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Finnish E-Voting System Loses 2% of Votes 366

Posted by Soulskill
from the in-america-we-call-that-the-margin-of-error dept.
kaip writes "Finland piloted a fully electronic voting system in municipal elections last weekend. Due to a usability glitch, 232 votes, or about 2% of all electronic votes were lost. The results of the election may have been affected, because the seats in municipal assemblies are often decided by margins of a few votes. Unfortunately, nobody knows for sure, because the Ministry of Justice didn't see any need to implement a voter-verified paper record. The ministry was, of course, duly warned about a fully electronic voting system, but the critique was debunked as 'science fiction.' There is now discussion about re-arranging the affected elections. Thanks go to the voting system providers, Scytl and TietoEnator, for the experience."
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Finnish E-Voting System Loses 2% of Votes

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  • Usability Glitch? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lecithin (745575) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @02:14AM (#25551543)

    "It seems that the system required the voter to insert a smart card to identify the voter, type in their selected candidate number, then press "ok", check the candidate details on the screen, and then press "ok" again. Some voters did not press "ok" for the second time, but instead removed their smart card from the voting terminal prematurely, causing their ballots not to be cast."

    No. This isn't a glitch nor a problem with the machines. 98% of the voters got it right. That means that the directions were pretty clear.

    This sounds like a nice feature to keep stupid people from voting.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Kenoli (934612)
      Apparently some people (approximately 2%) have problems following simple instructions. Clearly a glitch in the system.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sumdumass (711423)

        But there are no dimpled chads to interpret in my candidate's favor....

        We have seen this before. Unfortunately, the sentiment isn't "if your too stupid to work the machine, your too stupid to vote", it is more like "the dumber the better so we need to design everything so that not only the smart people can figure it out but the stupid and high people too".

        I guess having the fate of your country decided by people who can't read directions is really important. I know it isn't popular but you know that if they

        • by Antique Geekmeister (740220) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @04:47AM (#25552091)
          The card should have been locked into the machine until the voter said 'OK' or cleared the screen, and locked it in with an alert and a deactivation warning if the person left the booth without doing either. Anyone can get confused about simple directions for an entirely new system. How many of us have tried to walk away from an ATM with our card still in it because we were distracted?
        • Re:Usability Glitch? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by mrSnowman (1060496) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @05:26AM (#25552271)
          Any computer interface should be intuitive to whatever group of people will be using it. Whether it is a computer literate techie or an elderly grandparent that has never touched a computer before.

          Especially the elderly in this case. They are the group of people who pay the most attention to politics and have the least experience with computers. If it's not intuitive to the largest group of people that will be using it it's a bad interface.

          Won't somebody think of the elderly? :(
      • by bytesex (112972)

        Yes, a glitch in the system, but not an argument against the absence of a papertrail. Dont forget that some people purposely go into the voting box, expressly not to vote. Directions are the key here. That is to say - had there been a papertrail, then the people guiding the procedure could have told them to 'put their slip of paper in the other box', upon which they would have said: 'what paper ?'

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Capsaicin (412918)

      No. This isn't a glitch nor a problem with the machines. 98% of the voters got it right. That means that the directions were pretty clear.

      If this is true, then a 2% failure rate would be extremely low in comparison to traditional paper ballot systems. Which is not to say that the result of an unaudited electronic voting system is actually trustworthy.

      • Re:Usability Glitch? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @02:49AM (#25551661)

        Actually ministry of justice itself described 2% failure rate as "very high" compared to ordinary paper ballot. In Finland an ordinary failure rate for paper ballots cast would afaik be around 0,5% and that includes Donald Duck and offensive drawings, which are not available to evoters.

        One of the pro-evoting arguments was that we get significantly _lower_ failure rates compared to paper ballots. Apparently that was not the case...

        • Re:Usability Glitch? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Volante3192 (953645) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @03:07AM (#25551755)

          I keep hearing this argument about evoting, that it has a lower failure rate.

          Can someone please find an actual study that confirms this? Or are they just hoping if something's repeated often enough it's taken as fact?

          • by sumdumass (711423) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @03:45AM (#25551897) Journal

            It's probably one of those things that works in theory and blows up in operation. I guess you can say it looked good on paper.

          • by karstux (681641)

            If e-Voting eliminates the possibility for failure, then that is actually an argument against e-Voting: lots of people cast invalid votes as a means of protest, expressing that although no party is fit for their support, they want their political will recorded nonetheless.

            It's not what I would do, but the possibility to do so should be preserved.

            Besides that.. honestly, if people fail to properly write an "X" into an "O", there's no way they'd fare better with a machine.

          • by houghi (78078)

            This is one of the 23% of the statistics that are not made up I suppose.

          • by mpe (36238)
            I keep hearing this argument about evoting, that it has a lower failure rate.
            Can someone please find an actual study that confirms this? Or are they just hoping if something's repeated often enough it's taken as fact?


            Even in theory this is questionable since a complex electronic system has many more possible failure modes than pieces of paper marked with a simple writing tool and collated by closely watched people.
        • Re:Usability Glitch? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Capsaicin (412918) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @03:10AM (#25551763)

          Actually ministry of justice itself described 2% failure rate as "very high" compared to ordinary paper ballot. In Finland an ordinary failure rate for paper ballots cast would afaik be around 0,5% and that includes Donald Duck and offensive drawings, which are not available to evoters.

          Only half of 1%?! Wow. Finnish voters must be much more careful (or draw less Donald Ducks) than Australian voters then. Or perhaps, it's the result of compulsory voting, or that our exhaustive preferential system is a little more complicated. We get informal voting rates around the order of 5% (historical data here [aec.gov.au]), so 2% looks pretty low to me.

          One of the pro-evoting arguments was that we get significantly _lower_ failure rates compared to paper ballots.

          Informality (failure) seems a far lesser problem than trust to me. We have a paper ballot (but are experimenting with evoting for the blind). The ballot boxes are not transported, but counted at the voting place (usually the local school), and while the votes are counted 'scrutineers' from each party stand over the shoulder of each vote counter casting an eagle eye on every vote counted, noting what the counter writes down and disputing any suspect votes for the other side. Perhaps Finland doesn't do this , which would account for our higher informality rates.

          • I'm pretty sure a large factor in the low discard rates of votes is that not many people are likely to bother to drag themselves over to their voting location in order to just cast a joke ballot. Mandatory voting changes that of course, since you have to go.
          • by amorsen (7485)

            I think the Finnish 0.5% failure rate only includes votes where voter intent could not be discerned. Surely you don't have 5% of votes where you cannot figure out what the voter wanted.

          • by erikina (1112587)

            Only half of 1%?! Wow. Finnish voters must be much more careful (or draw less Donald Ducks) than Australian voters then.

            Maybe because Australians are force to vote (or be fined)?

          • Actually ministry of justice itself described 2% failure rate as "very high" compared to ordinary paper ballot. In Finland an ordinary failure rate for paper ballots cast would afaik be around 0,5% and that includes Donald Duck and offensive drawings, which are not available to evoters.

            Only half of 1%?! Wow. Finnish voters must be much more careful (or draw less Donald Ducks) than Australian voters then. Or perhaps, it's the result of compulsory voting, or that our exhaustive preferential system is a little more complicated.

            Voting is not compulsory in Finland. We don't get those Soviet-style 99.9% turnouts. And I'm sot saying whether I voted or not - it's a secret...

            Personally, I'd prefer if we used the STV or AV style of proportional representation, as is used in Australia and Ireland. Electronic voting and tabulation (incorporating a paper trail for random validation and mandated recounts) would greatly accellerate the counting process.

          • Re:Usability Glitch? (Score:4, Informative)

            by TapeCutter (624760) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @06:01AM (#25552419) Journal
            I belive the AEC are counting what are known as donkey votes [wikipedia.org], from the same site [aec.gov.au] the summary in their report on electronic counting after studying it during the last US elections and elsewhere is quoted below...

            "Electronic voting has received significant recent media coverage, and, with the Internet becoming more pervasive, the topic will continue to receive much attention. It must be recognised that a lot of the hype being generated is by the vendors of electronic voting systems.
            There are currently a range of issues associated with the introduction of electronic voting and vote counting. Each of these needs to be identified and strategies put in place to resolve them.
            The possible starting points within Australia, recommended in this report, have significant business cases for providing alternative technical options to voters in order to strengthen the democratic process.
            This paper does not suggest that Australian electoral authorities should at this stage embark on a program to fully replace the easily understood, publicly and politically accepted efficient, transparent paper ballot system that currently exists."


            Translation for Aussies: "Tell Diebold they're dreaminn...". Further skimming of the report shows that electronic voting has been used as a successfull option in certain circumstances, such as assisting blind people to vote in secret.
        • Re:Usability Glitch? (Score:5, Informative)

          by DMNT (754837) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @03:40AM (#25551869)

          Actually ministry of justice itself described 2% failure rate as "very high" compared to ordinary paper ballot. In Finland an ordinary failure rate for paper ballots cast would afaik be around 0,5% and that includes Donald Duck and offensive drawings, which are not available to evoters.

          As an election vote counter I can assure that out of the approximately 7000 votes that went thru my hands during the counting, only 9 or 10 were that ambiguous that it couldn't be reliably placed to one single candidate. Those ambiguous votes go to the board of election officials that will ultimately decide whether it's a valid vote (and who has the voter voted for) or not. Other invalid votes were maybe 5 times as common. Most of the time it's a question of whether the number is "1 or 7?" and other common problems are "6 or 0?" and "5 or 6?"

          The Finnish counting system was developed during times of great distress and has stood the test of time. It was good right after the civil war and therefore it's good for peaceful times too:
          The votes are first grouped by candidate, then counted twice by separate persons and invalid or ambiguous votes taken aside. If the numbers differ, they're counted again by two separate persons. Then the count is recorded on two separate forms held by secretaries and those forms are cross-validated against each other.

          After this, the votes are given to second counting group selected at random (obviously different from the first group) and counted again, with a possibility to take aside votes they found invalid that were accepted previously but not vice versa. If this verification count differs at all from the first count, the number of votes for candidate will be verified by counting again the number of votes for that particular candidate and if the first count seems to have been erroneous it'll be counted for the third time by a third group. Finally the invalid votes will be considered and decided whether it is an acceptable vote or not by higher election officials. Each party attending the elections have a right to set observators to the counting procedures but at times like these I saw none personally.

          This whole procedure makes it really hard to cheat in the vote counting unless you're using e-voting where officials just download the XML, turn it into a PDF and print it. Then they tell us that this is the result. I'd love to link to the news video where they did that but unfortunately I'm unable to find it right now.

        • by mpe (36238)
          Actually ministry of justice itself described 2% failure rate as "very high" compared to ordinary paper ballot. In Finland an ordinary failure rate for paper ballots cast would afaik be around 0,5% and that includes Donald Duck and offensive drawings, which are not available to evoters.

          These are not "failures" indeed a system which cannot allow a voter to create a ""spoilt ballot" in a way which is clearly delibrate should itself be considered broken by design.
          A big problem with "evoting" is that it can a
          • by Zironic (1112127)

            Atleast in Sweden blank normal votes aren't counted so making your own none of the above is fairly useless. However you can fill in whatever party you want regardless if it exists or not, Donald Duck votes are actually counted.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        For the whole country the failure rate was 0.7%, so much less than with the electronic machine. And usually big part of them are voting Donald Duck etc.

      • by TapeCutter (624760) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @04:26AM (#25552009) Journal
        "If this is true, then a 2% failure rate would be extremely low in comparison to traditional paper ballot systems."

        Cite please.

        "Which is not to say that the result of an unaudited electronic voting system is actually trustworthy."

        If the voter (usually via thier representative) can't determine that the election procedure is trustworthy then by default it isn't.

        PS: To the OP and others who keep making the suggestion that "stupid people shoudn't be allowed to vote" - I submit that they are petitioning to disenfanchise themselves but are too stupid to realise it.
    • by Adrian Lopez (2615) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @02:55AM (#25551689) Homepage

      Some voters did not press "ok" for the second time.

      Press OK to Finnish?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by msormune (808119)
      Well you are not entirely accurate in your "keep stupid people from voting" argument, since at least 50% of people are stupid. We need worse and less clear instructions here in Finland to achieve the goal :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Sounds like a great system. There's no way that a despotic government would ever bind the smart card ID with the vote and "re-educate" you after the election.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        But everybody agrees that "it could never happen here" - after all, us Finns are such a peace-loving people, and we have learned so much from the histories of Germany, Russia, Japan, Italy, Spain, Portugal, China, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, etc. We aren't ever going to be stupid like them.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      no it's poor design and poor (probably not existent) testing.

      They intended to vote so where is the buzzer/audio feedback along the different stages of the process.

      How about the big warning when no vote was cast.

      How about not returning the card until the proces is complete - think atm machine.

      Software design these days no one pays attention to detail...

    • by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @03:45AM (#25551895) Homepage

      This isn't a glitch nor a problem with the machines.

      Yeah, the good old "blame the user" solution, its after all just democracy that is at stake...

      Why is it even possible for the user to eject the card before stuff is done? Any half decent ATM doesn't allow that, it holds the card inside until everything is finished. Why doesn't the voting machine do the same? Seems to me to be a pretty clear case of a badly designed system.

    • Re:Usability Glitch? (Score:4, Informative)

      by SoupIsGoodFood_42 (521389) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @03:49AM (#25551909)

      This sounds like a nice feature to keep stupid people from voting.

      Spoken like a true, arrogant techie.

    • Re:Usability Glitch? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fastest fascist (1086001) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @04:22AM (#25552001)
      A commenter on an article dealing with the issue at hs.fi says there were problems with the machines that may have caused this issue:
      http://www.hs.fi/keskustelu/Brax%3A+Vaalitulosta+ei+voi+perua+hukka%E4%E4nien+takia/thread.jspa?threadID=148607&tstart=0&sourceStart=40&start=60 [www.hs.fi]
      username Jones is the commenter, it's in Finnish, so here's a summary:

      Commenter says she is a young female with university degree from Kauniainen who tried electronic voting with poor results. The voting machine had responsiveness issues: first the machine refused to register input of the candidate number, and after numerous presses and waiting the machine responded. The commenter then pressed the "ok" button, nothing happened. She pressed it again, harder, and pressed more times, until after several minutes of trying the buttonpress was registered. Then a screen popped up with the name of the candidate and the user was prompted again to press OK to accept the vote. Same problem with the OK button again, but she managed to get it to register after a long time of trying and waiting for the machine to respond.

      If this is accurate, it's not unreasonable to think people may have thought the machine isn't even supposed to show the candidate number chosen on-screen after choosing, or that either of the OK presses aren't actually supposed to result in any response from the machine. 2% failures with these kinds of problems doesn't sound so strange.
    • by umghhh (965931)

      That is a bit of fast judgment I think. You do not know what the problem was. TFA says that there has been a report that either due to software fault or touchscreen insensitivity there could have been problems with pressing OK button and the voters could have thought they have pressed enter although they have not. It could be be that the procedure was 'open' i.e. did not give clear and distinct indication 'vote has been cast' which means this was a glitch maybe not really technical but procedural but still

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 2t (102432)

      An Electronic voting system in a democracy needs to be designed in such way that 70 years old person who maybe has seen a computer couple times and 20-year-old, will have the same success rate.

      There never ever should have been a button labeled "OK". Instead maybe one with "Press this and you'll vote will be registered and locked."

      The machine should never have allowed the voting process to be left at that limbo state. Giving the card back actually implies to the voter that the voting has been succesfully fi

    • by Idaho (12907) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @06:14AM (#25552493)

      It seems that the system required the voter to insert a smart card to identify the voter, type in their selected candidate number, then press "ok", check the candidate details on the screen, and then press "ok" again.

      Holy shit. You have to use a smartcard to vote? Can it be tracked to a specific voter? Or rather, are any mechanisms implemented to make sure it can't be? If not, this is an even bigger WTF than losing a couple of votes.

  • Bad summary? (Score:2, Informative)

    by RockMFR (1022315)
    The article says the system was in use for "about 2 per cent of the electoral roll". The summary says "about 2% of all electronic votes were lost". lol wut?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The summary has more data than the article. This was a pilot in three (smallish) municipalities, involving the 2% of the voters.

      Of the e-votes cast in these three municipalities, 2% were not accounted for. So both statements are correct.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by kaip (92449)

      The original Ministry of Justice announcement [www.om.fi] (in Finnish) states: "A total of 12234 electronic votes vere cast in the electronic voting pilot of the 2008 municipal elections. - -"

      232 is about 2% of 12234 and therefore the summary is correct.

      According to the same announcement the total number of votes in the three municipalities in which the voting system was piloted was 21073 (Karkkila 4251, Kauniainen 4843, Vihti 11979), i.e., 8839 of all voters cast a paper ballot. (The voters could choose between the tr

  • 2 percent off due to human error, and most likely zero percent off tallying error. I betcha that compares pretty damn well to our system.

    • by Eskarel (565631)
      This is really the interesting thing, 2% sounds high, but what's the level of trashed votes in a paper system?
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        About 0.5% of votes are ignored in the traditional voting system.

        • by umghhh (965931)

          There are countries where all citizens vote and the failure rate is null. I am sure you do not want to live there.
          There are also other countries where courts may decide what is best for citizens. One big democracy come to mind - almost 8 years ago....
          Then there is Finnland where they seem to care what happens to votes. At least outside the justice department they do.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Ministry of justice itself described 2% as being "very high" figure compared to that of (afaik around 0,5% or so for) paper ballots.

        In finland we get a pencil and a ballot (a piece of cardboard, about the size of big postcard) where we write the number of candidate. If there are several elections conducted at once (which is pretty rare), we get several ballots.

        And yes, people old or clueless enough can screw that up too, but the screw-up-rate for evotes was expected to be way _lower_ than for paper ballots

  • by jaria (247603)

    http://www.arkko.com/evotingfailure [arkko.com]

    For information, I am a citizen of one of the three small places where the system was tested. I have already sent out an appeal of the decision to the voting board; if necessary, I will also appeal to the administrative court. Lets see how this plays out. I think we have a good chance of overturning the election results.

    • by kevinatilusa (620125) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .lletsock.> on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @02:32AM (#25551615)

      From the summary, it seems that they're defining "lost" as just "the voter intended to cast a vote for the office, but none registered", and include those caused by user error (the voter pulling out the voting card before confirming their vote, or failing to confirm their vote altogether).

      In that sense, the problem seems not to be electronic voting so much as just a poor set of instructions. Poorly designed ballots in other places can lead to a similar level of "lost" votes -- for example in the U.S. state of North Carolina, about 2.5%-3% of ballots [miamiherald.com] in presidential races fail to register a vote for President, compared to 1.1% in other states. The primary culprit? A poorly designed ballots where voters THINK they're casting a straight-ticket vote for every office, but in reality are casting one for every office except President.

      • by canthusus (463707) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @03:18AM (#25551791)

        the problem seems not to be electronic voting so much as just a poor set of instructions.

        Check out "usability" - eg Donald Norman. If you need to rely on detailed instructions, then you've got a usability issue.

        Truth is, we don't know the intentions of those who withdrew their card early. But they were told that they had to press "Cancel" to cancel their vote. As they didn't "follow the instructions" for either voting or not voting, I'd say there's a usability problem.

        (and yes, I know people don't always follow instructions on simple paper ballots)

      • In that sense, the problem seems not to be electronic voting so much as just a poor set of instructions.

        An electronic voting system like that should make it almost impossible to lose votes or misunderstand even without instructions. You shouldn't be able to close the application without pressing okay the second time. Instructions don't really come into it. Bad design is the primary thing. The e-voting companies should pay to re-run the election with paper.

  • I was there .. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @02:22AM (#25551577)

    I'm living in one of those three experimental places and when I went to vote they offered me electrical version. I told 'em to frack off and give me true democratic way to vote because electronic one is very bad and unreliable. How do I know that communists ain't gonna change my vote?

    Anyway, I made a nice scene there and few people turned away from voting electronic. I felt good .. a true savior of democratic society.

  • the stats (Score:5, Informative)

    by japa (28571) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @02:27AM (#25551601)
    There were 3 pilot municipalities; Vihti, Kauniainen and Karkkila.

    Municipality / Number of votes given / number of lost votes / lowest number of votes for elected person
    Vihti: 7087 / 122 / 77
    Kauniainen: 2982 / 61 / 49
    Karkkila: 2165 / 49 / 35

  • by DrStrangeLug (799458) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @02:38AM (#25551637)
    Call me an old software biz cynic but when I see the phrase "didn't see any need to implement a voter-verified paper record" I read that as "given complete assurance by the sales team that the system was 100% accurate". Never attribute to malice that which is just as easily explained by incompetence. Never attribute to incompetence that is is more readily explained by a bunch of lying sales weasels.
    • by Colin Smith (2679)

      "Sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice."

      Something plenty of "leaders" later rely upon.

       

    • by umghhh (965931)

      the sales team is no garantee that customer will not make your arse ache. I recall a situation in which some idiot in company I worked at the time signed a paper stating our product is 100% compliant with some complex open specification that the deisgn and verification team has not been using. Guess what - customer took the spec and tested every clause there giving us hundreds of errors and costing us a fortune in fines.
      What I wanted to say is that Finnish authorities can force the companies concerned to fi

  • I would like to call this a layer 8 problem, but electronic voting vendors need to make this as idiot proof as possible. No paper trails, supposed missing votes... way to go guys.
  • Paper ballots (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Aggrajag (716041) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @02:43AM (#25551643)

    Writing a number to a piece of paper has worked here in Finland for over hundred
    years now so I really don't see the need for e-voting. Also the e-voting system
    has been implemented by one of the crappiest IT-companies ever, TietoEnator, whose
    main areas of expertise are: missing deadlines, underestimating budgets and designing
    the worst and unusable UIs for the simplest of applications.

  • My previous employer, how nice ;o)

    Well, at least I voted using pen and paper, and so did the great majority of Finns, and still they had the results ready the same night. Which brings me to a giant WTF: why introduce an electronic system, when good nordic organization will provide poll results the same day anyway?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Which brings me to a giant WTF: why introduce an electronic system, when good nordic organization will provide poll results the same day anyway?

      I've been wondering the exact same thing. The other argument used was that by introducing an electronic voting system, young people would be more willing to vote. That sound like a really shitty plan, because even if they did, this would not be the case the next time because then the whole electronic voting thing would be old news. And, in any case, if people are so very little interested in the society that they don't vote if it's traditional pen-and-paper, some gimmick e-voting parade surely will not make

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mysticgoat (582871)

      E-voting? No, I don't think so.

      Electronic registration and verification? Yes, that has value. Historically one of the great problems with the ballot process has been excluding persons who do not have the right to vote. Such as people who are dead or imaginary or have already voted. Or in my area, people who work and shop in my state but live in a different state and would like me to pay more taxes to improve the roads and bridges they use for free.

      Here's what might work, which would save the state a lit

  • by Achoi77 (669484) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @02:58AM (#25551705)

    I guess that's what you get when you get a system made as cheaply as possible.

    If they really wanted a good system, they should have looked up who makes those ATM machines for banks.

    Or at the very least, those automate ticket vendors at the movie theater. Even those have a goddamn paper trail. What the hell, do those just cost TOO much to deploy?

  • by mveloso (325617) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @03:02AM (#25551727)

    All the people who talk about e-voting want a paper record. But that has its own problems, the main one being the same problem as any voting system:

    How do you know if your vote is registered correctly or not?

    With a secret ballot, there is no transparency. The only thing you can verify is that approximately the same number of people that went into the machine cast a vote. And at least in the US, there's no requirement that you actually cast a vote when you're in the booth, as far as I can tell. I've never tried to walk out without voting, but I expect there's no way they can force you to vote.

    Are the tallies wrong? How can you tell, except by interrogating every voter...which wouldn't work, because voters may lie or change their vote when asked what/whom they voted for.

    In fact, how many paper ballots are invalidated because the voter voted for multiple candidates or otherwise invalidated their ballot? 2% may be low compared to real paper ballots.

    e-voting doesn't make fraud any more or less difficult. It just makes things less transparent, and probably makes fraud easier.

    Instead of having to print and fill out tens of thousands of ballots, register lots of dead people, or stuff ballot boxes, all of which have severe logistical problems and can be traced with a bunch of work, all you need to do perform e-fraud voting is compromise a couple of computers up in the food chain. There is no reliable auditability for e-voting unless you remove the secret ballot requirement...and even then, it's all plastic anyway. Logs (and audit logs) are a lot easier to fake than tens or hundreds of thousands of paper ballots. The latter requires coordination among large numbers of people; e-voting fraud just requires a couple of focused and motivated geeks. Bits are bits, baby, and our jobs is to make sure the bits are in the right order.

      i'd trust paper ballots over any kind of e-voting any day. It's not hard to design a ballot that doesn't allow hanging chads. It's probably impossible to design a computer system that can't be compromised by someone with enough motivation.

    • by grumbel (592662) <grumbel@gmx.de> on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @03:41AM (#25551871) Homepage

      How do you know if your vote is registered correctly or not?

      You stand there and watch while they do the counting. The whole point of pen&paper is that the voter themselves can verify that the voting process happens correctly, everything that isn't pen&paper adds a layer of intransparency that makes it much harder or impossible for the voter to verify the voting process is going as advertised.

      e-voting doesn't make fraud any more or less difficult. It just makes things less transparent, and probably makes fraud easier.

      E-Voting doesn't only make fraud easier, it makes large scale fraud possible in the first place. With paper you will have a really though time manipulating more then a single ballot box, with E-Voting on the other side you can do large scale fraud pretty easily when you sit at the right spot.

      The good thing about pen&paper is that it works even when you can't trust the government, it of course doesn't stop fraud in that case, but it makes it much easier to detect.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by LordLucless (582312)
      e-voting with a paper trail, as it is usually envisioned, is just as transparent as the pen & paper variety. In fact, those sort of e-voting machines are nothing more than giant mechanical pencils that people use to mark their ballots with. They embed a bit of logic so that nonsense votes can't be cast, and when they have a legitimate vote, they spit out a bit of paper that shows the voter who they voted for, which can also be read by a computer. They may also keep an internal register of votes, but tha
      • by mpe (36238)
        They embed a bit of logic so that nonsense votes can't be cast,

        What if a "nonsense vote" is exactly what the voter intended?
  • by orzetto (545509) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @04:15AM (#25551981)

    Since for some reason the cliche' in American media is that the USA are the oldest functioning democracy on the world, you may actually learn something today: Finland is. Finland introduced universal suffrage and the right to run for office for women in 1906. The USA as a whole can be counted as a democracy since 1964, when the blacks in the South states were finally allowed to vote and run for office and poll taxes were abolished (though most states had universal suffrage and right to run, but there is no such thing as a democracy for the few).

    Sad to see that a nation with such a history is going down the drain of electronic voting...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by plasmacutter (901737)

      actually, athens is.

      • The city-state of Athens that had a form of democracy did not comply with the definition given by the GP, since women and slaves did not have the vote (just like the USA when it was founded...) and in any case only lasted for a few decades. I think you may possibly find that New Zealand beat the Finns to it, though.
    • by jeti (105266)

      So your definition of democracy includes an election process that conforms with todays social standards?

      I guess a hundred years from now, kids will be taught that the first real democracy emerged around 2060 when for the first time children were allowed to vote in China.

    • by umghhh (965931)

      in the city-states in ancient Greece the statistics were even worse and yet they had democracy too. What you are talking about is citizen rights particularly the right to vote not democracy in general.

      There are views that for instance people that put an effort and finished university (this does not mean they are lees stupid of course) should have more votes than the others. Is this worse or better democracy? It is just different.

      As for what is better and worse as a method of voting or casting the vote. Well

  • Since these people did not follow through and press "okay" the final time, a paper record would have done nothing. This is user error that would not have been fixed in any way by a paper record.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by BarneyL (578636)
      If there was a visible feedback that a vote had or hadn't been placed (say a printed paper record) then the voter could immediately see that they hadn't pressed a final OK button and correct the issue.
      As it is it appears there was no feedback or indication that there was a final step needed after selecting the correct candidate.
  • Only 2% ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Colin Smith (2679) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @04:41AM (#25552059)

    The UK and US voting systems deliberately throw away at least 50% of votes.

     

  • " but the critique was debunked as 'science fiction.'"

    Yes, you could argue that Orwell's 1984 is science fiction.

  • by Jayjay2 (1236942) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @04:57AM (#25552129)
    If you need to write instructions for a process as simple as voting, you've frakked up the design of the system. Why were users able to remove their card before a vote was registered?
  • So to summarize (Score:4, Interesting)

    by roystgnr (4015) <`roystgnr' `at' `ticam.utexas.edu'> on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @08:12AM (#25553003) Homepage

    One group told the Finnish government that they would be able to count votes by harnessing the movement of subatomic particles to display ephemeral text and shapes, to automatically sense human touch, to follow a pre-programmed decision script written in advance and placed into microscopic internal storage, and to protect their results by encoding them mathematically.

    Another group explained some of the reasons why this might not all work perfectly.

    And it wasn't until the second group chimed in that some wiseass said "hey, that sounds like science fiction!" ...

    Well, I feel a little better about my own government now. That's kinda nice, I guess.

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