know that Florida voters have a perfect track record of meaningfully, unambiguously, carefully, and thoughtfully placing a mark next to the right name.
      In the 2000 election recount, counties who already had these optical mark scanners where the ones that didn't have any problems.
      • by ScentCone (795499)
        In the 2000 election recount, counties who already had these optical mark scanners where the ones that didn't have any problems.

        My point was that there were plenty of people using things like the butterfly ballots that had NO problem mechanically dealing with the ballot, they just couldn't RTFM and put the mark next to the name the wanted. It just speaks to the poor cognitive skills involved. Touch screen makes that harder to do wrong... but then, people too dumb to handle ANY of the ballot methods in pl
  • by davidwr (791652) on Friday February 02, 2007 @02:08AM (#17855420) Homepage Journal
    Remember the old punch-card machines coders used 30 years ago?
    You could punch them out with a punching machine or with a single-hole punch, it didn't matter.

    Do the same with ballots:

    Let people fill in an optical scan ballot by hand OR give them a touch screen that will mark the ballot for them.


    You get all the advantages of the touch-screen, including multiple languages, different ballots in the same polling place, accessibility for the blind and disabled, and more and you keep the advantages of optical-scan ballots, including a voter-verified paper ballot and a way to vote if the electricity goes out.
    • I have to agree. When I taught classes and tested using a Scantron we had the problem of people marking the bubbles incorrectly. Does circling the bubble count? Does circling the candidates name but not the bubble count? Does underlining the bubble count? If putting an x in a bubble counts instead of filling it in completely, then what happens when someone changes their mind and x'es out a bubble? Which x counts, the smaller one or the larger one they x'ed over multiple times? Does the x count or the filled
      • This would never work as it makes too much sense. My hometown in BFE Northwest Kansas used scontrons for voting as long as I can remember. They were easily counted electronically, but available for a hand recount. The method you describe would eliminate the bubble filling errors you mentioned. Sadly, to be "compliant with the state" the county now uses electronic voting machines that leave no paper trail. Funny thing is that they had to reorder new machines for the upcoming local primary because the ma
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by MindStalker (22827)
        I used to live in Tallahassee, and the they used the scantron system that the governor wants to implement. And I can say it is excellent. You fill out your ballot, then you walk over to the machine and feed it into the machine yourself. You then wait a second, the machine either gives you a green light or it spits the ballot out. If there is any confusion whatsoever in how you bubbled the sheet it will spit out the ballot so you have to fix it. In 2000 there was a manual recount of the ballots here and we w
    • by extagboy (60672)
      That idea is actually just about perfect. You have a touch screen machine of some sort that punches out the pre-printed voter card, sign it when you're done and feed it into the machine. As for the electricity, they could probably have locations with generators or something.

      Do they do anything like this in any of the states? I don't know what they use here as I've never voted (for my own reasons).
      • by magicchex (898936)
        You expect people to sign their votes? I guess since you're never voted (ie. cared about country ["for your own reasons"]) this seems normal to you.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by JimBobJoe (2758)
      Let people fill in an optical scan ballot by hand OR give them a touch screen that will mark the ballot for them.

      This technology does indeed exist [essvote.com] and is required in counties where optical scan ballot is used in order to comply with the disability requirements of HAVA.

      Hypothetically, of course, such a system could be used where everyone marks their ballot on such a device. I have not heard of a county that does it that way though.
    • A large part (all?) of Michigan uses systems like this. In Grand Rapids, where I worked as a poll worker last November, each precinct has one machine. Available interfaces include touchscreen, audio prompts, and sip-puff device. It's intended for people with disabilities, but there's no restriction on who can use it.
  • by vivian (156520) on Friday February 02, 2007 @02:16AM (#17855472)
    If it can be made to work reliably and securely, electronic voting is by far the best way to go as it offers the possibility of having a much more direct democracy instead of democracy-by-proxy as we have now.

    Consider this. You only get one vote every few years, which is then supposed to show your support for every decision your elected representative makes. It would be much better if you could vote on all the major issues, such as major bills, decisions to start wars, etc. With a physical based voting system though, it would be all but impossible to do this as the amount of effort to collect votes is enormous - hence we have political representatives we vote for who act as proxies for our wishes, and hopefully make decisions that the majority of the people would wish for. As we all know, this is often not the case. (eg. Copyright extention)

    Now that nearly everyone has a computer (in developed countries) or has easy access to one via internet cafe's, libraries, etc. then imagine what it would be like if you could directly vote (via te internet) on bills such as say, the patriot act or extending copyright, instead of having to depend on some guy to make that vote for you? Apart from anything else, it would take a lot of the current power away from special interest lobby groups (read:big business), as they would have to convince a large slice of the population on how to vote, instead of a small group of senators etc. You would still need a body of lawmakers to put forward bills and propositions, but the general public would have much greater control over the acceptance or rejection of those bills.

    The challenge of course would be:
    1) ensuring everyone only got one vote, (say, through the use of a hardware keygen or something) and
    2) your votes remain anonymous. I don't personally believe this is as valuable as being able to vote on every bill, and would happily sacrifice a little theoretical anonymity for a more direct democracy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Telvin_3d (855514)
      At one time I strongly agreed with this position. That time was for about 2 weeks in high school before I paid much attention to the actual process of government. The reason we have representative government instead of direct democracy is because keeping up with issues and bills is a full time job for an entire staff of people. I am sure you feel qualified to vote on a handful of issues that are close to your heart, but what about the other 99.9% of thing going on? What about the really boring stuff that al
      • by vivian (156520) on Friday February 02, 2007 @04:09AM (#17856052)
        You raise some valid concerns, but lets look at them:
        . I am sure you feel qualified to vote on a handful of issues that are close to your heart, but what about the other 99.9% of thing going on?
        Do you really hold your fellow countrymn in such low regard?
        I agree that no-one is likely to have the right answers for all issues, but isn't that already the case with existing legislators? How often have we heard about bills being barely read before they are voted on, or questioned the knowledge of lawmakers on issues we hold dear - like so many technology oriented pieces of legislation (say, for spam laws)? Even the lawmakers aer not infallible, and I don't think that the public would do that much worse on voting on these issues themselves. Sure, there may be some poor decisions made, but they would be OUR poor decisions, not those thrust upon us by a small group who may have been unduly influenced by lobbyists etc. After a year or so of finding out that actually you can't have free schooling AND no tax, I think pople would start taking a lot more interest in the process, and start making more appropriate decisions.

        If a politician tosses out a bill and says 'vote for it and you will get more money' while ignoring the costs, do you really think that enough people will vote against it?
        I think that this is not as likely as you would think - for the same reason that we don't automatically vote for a politician that promises say, huge tax cuts or free money for everyone - there are enough voters who know that such promises are unfulfillable or unsustainable, so we don't vote that way.

        The founding fathers didn't have everything right to start with - after all, they didnt think women were fit to vote at all (along with the rest of the world) , yet in the intervening time we have decided that mabey women can vote sensibly after all. One of the main resons you need so many intervening steps though, is the imposibility of collecting and counting votes by hand - you HAVE to have proxies when you don't have a means of hearing the voice of the people more often. This should no longer be the obstacle it was though, in this age of communications.

        At the very least, even if we can't vote on every bill we should be able to directly show our support/non-support for a bill - electronic lobbying for the masses, if you will.

        • we don't automatically vote for a politician that promises say, huge tax cuts or free money for everyone

          Lots of politicians campaign on a platform of "bringing home the bacon" (sending Federal dollars back to pork projects in their home state) and it works -- they're elected. It's distressing but true.

      • by Stiletto (12066)

        If nobody knows about these bills, then they are probably not important, and don't deserve to be made into laws to begin with. This is why I'd support a direct democracy with every non-vote considered a "no". This would mean that only the very, very important issues that people feel strongly about ever get elevated into the law.

        I'd also like to see an automatic 10-year sunset on every law on the books, applied retroactively.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "2) your votes remain anonymous. I don't personally believe this is as valuable as being able to vote on every bill, and would happily sacrifice a little theoretical anonymity for a more direct democracy."

      Read your history books again. The US became a republic for a reason. Pure democracy degenerates into rule by rabble and oppression of minorities, unless the subset of voters is relatively small (See Athens).

      Anonymous voting helps prevent coercion and vote buying. Imagine losing your job because you voted
      • by vivian (156520)
        Pure democracy degenerates into rule by rabble and oppression of minorities, unless the subset of voters is relatively small (See Athens).
        Do you have a reference, I'd be interested to read about it. (does Athens refer to democracy in ancient Greece?)

        if I recall, the US became a republic because it didn't want to be a monarchy?

        I certainly don't advocate having a public list of how you voted available for all to read. Your vote should be as anonymous as possible, but just like your fingerprints/skin cells on
    • The challenge of course would be:
      1) ensuring everyone only got one vote, (say, through the use of a hardware keygen or something)


      Ahh yes, because digital electronic security is something the human race is capable of.

      Listen: Any time you introduce leverage into a voting system (like digital electronic vote counting, for example), that exact same leverage can be used to game the system.

      Let the vote be counted by human hands. I'm willing to wait for it. Who's with me?
    • by raehl (609729)
      It would be much better if you could vote on all the major issues, such as major bills, decisions to start wars, etc.

      I agree that it would be a drastic improvement if I got to vote on every major issue. It's letting everyone else vote where I think we might run into trouble.

      The only thing worse than George Bush running the country is a country full of people just like George Bush trying to run the country by committee.
    • by hxnwix (652290)

      it would take a lot of the current power away from special interest lobby groups (read:big business), as they would have to convince a large slice of the population on how to vote

      The special interests would only need to convince a majority of the people who happen to vote on a particular issue, and there would be a huge number of issues and an even larger number of votes. I worry that the present voting minority would further dwindle and I worry that, seeing as how they already often select very poor representatives every other year, their direct input on the vast but important minutiae of the legislature's day to day business would be even more incompetent.

      Perhaps if we limited v

      • by Jeremi (14640)
        How about a slightly different scheme? Instead of electing our leaders once every (n) years, we could have an election every day, or perhaps every week. Of course, doing that the traditional way would be completely impractical, so the elections would be held electronically, and for everyone who didn't vote in the election (read: most people, at least under normal circumstances), their votes from the previous election would be automatically carried over.

        That way we'd still have the benefits of representati

    • If it can be made to work reliably and securely, electronic voting is by far the best way to go as it offers the possibility of having a much more direct democracy instead of democracy-by-proxy as we have now.

      There's a very good reason direct democracy should never be allowed to happen: People are Idiots.

      The average joe knows nothing about the best practices of governance. As such, all you'll get with direct democracy is mob rule. The founders were well aware of this and tried to find the best way to

  • by gsfprez (27403) on Friday February 02, 2007 @02:21AM (#17855504)
    The ACLU fought against this exact kind of move in California - the use of paper ballots vs the use of electronic ballots - because according to them, electronic ballots are "twice as accurate" and the use of paper ballots would [cnn.com] disenfranchise voters [reason.com]. According to the left and the ACLU in 2003, "punch cards are unfit for use" [blogspot.com] and are all for electronic voting.

    i was there when they did this, and MAN... they were insistent that paper ballots go into the dustbin of history because of their error rates and their propensity to "confuse minority voters". Their words, not mine.

    So, i guess that the governor of Florida should get his lawyers ready for this... taking their state back into the dark ages...

    • As other people have pointed out, there is a compromise position: you could have electronic consoles to actually enter the vote, but which produce a paper receipt that's then put into a scanner to be counted. That way you get basically all the advantages of e-voting, with the benefits of optical-scan, but without having to have voters actually write anything on the cards. (Because, apparently, as a society we are incapable of writing and following simple instructions anymore. Not that this surprises me.)

      Paperless voting was a huge mistake, but touchscreen voting itself wasn't a bad idea. There's no need to get rid of the things from this very expensive experiment that we apparently conducted that worked, just the parts that didn't.
      • by zCyl (14362)

        As other people have pointed out, there is a compromise position: you could have electronic consoles to actually enter the vote, but which produce a paper receipt that's then put into a scanner to be counted. That way you get basically all the advantages of e-voting, with the benefits of optical-scan, but without having to have voters actually write anything on the cards. (Because, apparently, as a society we are incapable of writing and following simple instructions anymore. Not that this surprises me.)

        Wo

  • Touch screens, opticals ballots, retinal scanners, genetic typing... it doesn't matter what electronic system we decide is best and most foolproof. Because there will always be some fool who will allege that damn dirty "hackers" cheated their candidate out of winning.
  • by dfenstrate (202098) * <`moc.liamg' `ta' `etartsnefd'> on Friday February 02, 2007 @02:38AM (#17855608)
    What the Governor wants is exactly what we do here in New Hampshire.

    The tallying is instantaneous, the technology is proven (scantron tests in every school in the country) and the paper trail is there.

    If they ever want voting in Florida to cease being a national joke this is the way to do it.
  • ...stop people from voting, have a change of government. See what happens when you complain about the price of tea? Bring the US back to Monarch rule. Works for the British, if and when we don't vote, the backup system of government kicks in. We RAIG our governing process. Redundant Array Inexpensive Governments. When that kicks in we don't need to vote and life is simpler. If you're wondering why we don't use the backup then, its because it uses too much power.
    • +1 witty, +1 sarcastic and +1 insightful.
    • by ajs318 (655362)

      We RAIG our governing process. Redundant Array Inexpensive Governments.

      You mean like having two separate sets of Houses of parliament, with a Labour government in one and a Tory government in the other, and then everyone just chooses who they are going to pay their taxes to? If someone doesn't pay taxes to anyone, both governments get to gang up against them and hunt them down. Both governments also have to pitch in together for things like police, road-building and national defence (but a police office

  • by Dobeln (853794) on Friday February 02, 2007 @04:28AM (#17856142)
    Another option is the method used here in Sweden - the straight paper ballot, placed into an envelope, and then placed into the voting box by the voter him/her/itself, after officials check your name in the the voting register and eye your voter ID card (mailed out a few weeks earlier) and photo ID.

    Ballots are picked up by the voter outside of the voting booth (there is a table available with all flavors) or brought in yourself. (Parties usually mail out their ballots prior to the election). Also, major parties will have their people outside, handing out ballots. Alternatively, you can just vote write-in by spelling out the party name on a blank ballot. (This results in "The Donald Duck Party", etc. garnering a few votes every year... ;) )

    One envelope per election (regional, local, national, referendums, etc.)

    Pros: Very simple, very unambigous (no "hanging chads" possible), straight paper trail, etc. Electronic tampering virtually impossible. Voter identity is assured.

    Cons: Electoral secrecy compromised to some degree(although not fatally) if ballots stored out in the open. Sabotage against ballot storage is possible, and happens (I.e. snagging the ballots of "the enemy"). Voter ID requirements will garner cries of "voter suppression" from the usual suspects, not as TV-friendly (counting the votes takes some time).
    • by ex-geek (847495)
      Electoral secrecy compromised to some degree??? Now that is an understatement, unless I misunderstood something.

      So let me get this straight. If you take only one ballot from one party and no empty ballot, then that is what your vote will be? So party goons can easily check whether you voted for their party?

      Seems like your whole protection against election fraud seems to be based on the notion that swedish people are nice and fair-minded anyway and therefore wouldn't do anything bad.
      • by Dobeln (853794)
        "So let me get this straight. If you take only one ballot from one party and no empty ballot, then that is what your vote will be? So party goons can easily check whether you voted for their party?"

        Not "easily" - the ballot table is not under continous surveillance. Also, you can either just write in the party name on a blank ballot if you are especially secretive, alternatively take one of every ballot. Alternatively, you just bring your ballots with you from home (all major and some minor parties mail the
  • It's about time!

    Hopefully, this time, they'll get it right.

  • Just to set the stage for how bizarre Florida is for politics. Janet Reno ran against Jeb. My brother took a picture with her at an appearance at the Florida-Miami game and he said she smelled like moth balls.
  • An Optical Scan System certainly sounds like the way to go for all sorts of reasons. Around here, we call our Optical Scan System "eyeballs", but that's probably just one of those odd Australian language quirks.
  • Might it not be cheaper and simpler, and better for democracy in the long run, to replace the touchscreen voting machines with a number of heavy, opaque boxes, each having a lid which can be padlocked shut and in which is a single slot which can be covered with a flap and sealed with a wire seal; into which voters would drop pieces of paper, upon which they have written a number next to each candidate's name, for subsequent counting by hand in the presence of candidates and their representatives?
  • by seadd (530971) on Friday February 02, 2007 @07:32AM (#17856960) Homepage
    I don't understand why authorities in the US insist on using voting machines. From my experience, I worked several times as NGO election observer on voting sites in my country (Croatia), and we had no problem with getting all the paper ballots and counting them. On practically every voting site in the country, there were (beside government appointed members) one representative from each political party and one or more NGO observers. Each of us had the chance to review the site and ballot boxes prior to voting, see them sealed, be present during opening of the boxes and counting and recount them himself. Also, each of us had to sign the final report and any observed irregularities.
    I can assure that voting (at least on our site) was fair, since at the table were basically 7 people, and no two people there trusted each other:)
    With all that, we managed to count all 1000 ballots for our site within 2-3 hours, and all the ballots were counted at least three times. Such system, in country of 4 million people enables us to get 90% of the sites processed by midnight of the voting day. Further, all the ballots are kept for one year, available for anyone's request for recount. I don't believe it's much different in any European country.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rcastro0 (241450)
      Voting machines are simpler, faster, easier and, given enough
      honest thought, also safer against fraud and interpretation
      mistakes. If you think paper records are less falsifiable just
      put a paper-roll printer inside each voting machine, print on
      it and let the voter see, through a small glass windoes, what
      is printed for his vote in the serially numbered paper roll.
      But there are other ways if you think enough.

      One thing I wonder is whether cheaper voting transactions
      could not change the way voters participate in
    • by vtcodger (957785)
      ***I don't understand why authorities in the US insist on using voting machines.***

      Good question. I happen to know why Essex, Vermont switched to optically scanned ballots quite few years ago. (A relatively simple system that retains the ballots should a recount be needed and permits a manual count if the machine fails).

      The reason has to do with the mysterious disappearance of several thousand blank ballots during an election several decades ago. That doesn't sound like a lot, but since there were on

  • After all, they're "traditionally more accurate" than counting votes, or so we've been told...
  • Does it really matter if we elect a candidate who got 47% of the vote instead of what that got 48%? If we really want to fix the electoral system we need to figure out why the hell so many people voted for George W. Bush a second time after he screwed up so bad the first time. Everything else pales in comparison to that.

  • Where I live near Melbourne, Florida we have been using this system for a long time. The money must be to change the systems in the lower IQ areas of the state.
  • In Nebraska we have scantron sheets ... just like the SAT or ACT but with bigger bubbles and, barring a poorly written tax referendum, no algebra or geometry. They work fine, can be handcounted if needed (though I don't recall a time when they ever were), and everyone here seems intelligent enough to make use of them properly.
  • I could make a secure touch screen voting program in very little time. All you do is touch the name of who you want to vote for. How much easier could it be? I don't understand the need for all this bullshit. Optical scan machines? That is far more difficult than using a simple, well designed touch screen interface. Just touch the fucking name of the person you want to vote for!!! It really can get no more simple than this.
  • "with an optical scan system that allows a voter to mark an oval next to a candidate's name before slipping a ballot into an electronic reader."

    I don't know about the rest of Florida, but here in Volusia County that's exactly what's been in place since at least 2004.
  • Between the political hacks and cronies and the flat out retarded voters, it doesn't seem to matter how you tally the non-votes in Florida. I say they just put it up for a lottery.
  • best system in the world.

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