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Politics United States Government

WV Voters Say Machines Are Switching Votes 900

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the he-who-pays-diebold-wins dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Three Putnam County voters say electronic voting machines changed their votes from Democrats to Republicans when they cast early ballots last week. This is the second West Virginia county where voters have reported this problem. Last week, three voters in Jackson County told The Charleston Gazette their electronic vote for 'Barack Obama' kept flipping to 'John McCain.'"
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WV Voters Say Machines Are Switching Votes

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  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:20AM (#25527727)

    These machines are not "switching votes". They're just not.

    If the machines were "switching votes", they'd do it internally and secretly, and not make it look like they're putting checkmarks next to the wrong boxes. Especially since the voter isn't able to view a paper receipt.

    If I had to guess, the way the ballot is organized in terms of candidate ordering probably makes it easy or possible to look like you're pressing the right area, but the boxes and/or your perception of the boxes' location isn't perfectly aligned with the touch sensing elements. Because people are so sensitive to this issue, any errant touch among thousands of voters accidentally getting the wrong box VISIBLY checked, AND able to be corrected, is going to be interpreted as malice instead of (user) error. "When asked if she is sure she touched the box for Rockefeller, she said, 'I'm absolutely positive.'" Yeah, just like a lot of users are "absolutely positive" that they did the right thing. No, they THINK they did the right thing. That's the only thing they are "absolutely positive" of.

    Since so many people want to believe that the electronic voting machines are rigged to make Republicans win elections[1], so I'm sure people will choose to believe that this is due to a GOP conspiracy instead of simple errors. (And yes, it could still be an error, due to the way the screens are physically set up, even if the reported errors are "always" Republican. Does that mean it's not an issue that should be addressed, even if it is only a genuine design/setup error? No. But if you can touch the screen a little more carefully and get the checkmark beside the right name, that is what matters. Who hasn't ever had a touchscreen ATM or a touchscreen POS station not register a touch as something unintended? You don't think the ATM is trying to rip you off when it picks "Savings" when you meant "Checking". You just hit cancel and do it again.)

    Remember, too, that in many jurisdictions in which we have electronic voting machines, they're there as a direct result of Democratic-sponsored legislation, like HAVA, in response to the voting difficulties with antiquated machines in Florida in 2000. The problem? Everyone assumed that modern technology was just great and overlooked a mandatory requirement for a paper trail. Of course, now ALL e-voting vendors have voter-verifiable paper trail capability as options, but many municipalities didn't want to spend the extra money to deploy since it wasn't required by law.

    Also, "In Putnam County, early voters have the option of asking for either touch-screen machines or optical scan ballots -- paper ballots on which people mark in their election choices." And when people are using the machine, "The main thing people need to remember is that when you are done voting, make sure everybody you wanted to vote for has a check mark beside them." Just because you touch once and it registers wrong doesn't imply that it can't be corrected. Has no one ever used a backspace key on a computer before? Or an eraser on a pencil, for that matter?

    Bottom line? Since this clearly is causing so much fear and doubt[2], we should go back to a simple, auditable paper solution, if only so conspiracy theorists can STFU and stop thinking every election where their preferred candidate doesn't win is "stolen".

    [1] Have to put in the disclaimer. Very aware of the famous quote about "delivering the election to George Bush" by Diebold's CEO. It was in his capacity as a Republic business leader, but still a very, very, very poor showing on his part, and ridiculous appearance of a conflict of interest, even if none actually exists in reality.

    [2] And it's actually not causing a level of problems that are probably any worse than error in paper or any other voting. But the perception is that it is a huge problem, and subverting democracy, and that is reason enough to change.

    • Clarification (Score:5, Insightful)

      by daveschroeder (516195) * on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:24AM (#25527781)

      And yes, it could still be an error, due to the way the screens are physically set up, even if the reported errors are "always" Republican.

      What I mean by this is in this particular instance, not in general. There are reports of votes "flipping" both ways. But if there is something happening in one jurisdiction in one state, and it's always the same problem, and the same order is on every ballot, then it's no surprise that the manifestation of the problem is the same.

      • Re:Clarification (Score:5, Insightful)

        by theaveng (1243528) on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:42AM (#25528079)

        There are a lot of people who simply don't know how to use a computer. My 75-year-old dad came home and told me about his job switching from paper to PC timecards. His boss directed him: Now move the mouse over to the box and type in your hours.

        My dad's reply: What's a mouse?

        Now imagine 50 million baby boomers with similar level of non-expertise trying to use a PC-based machine when they've never (or rarely) used a PC. You're going to have all kinds of mistakes, and the user will SWEAR that it was the machine's fault, rather than admit they don't know what they are doing. Nobody wants to look stupid.

        - this message posted with LYNX, the Commodore 64 browser (2 kbit/s modem)

        • Now imagine 50 million baby boomers with similar level of non-expertise trying to use a PC-based machine

          I'd like to see Barack Obama ridiculing these 50 million voters' computer (il)literacy, the way he ridiculed John McCain [aol.com]. Wouldn't that be sure vote-winner, uhm?

          • by TheLostSamurai (1051736) on Monday October 27, 2008 @12:00PM (#25528395)

            Now imagine 50 million baby boomers with similar level of non-expertise trying to use a PC-based machine

            I'd like to see Barack Obama ridiculing these 50 million voters' computer (il)literacy, the way he ridiculed John McCain [aol.com]. Wouldn't that be sure vote-winner, uhm?

            Those 50 million other Americans who may or may not need to use a computer in their daily lives shouldn't be ridiculed. A person running for the highest office in the land, who is expected to adapt and change as the world does, should be.

            • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 27, 2008 @12:34PM (#25529097)

              McCain doesn't e-mail because he can't type. He can't type because his arms were broken while he was a POW and weren't treated properly until he was back in the States. He also can't comb his own hair or tie his own shoes. In the 2000 election, he was called the most technologically savvy candidate in the race for using things like online fund raising. (Look it up, McCain was the first to do this.) Fun Fact: One of the other candidates in the race (who McCain was more technologically savvy than) was Al Gore, who was an Atari Democrat (a young Democrat who understood and ran partially on technological issues) who invented the Internet.

              A person on the Internet may or may not know about McCain's history shouldn't be ridiculed. A person running for the highest office in the land, who is expected to do a little research into why something is true before releasing an ad, should be.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Sockatume (732728)
          You're posting from a C64, and you think you're in a good position to judge people's familiarity with mouses? ;)
        • by bugeaterr (836984) on Monday October 27, 2008 @01:02PM (#25529599)

          Nobody wants to look stupid

          I passed a guy this morning with a Bush/Quayle '92 bumper sticker who begs to differ.

        • by HiThere (15173) <charleshixsn@NOSPAM.earthlink.net> on Monday October 27, 2008 @02:35PM (#25531151)

          If the machine is so designed that any measurable fraction of the qualified voters can't use it, then it's broken.

          I realize that this puts stringent requirements on the machine, but they are necessary requirements. The end user must be able to use the system, or the system is broken.

          That said, I agree that any intelligent system for defrauding the vote wouldn't reveal itself so openly. As a result no secret voting machine should ever be trusted. This, however, doesn't imply that there aren't stupid ways of defrauding the machinery, and some of the reported hacks would allow extremely stupid people to hack the machines so as to defraud the vote. So that's not proof that the vote isn't fraudulent. Only measuring against a known good paper backtrail could show that.

          Personally, I have no difficulty believing that some stupid hack has been applied to the voting machine, though I agree that it isn't proven. All that's proven is that people aren't being allowed to vote the way that they intend. That's enough, in my opinion, to invalidate the results.

    • by Dekortage (697532) on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:25AM (#25527805) Homepage

      From your reply:

      Just because you touch once and it registers wrong doesn't imply that it can't be corrected. Has no one ever used a backspace key on a computer before? Or an eraser on a pencil, for that matter?

      From the article:

      "The reaction time [on the machines] may be different. And when you hit the screen a second time, it cancels your vote," Wood said. "When you get in a hurry, if you go to fast and hit it again, you can cancel what you just did."

      Ketchum said, "I am educated person. I know what I wanted. I am anxious to see who wins. My son Chris said, 'Mom, I didn't vote for the people who came up on that machine. I wanted to go back and vote again. I called the lady at the polls and she said it was my fault because of the way I was punching the buttons.'"

      It would really suck if votes came out wrong because of a poorly-designed user interface.

      • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:43AM (#25528099)

        It would really suck if votes came out wrong because of a poorly-designed user interface.

        What's with this hypothetical language ("would" and "if")? It's already happened -- hanging chads are caused by bad UI too!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Skye16 (685048)

        Maybe not just UI, but poor calibration. I'm not sure how modern touch screen monitors work, but I know on a touch screen mobile device, you still have to calibrate it. If it isn't done correctly, every single vote will be skewed.

        All the same, it seems to me a series of question/answers should be relatively trivial to write correctly. I'm talking Sophomore level of college here, at worst. If they can't get the UI to work on these things in that amount of time, someone needs burnt alive to their very dea

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Good points all. Still, the fact remains that voters don't have confidence in the machines. If it does appear to the voter to be switching votes in formant of them, they aren't going to trust that it won't do the same thing after they walk away. For what its worth, I've hears similar stories from friends that have tried early voting in cook county, Il. If that county goes for McCain, we know we have something seriously screwed up.
    • by evanbd (210358) on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:28AM (#25527835)

      UI design is an important consideration. Suppose you wanted to make a machine biased toward one candidate, without having anything obviously incriminating in the code. You could do something as simple as arrange the options so that parallax effects like you suggest make it easy to press the wrong portion of the screen. If the effects make people press high on average, and you put the candidate you wanted to favor at the top of the list, then pressing high on your candidate registers no check box, and people just press again. But, sometimes they'll press on the other candidate, get the one you wanted, and give up before figuring it out.

      Ballot design needs to be fair, for all the same reasons the code needs to be correct. Badly designed ballots are probably just that -- bad design by someone who didn't know better. But, with something as important as an election, it's not ok to have badly designed ballots, and it's not ok to let people who don't know better design them. Design sufficiently bad that it shows meaningful bias should be treated as criminal election fraud, whether it was intentional or not -- there's simply no reason not to have that level of accountability.

    • by name*censored* (884880) on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:31AM (#25527899)

      Unfortunately, there's no way to prove that someone intending to vote for Republicans has had their vote switched, because no-one's voted for Republicans.

      (Lighten up, it's a joke)

    • by vlad30 (44644) on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:31AM (#25527909)
      sometimes paper and pencil should not be automated
    • by Free the Cowards (1280296) on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:32AM (#25527931)

      Have to put in the disclaimer. Very aware of the famous quote about "delivering the election to George Bush" by Diebold's CEO. It was in his capacity as a Republic business leader, but still a very, very, very poor showing on his part, and ridiculous appearance of a conflict of interest, even if none actually exists in reality.

      I just want to point out that the conflict of interest does exist in this case. It doesn't matter how honorable the guy is. Conflict of interest is a matter of position, not character. He could be the most honorable guy in the world and never let his CEO position conflict with his Republican position, but the conflict of interest is still there.

      As a practical matter, nobody is 100% honorable, and somebody who's in charge of building voting machines should not be politically active.

      More importantly, we should switch to a form of voting in which a single company is not in a position to completely screw up the entire election.

    • by prelelat (201821) on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:52AM (#25528241)

      I don't get why they need to use touch screens in the first place. Having to calibrate them in the middle of a voting session seems unproductive,and are they even allowed to do that which would leave everyone in the same boat. I've used touch screens(I setup smartboards in some of my clients) and I could see someone accidently clicking the wrong person if the screen wasn't calibrated.

      I've heard of these new fangled things called buttons... they seem to work wonders, no calibration, AND THERE STILL TOUCH SENSITIVE.
      Hell you could have it as simple as a figging atm machine where you have the buttons on the right hand side. Most people are used to ATM machines and having to hit a button.

      Touch screens are nice but I think they leave a little room for error and are probably more expensive then an lcd screen with 6 buttons. I in the states you sometimes will be voting for more than one position, well you could have different pages for each position your voting for and have 6-10 buttons one for each canditate with a line marking what button you have to press.

      Seems like common sense to me, but people are impressed by flashy touchy thingies.

      Frankly paper never had this problem

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:59AM (#25528383)

      I live in WV. The local news showed the ballots and exactly how this could happen and it was entirely feasible that it was user error due to bad software design.

      The UI is poorly designed. McCain's name appears above Obama's. The bottom border of McCain's box touches the upper border of Obama's box. When looking down at the device it looks like you are selecting Obama when your finger is actually on McCain.

      This effect can be compounded by initially touching the box with the tip of your finger and then rolling down so your fingerprint area is fully on Obama's name, but you initially touched the bottom of McCain's box. In this case your finger will fully be within Obama's box but McCain will remain selected.

      However the people doing the voting should be double checking their vote on the screen and the paper receipt that scrolls up next to the screen as you vote.

      Bottom line is, bad design, untrained user.

    • by wevets (939468) on Monday October 27, 2008 @12:01PM (#25528413)
      If the user intends to vote one way and the machine interface is so designed that it does not allow an easy, intuitive reflection of this intention in the vote that is cast, the machine is at fault. We technologists sometimes feel frustration when non-technology oriented people don't see clearly what we see as intuitieve. But this is voting, for God's sake. WE MUST MAKE IT EASY for anyone or we have failed, and shoudl go back to easy-to-use paper ballots.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mrops (927562)

      I have seen electronic voting machines in India, they seem lower tech than fancy voting machines from the US, however they work, they are like a keyboard, each key has a label next to it. an LED lights up registering your vote when you click them, its simple and it works.

      When you click them, you know what key you have clicked and who you have voted for.

      picture here http://www.bel-india.com/BELWebsite/images/EVM.jpg [bel-india.com]

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:21AM (#25527733) Journal
    BlackBoxVoting has been doing some really thorough coverage on these occurrences and I would like to point out that in North Carolina & Tennessee, people are complaining about votes flipping from McCain to Obama [blackboxvoting.com]. Some are saying this is a serious issue [scoop.co.nz] and not just isolated incidents of entropy.

    I'm confused as to why the people voting weren't given access to an on site authority or technician that could verify this was occurring. I guess it's also possible this is something that will only happen once rarely but enough to do damage. It could also be attention seeking or insurance to claim fraud if the other side wins.
    • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:29AM (#25527865) Homepage

      Because the on site election officials are 90 year old retired people that have no real training or skills with the gear. Cities and states intentionally do not fund the election departments to be able to hire people that are fully trained and capable of troubleshooting this stuff. but we bought a nice new stainless steel piece of 30 foot tall art for the front of city hall for $290,000!

      It's scary at best, insane at worst.

    • by Verteiron (224042) on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:29AM (#25527869) Homepage

      Is it illegal for someone to take a cellphone into the booth and record this happening? A couple of youtube videos would probably raise public awareness of the problem and encourage a fix, whatever the problem is (having worked with a LOT of touchscreens in the past, I'm going to guess it's a calibration and/or screen angling issue).

    • by DavidTC (10147) <slas45dxsvadiv.vadiv@NoSpam.neverbox.com> on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:30AM (#25527875) Homepage

      Some people are saying this is a serious issue. Everyone else could not be reached for comment.

      Seriously, uh, only some people think it's serious? No one else cares?

      And, yes, this is a calibration issue instead of a fraud issue. Fraud, of course, we'd never actually hear about.

      The fact we can't even managed to have machines that act like they're properly working should be a rather serious indication that even if they do act like they're properly working, we don't know if they are.

      • by theaveng (1243528) on Monday October 27, 2008 @12:05PM (#25528495)

        Let's just go back to paper.

        Seriously.

        It's been-around for 5000 years. It's a proven technology. It "just works" and was used in elections dating back to the 1700s. So what if it takes 12 hours to physically handcount the ballots? (Thrice for verification.) Do we really need to know, immediately, who won? This election has drug-on since Christmas of last year... one more half-day is not going to kill us.

        My district still uses paper. The only difference is that machines do the counting, however if you don't trust the machines, a handcount is still possible. I trust papers; I don't trust computers. I've been working with them for too long.

  • by MisterSquirrel (1023517) on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:23AM (#25527769)
    Is there anyone with any depth technical knowledge at all, that seriously believes that we should use such a corruptible technology as electronic voting machines in our sacred voting process?

    You can't secure them. Anybody with an ounce of sense about computer security knows this. Plus, there is no way to verify whether they are programmed to do what they should.

    And we argue over whether to have paper trails?

    • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:45AM (#25528131)

      What about your statement couldn't be said about an ATM?

      My god, I paid my mortgage online the other week, and yes, I trusted not only that my payment would get there, but that it would be right amount, that it wouldn't be eavesdropped on, that an confirmation number would be enough to defend myself if the bank claims never to have recieved it.

      If I can trust 20% of my income in an online transaction, I should sure as hell be able to vote securely and anonomously. The fact that I can't isn't a failure of the idea, it's a failure of the implementation. If we can put a color touchscreen monitor on the voting machines (why? I have no idea) we can surely instal a printer to print out a reciept for each voter, that can be dropped in the ballot box on the way out.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The bank has a vested interest in your transaction working - reports of it not working would lead to people leaving the bank. The vested interest in voting machines is in them NOT working - and you can't complain and leave the system to vote some other way. Especially when the beneficiaries of any vote tampering are the ones who decide how the votes get counted.

      • by maharvey (785540) on Monday October 27, 2008 @12:46PM (#25529323)

        What if your ATM machine presented you with a list of five different banks and you had to choose which one to pay? And if you hit the wrong button you paid the wrong bank, and they gleefully took your money and said nothing. Now you're out 20% of your income and your mortgage is still unpaid! But wait, it's also a cash transfer with no records or receipts, so you cannot prove anything. And even worse, the ATM that does these cash transactions is managed by a faceless third party, perhaps volunteers or petty beureaucrats who may own stock in a rival bank or might even divert the funds into their own accounts, with nobody the wiser.

        Would you still trust the ATM?

      • Not at all alike. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Estanislao Martínez (203477) on Monday October 27, 2008 @12:53PM (#25529437) Homepage

        What about your statement couldn't be said about an ATM?

        There's a very simple, important difference. When an ATM makes an error, it can be reliably detected and corrected in nearly all cases. This is because the ATM (and electronic money transfer systems, in general) keep a detailed record of which accounts were debited and credited for each transaction, and this record can be reconciled with others: e.g., the customers' own checkbooks, online merchants' records, records of how much cash was in the ATM at any point in time, etc. When the relevant parties conclude a certain transaction was recorded incorrectly, it can be rolled back or revised.

        When a voting machine makes an error, it's at best a toss-up as to whether it can be detected. No paper trails mean that, in many cases, the error can never be detected. Paper trails help A LOT in this case, but are not a panacea: you can imagine a case where, because of fraud, the electronic tabulation gives candidate A a clear win, and nobody bothers to perform a paper recount that would prove candidate B actually won.

        And if you do detect an anomaly in the vote, forget about ever correcting it.

      • by ardent99 (1087547) on Monday October 27, 2008 @02:53PM (#25531417)

        There are two major differences between ATM banking and voting that make all the difference:

        1) Banking is a zero-sum game. If you deposit $x in the machine, your account and the bank's cash must go up by $x. If they don't, there are many alarms that go off, both in the bank, and in your personal life. In a voting machine, there is no zero-sum that can be checked. No one has to vote for every candidate, and there is no physical deposit that can be checked later. Your vote is conjured up out of thin air and it can disappear or be duplicated or shifted without a balancing transaction.

        2) ATM transactions are not anonymous and voting is. ATM transactions are associated with you and your accounts right from the point of initiation, and your identity is tracked on every receipt, your bank records, and the statements you get at the end of the month which you can carefully read and verify. Voting is anonymous by nature, and there are no accounts or monthly statements which you can verify.

        These are not implementation details, these are inherent in the problem statement.

    • by penix1 (722987) on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:47AM (#25528157) Homepage

      I live in WV and voted early. Communities were given the option for paper ballots with optical scanning OR touchscreen machines that print continuous roll tape. In both cases, it is the paper trail that will be followed on a recount. The problem here is one of mis-calibration of the machines and Betty Ireland, the Secretary of State who certified the machines, has ordered all touchscreen voter machines be re-calibrated EVERY DAY since their alignment slips with usage. These machines were calibrated on the first day but not beyond that.

      On an aside, Kanawha County, where I live, chose paper / optical scan machines because most citizens are familiar with it since schools use the same "fill in the circle" for testing. Also, the paper trail is far easier with these type ballots.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:24AM (#25527779)

    What's wrong with a machine that tries to assist the politically challenged by selecting the right candidate?

  • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:25AM (#25527789) Homepage Journal
    This story is a bit old and has been rung through the media wringer already. The issue is that the machines they were using require a 20(!!) point calibration process, and apparently the poll workers weren't being careful enough when setting it up. It's a combination of a badly designed machine and lazy/incompetent poll workers. The good news is that since the states are pushing so heavily on early voting this year, there is a chance they'll figure out workarounds for issues like this before the general election.
  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:25AM (#25527807) Journal
    Thomas W. Swidarski
    President and CEO of Diebold
    1600 Styx River Rd
    Hades, New Jersey 66666

    October 27, 2008

    Dear Voters,

    I regret to inform you that the evil bit [wikipedia.org] of the IPv4 packet header field was accidentally propagated to the display screen and--subsequently--would ensure that in the last femtosecond your vote was for evil as you were accepting your selection.

    Who would have thought that Americans could see this near-planckian event on the screen ... our technicians are even confused how the screen (with milliseconds of response time) managed to show it.

    Regardless, we are sorry and promise that I will personally collect and publish information on these three voters although I heavily doubt that 3 votes will change the outcome of John McCain 100% Barak Obama 0% which is what the current count is at.

    This may be merely be something we have to live with for now and is trivial. We will fix this when IPv6 is enforced and it is an entire "evil byte" in the packet header that will be much easier to spot and stop. This should not undermine your satisfaction with the democratic process in America--do not let the terrorists win! You must remain ever vigilant and patriotic!

    Sincerely,

    Thomas W. Swidarski
  • by 192939495969798999 (58312) <info@devinm o o r e .com> on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:26AM (#25527815) Homepage Journal

    Vote by mail, and make a photocopy of your ballot. It is a lot harder to change a vote when there's a massively distributed paper trail.

  • by Silviiro (1386523) on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:27AM (#25527825)
    These machines aren't very smart. They need to change their votes to Cthulhu if they want to live.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Talisein (65839)

      They need to change their votes to Cthulhu if they want to live.

      I thought advancing Cthulhu's awakening gave you the privilege of being one of the first to be eaten, thereby avoiding the sight of mind-breaking eldritch horrors and such.

  • Curious problems (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JWSmythe (446288) * <jwsmythe&jwsmythe,com> on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:28AM (#25527845) Homepage Journal

        I have to wonder what the source of a problem like this is..

        Is it poor coding practices, that are making the interface do the wrong thing? I've seen this in web interfaces, if you swap your variables accidentally. How well have these devices been QA tested? Probably not well enough.

        Are the touch sensitive screens too sensitive? I was trying to buy at a store, and the touch screen pen would click buttons while it was still about 2 inches from the screen. It made it very difficult to use.

        Is it just user failure, where they're dragging the stylus (or touching with their finger) across both boxes, making it see a corrected input to the wrong selection?

        Is it an evil conspiracy? Ah, why not, I love conspiracies. :)

        Since I don't have access to the offending devices, nor the users, I'll just have to take my guess. I guess #4, evil conspiracy. Occam's razor would tell us differently. Probably option #3 is the correct answer.

  • by theaveng (1243528) on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:28AM (#25527853)

    In Pennsylvania we have the option of either using the electronic machines, or using a paper ballot. I use the paper ballot every time.

    -posted with LYNX, the Commodore 64 browser

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:29AM (#25527859)

    I think Obama understands that a level playing field is about the common good and John McCain really needs a leg up. And Sen McCain should not feel ashamed because this is not charity.

    This is an early example of new hope.

  • Calibration? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Timothy Brownawell (627747) <tbrownaw@prjek.net> on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:31AM (#25527893) Homepage Journal
    Maybe the machines should do the "touch the center of the X" thing with every single voter to make sure they're properly calibrated for the viewing angle of each voter. Most public computer kiosks I've seen have very thick covers / empty space / whatever between the touch surface and the actual display, being too tall / short could easily result in a half inch or more offset from where you thought you touched.
  • by VShael (62735) on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:31AM (#25527901) Journal

    Video tape your election vote.

    If it does a dodgy switcheroo, you have the evidence that you hit the right button, etc...

    But honestly, if you were going to fiddle a machine to flip a few votes to the GOP, why have the output show the flip at all?
    Just edit the totals and display whatever the hell you want on the UI.

    printf "You have voted for Obama"; McCain++;

    Know what I mean?

  • In it to steal it (Score:5, Informative)

    by jollyreaper (513215) on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:36AM (#25527987)

    John McCain's own polling gives him hope, an aide says

    When John McCain insisted, during his appearance Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," that he was doing "just fine" in a presidential race in which the polls have shown Barack Obama with a steady lead over the last few weeks, many may have dismissed the comment as just something that a candidate has to say.

    Not so, said a campaign official who spoke on background with The Times' Bob Drogin. The aide said the campaign's internal polling showed McCain down only 4 percentage points nationally -- a sharp improvement from a week ago -- and closing fast.

    State-by-state, the private polling also showed McCain up 1 point in Ohio, North Carolina, Florida and Missouri, and behind by only 3 points in Virginia (a new Washington Post survey found him down 8 there).

    McCain almost assuredly needs to capture all five states to win the presidency. And even that may not be enough if he fails to win Pennsylvania, one of his campaign stops today. Without Pennsylvania, McCain needs to pull more electoral votes out of some combination of Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico or Iowa -- all states where, as of now, the internal numbers look bleak.

    The anonymous McCain official argued a comeback remains doable. "Check with me Wednesday," the aide said. "If we're still within the margin of error (in polling), we're going to win."

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2008/10/john-mccains-ow.html [latimes.com]

    Just like the last two times.

  • by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare AT gmail DOT com> on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:40AM (#25528049) Homepage Journal

    the problem with electornic voting is perception. if people perceive their vote is being tampered with, this matters more than the truth of the matter

    passions are high in an election. people get upset if they lose. they seize on anything that feeds into their perceptions, and electronic voting is too black box: votes go in, sausage come out, and who knows what happens in the middle

    when an election is over, people have to know the vote was fair. knowing the vote was fair is not a matter of trusting a talking head on a tv screen or a poorly paid government worker. its about how they feel about their voting experience. paper you can trust. you can't intrisincally trust a black box process

    electornic voting should be abandoned. its a bad idea

  • Paper Ballots (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whisper_jeff (680366) on Monday October 27, 2008 @11:56AM (#25528331)
    As someone who lives in Canada (and having just gone through a federal election), I just cannot understand why it's impossible to have a paper ballot, with a big circle, that one makes a mark (check, X, whatever) in the circle for your candidate of choice with a pencil and then have people count the ballots at the end. Canada manages to do it every time we have an election and it seems to work out just fine. And, with a paper trail, we can easily recount, if needed. Yes, America has ten times the population but it probably has ten times the election volunteers as well so there's really no difference. I just don't understand why a good paper ballot is so hard to accept...
    • Re:Paper Ballots (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hacker (14635) <hacker@gnu-designs.com> on Monday October 27, 2008 @12:27PM (#25528937)

      "I just don't understand why a good paper ballot is so hard to accept..."

      The simple answer: Because a good paper ballot is hard to forge (in time for the pre-counting of the votes).

      Previously in US, Inc. where paper ballots have been used in the past, they've been "lost", "stolen", or switched out for "other" ballots with different counts.

      Electronic voting doesn't have all of those pesky "accountability" issues that paper ballots have.

    • by soren100 (63191) on Monday October 27, 2008 @01:12PM (#25529751)

      I just don't understand why a good paper ballot is so hard to accept...

      It's because elections are so much harder to steal [commondreams.org] if you have a "good paper ballot".

      Republican Senator Chuck Hagel actually owned the company that controlled the elctronic voting in the election that he won, in a stunning upset, in every demographic, including many black communities that had never voted Republican before. Nebraska hadn't voted for a Republican for Senate in 24 years.

      In Georgia, Democratic Senator Max Cleland (who lost 3 limbs in Vietnam, after he jumped on a grenade to save his fellow troops), was defeated by a Republican that alleged that Cleland was not patriotic enough. Even after the polls indicated that the voters did not actually believe this, the Diebold machines announced the Republican the winner. Surprise! And in another surprise, while the polls indicated that Democractic Governor Roy Barnes was winning, the Diebold machies announced that he lost as well to his Republican challenger. A whistleblower revealed that secret patches were applied to the machines late in the race, violating state law.

      Here are other instances of Republicans winning through voting machine irregularities. [nytimes.com]

  • Man Of The Year!?! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RabidMoose (746680) on Monday October 27, 2008 @12:27PM (#25528939) Homepage
    Doesn't anybody remember the Robin Williams movie? The voting machines are rigged to change random votes to the candidate with alphabeticaly-first double letters. John McCain?!
    It's exactly like in the movie!

    /sarcasm
  • by anorlunda (311253) on Monday October 27, 2008 @02:37PM (#25531173) Homepage

    The battle for e-voting has been lost. Just as many posts in this topic prove, the public is hyper sensitive and hyper suspicious of electronic voting. They aren't going to trust it no matter what. It matters not whether or not their fears are justified.

    We should return to paper ballots. They are the only voting method that might be accepted.

    I happen to believe that paper balloting is much more subject to actual fraud and abuse than any other method. There are centuries of history in finding creative ways to cheat on paper ballots. Still, actual fraud is irrelevant, only public confidence matters.

    My preferred solution would require a constitutional amendment. Prior to an election, the authorities would declare a target margin of error. Say 5%. The margin would account for fraud, abuse, errors, miscounts, whatever. The winner would have to win a plurality with a margin greater than 5% over the second place candidate. If the results are closer than 5%, the election is declared a tie and a whole new election would be required. Sure, that might result in revote after revote after revote, but not an infinite series.

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