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Finnish Court Accepts E-Voting Result With 2% Lost 159

Posted by kdawson
from the few-votes-among-friends dept.
Nailor writes "The Helsinki Administrative court accepted the municipal voting result in an election in which 2% of votes cast were not counted at all. We discussed this situation at the time. The court noted that the e-voting machinery has a feature, that should be considered as an issue. However, it also noted that 'a little over two percent failure rate can not be considered as such as a proof that the voting official would have acted erroneously.' Does this mean 98% of votes is enough to figure out how the other 2% voted? Electronic Frontier Finland has a press release about the court decision (Google translation; Finnish original)."
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Finnish Court Accepts E-Voting Result With 2% Lost

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  • Failed to Finnish (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dov_0 (1438253)

    If it is a first past the post system this is a problem. If it is majority rules, then as long as there is enough of a majority.

    2% failure rate is a bit much though?

    • Re:Failed to Finnish (Score:5, Informative)

      by Novus (182265) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @04:33AM (#26682839) Homepage
      Finnish municipal elections are always by the D'Hondt method [wikipedia.org], so the result [yle.fi] can be strongly affected by a few additional votes. In fact, if the missing votes were all for one candidate, that candidate would have received the most votes.
      • by Jurily (900488) <jurily@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Sunday February 01, 2009 @04:59AM (#26682915)

        Finnish municipal elections are always by the D'Hondt method [wikipedia.org], so the result [yle.fi] can be strongly affected by a few additional votes.

        Doesn't really matter. If you let them vote, count all the fucking votes. It's that simple.

        I have my own problems with any voting system skewing the results in favor of the two candidates most likely to win ("Don't vote on the little guy, your vote will be lost!"), but this is ridiculous.

        Did they offer any reimbursement for the people whose vote they didn't count? I'd be pissed off if they did that to me. I'd also start screaming around about someone cheating, and likely sue as well.

        • by jaria (247603) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @06:23AM (#26683179) Homepage

          > Did they offer any reimbursement for the people whose vote they didn't count?

          I am considering paying 2% less taxes this year. Clearly, 2% is within the allowable government tolerances.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by grgon (1301215)

            I am considering paying 2% less taxes this year. Clearly, 2% is within the allowable government tolerances.

            This is actually a really good point. Another example: if during one day in one country all the transactions in one bank contained 2% errors, that is money going to the wrong recipent, wrong amounts etc. it would be totally unacceptable. maybe if we involved a bank and put a euro coin/note in each envelope....

            • by thegnu (557446)

              Another example:
              if during one day in one country all the transactions in one bank contained 2% errors, that is money going to the wrong recipent, wrong amounts etc. it would be totally unacceptable.

              maybe if we involved a bank and put a euro coin/note in each envelope....

              I dunno about completely unacceptable. If anything, I'd make money.

              But my father pointed out that the reason why banking machines are more accurate is that there's more money in banking than in voting. Same with gambling machines. Voting is run by a bunch of retired volunteers with little money, and it doesn't earn anyone any money.

              So voting machines are cheap pieces of shit with no QA. Not that that doesn't bother me.

            • That's a bad example. If you count 60% of the vote, and reach 51% of the vote for one candidate, you already know that at least 9% goes to the other candidate and at most 49% does. If you're going to accept 51% as "winning," you stop counting. If you lose 2% of the vote, a candidate must win with more than 52% (note: the math is a bit more complex); otherwise, you can't reliably determine the winner.

              In a bank, every penny counts as 100% of a penny.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 01, 2009 @06:27AM (#26683203)

          But it's not that simple. This e-voting debate has always been tainted by a complete lack of scientific logic, which your post typifies.

          No measurement is perfectly accurate. Counting votes by hand is not a perfectly accurate method. We expect computers to be perfect but the measuring system isn't perfect so the results aren't either.

          It doesn't matter. Our voting system has always had a margin of error, and always will. Thankfully one court in the world understands this and is bold enough to say 2% is an acceptable error.

          If the election is not close, it clearly has no effect on the end result. It can only matter if the election is close.

          And here's the thing - if the election is close enough, then no system will accurately measure the result. We have a situation, well understood in the world of science, where the noise is louder than the signal. The result of any binary discriminator in this situation is effectively random.

          Closely-called elections have always been randomly decided, and they will always be randomly decided.

          Let's just accept this and get on with the real debate which is, what is an acceptable margin of error? Do you agree with 2% or not? What would you like the error to be? How much are you willing to spend to reduce the error?

          You'll note that in this properly cast debate, anyone saying that only 0.000000% is acceptable counts as an extremist who won't be listened to.

          • by Jurily (900488) <jurily@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Sunday February 01, 2009 @06:45AM (#26683247)

            If the election is not close, it clearly has no effect on the end result. It can only matter if the election is close.

            It's the principle that matters. You're basically saying they should randomly not let people in the booth saying "You're the error margin, good bye."
            How would you feel?

            You'll note that in this properly cast debate, anyone saying that only 0.000000% is acceptable counts as an extremist who won't be listened to.

            Make a law saying anyone who didn't get their vote counted doesn't have to pay taxes until the next election. I'm sure they'll get it sorted out in no time.

            • by thegnu (557446)

              It's the principle that matters. You're basically saying they should randomly not let people in the booth saying "You're the error margin, good bye."
              How would you feel?

              But then they wouldn't be the error margin. And that's not how it works. The thing about the error margin is that if you've got a 2% error margin, i'm betting there's well over 90% probability that those lost votes will be a representative sample.

              Make a law saying anyone who didn't get their vote counted doesn't have to pay taxes until the next election. I'm sure they'll get it sorted out in no time.

              What you're suggesting is to increase taxes to pay for better voting machines. Get involved if you care. Don't if you don't.

              • by N1AK (864906)
                Although anything done on a large enough scale will have an error margin, it does not make 2% an acceptable error for an election in a democracy. I don't like pulling figures out of the air, but if I had to then I doubt even a 0.5% error rate is good enough.

                Also, in addition to the basic principle that peoples votes should be counted in an election the larger the error rate the easier to hide vote tampering on a scale that may affect the result. Especially in a system that isn't first past the post (whic
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Ornedan (1093745)

            2% is bloody well not an acceptable error rate when manual counting error rate is 0.5% on average. As such, the court saying 2% is acceptable is utter bullshit.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            > Let's just accept this and get on with the real debate which is, what is an acceptable margin of error? Do you agree with 2% or not?

            Given that 1% or even 0.5% is the limit where a party can ask for recompensation for their expenses (speaking about Germany), 2% is definitely far, far too much, and obviously anything above 0.1% is too much.
            But that is not the real issue: the real issue is that nobody knows or can proof why which votes were lost, and the electronic voting systems make it completely imposs

            • by Jurily (900488) <jurily@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Sunday February 01, 2009 @08:24AM (#26683527)

              Given that 1% or even 0.5% is the limit where a party can ask for recompensation for their expenses (speaking about Germany)

              1% in Hungary.

              But that is not the real issue: the real issue is that nobody knows or can proof why which votes were lost, and the electronic voting systems make it completely impossible to find out even if 60% of votes were lost.

              No, it's not impossibe. We're talking about computers here, they can be audited.

              Also, I'd like to see, how

              votes[canditate]+=1;

              has an error margin of 2%.

              • by tepples (727027)

                Also, I'd like to see, how

                votes[canditate]+=1;

                has an error margin of 2%.

                You didn't show how you locked votes in case multiple voting machines try to access it concurrently. A lot of languages that use this sort of syntax don't specify concurrency semantics for +=. Nor did you show how your program handles a hardware or operating system failure between when the user presses "submit vote" and when the line you quoted gets executed, or between when the line you quoted gets executed and when votes is committed to nonvolatile storage. Nor did you show the code that obfuscates the va

                • Return to PDP11's. The x++; operation is impemented in hardware in a PDP11, and as I hope you all know, C is the assembly language of the PDP11, which was designed as a "hardware Fortran machine", Even "for (i = 0; i

                  Do the voting machines use a really sad processor? How sad can processors get in the 21st century?

                  I know compilers can get pretty bad, but this bad?

                  • Unfortunately you were probably going to have an informative example, but /. stripped out everything after the "<" on that line. (Assumption based on standard "for (i=0; i<number; i++)")
            • by ultranova (717540)

              But that is not the real issue: the real issue is that nobody knows or can proof why which votes were lost, and the electronic voting systems make it completely impossible to find out even if 60% of votes were lost.

              Even worse: for all we know, 60% of votes really were lost and replaced with computer-generated ones. The more cynical side of me suggests that this is the real reason for pushing for electronic voting systems, for as Comrade Stalin said: "Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count

          • by Thiez (1281866)

            > We expect computers to be perfect but the measuring system isn't perfect so the results aren't either.

            The measuring system IS perfect. You either vote for a candidate or you don't. Adding integers is something computers can do very well without errors.

            > You'll note that in this properly cast debate, anyone saying that only 0.000000% is acceptable counts as an extremist who won't be listened to.

            A 0.000000% error margin is perfectly acceptable when you are adding some positive integers when the sum of

          • If the election is not close, it clearly has no effect on the end result. It can only matter if the election is close.

            And here's the thing - if the election is close enough, then no system will accurately measure the result. We have a situation, well understood in the world of science, where the noise is louder than the signal. The result of any binary discriminator in this situation is effectively random.

            While you are right that all elections ave a margin of error and that 2% is better than 3%, in a proportional representation system (as the link in GGP suggests) 2% can make a difference (changing the lead by up to 8 seats)

          • by ultranova (717540)

            No measurement is perfectly accurate. Counting votes by hand is not a perfectly accurate method. We expect computers to be perfect but the measuring system isn't perfect so the results aren't either.

            Bullshit. We aren't talking about measuring physical system at the level where interference from the Uncertainty Principle or other sources would be a factor. We are talking about communicating an integer from a set of a few hundred at most from one human being to another.

            It doesn't matter. Our voting system ha

        • In Australian, we have what they call preferences, if you don't put them in, the person you voted for gets to cast them for you. Alot of the smaller parties are setup to lose, so they can throw 3-4% of the vote to one of the two big parties. You can either out a 1 in a box, or put 1-50 on the vote form...

          They Take advantage of the system either way.
        • by Gordonjcp (186804)

          Doesn't really matter. If you let them vote, count all the fucking votes. It's that simple.

          If you read the article, you'll see that what the problem really is, is that 2% of users were too stupid to register their vote properly.

          I would suspect that here in the UK you'd see approximately 25% of votes discounted, with 10% of users just standing in front of the touchscreen going "When's Strictly Come Dancing on?", 10% of users trying to roll it up and smoke it, and the remaining 5% trying to challenge it to a

        • Doesn't really matter. If you let them vote, count all the fucking votes. It's that simple.

          That's not generally how it works, at least not in Canada.

          They count the votes until there's a statistical likelyhood that one candidate has an overwhelming majority. If Candidate A has 75% of the popular vote with 25% of the votes counted, they usually don't count them all. (They do count from every polling station, however.)

          Only if there's no clear winner do they actually count all the votes.

    • Oh my... (Score:4, Funny)

      by spazdor (902907) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @04:37PM (#26686753)

      OMG...
      Did you just...

      If it is a first past the post system this is a problem.

      OH NO YOU DI'INT!

  • by AuMatar (183847) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @04:05AM (#26682761)

    If one person had 70% and the other 30%, the 2% won't matter and they should accept the election while fixing the problem for the next. If it's 51/49 victory, then its an issue now.

    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by Toonol (1057698)
      I did a little digging, but couldn't find an article in English that mentioned what the actual gap was. That probably means that the gap was greater than 2%, and the various bloggers are afraid that publicizing the fact that the missing votes don't matter might blunt our outrage.

      It's a problem, certainly, but it may not have any bearing on the outcome of this particular election.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by BSAtHome (455370)

        It's a problem, certainly, but it may not have any bearing on the outcome of this particular election.

        It doesn't matter whether the votes would have made a change or not. It is the basics of fairness that dictates that all votes should be counted. The margin of error should not play a role. If people are asked to vote, what is the problem with accepting the responsibility for counting them? The precedent set here says: we don't care about your vote since it doesn't matter. That is a very dangerous preceden

        • Except that in every landslide the opponent almost universally concedes (In US politics).

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      but the elections are not done only to determine who is the winner. Elections also show how much support the smaller parties and candidates have. They also show whether a smaller party or candidate suceeded in getting more votes than another smaller party or candidate. Such results can help smaller parties or candidates build coalitions, disband, get more members, or change their politics.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      According to the article a few votes could have changed the results (different persons elected).

    • by Card (30431)

      This was a municipal election, carried out in three small municipalities with just several thousand voters. The victory margin in those municipalities was just a few votes. This error clearly affects the outcome of the vote.

      Effi's site had an english version, too:
      An error margin of 2% in municipal elections ruled acceptable in Finland [effi.org]

      • The article you linked has couple more points that are in my opinion more important than the problems with the interface:

        Additionally, there is risk of a breach of the anonymity of the votes, because the electronic ballot box has been archived with information on who voted and how. The e-voting project had been strongly criticised by Effi from its inception for the lack of transparency both in the process and software.

        First, the system is not anonymous. Right people can see from the archives who voted for who. In fact, right after the election they were telling those who asked if their vote had been cast or not.

        Secondly, the system is completely closed. There was an audit, but the auditors were forced to sign a NDA. There is also no paper trace. The voter has no guaranties that his/hers vote has been c

    • by jaria (247603) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @05:23AM (#26683007) Homepage

      The margin of victory was *0* votes. There are people who got elected by roll of dice in the voting board, because they got the same number of votes as someone else.

      Clearly, even one additional vote would have changed the situation.

  • by profplump (309017) <zach-slashjunk@kotlarek.com> on Sunday February 01, 2009 @04:22AM (#26682797)
    2% doesn't mean anything unless you know the spoilage rate for non-electronic voting. In the US 2000 elections, 1.94% of the ballots cast were spoiled, and most of those were not electronic. I don't know if Finland usually has similar spoilage rates, but if they do I don't see why this is any more or less a problem than the old method.
    • by Kizor (863772)
      Where the HELL do you get your ballots? Finnish ballots have a circle. You take a pencil and write a number in the circle. That's it, you're done. Voting is held for one issue at a time. The failure rate of this electronic voting system is several times higher than that of traditional ballots.

      Traditional Finnish ballots fail because of unavoidable human stupidity, but here failures are due to technical problems and incompetent design that allows human stupidity to be expressed. The machines apparently al
    • by raynet (51803) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @05:12AM (#26682959) Homepage

      The Finnish system has very very low spoilage rate, the voting is done by writing the number of the candidate on the ballot and just about everybody does manage to do it correctly. And the margins in small municipalities are very tiny, had I gotten 7 more votes I would have been elected, and I got 3 :)

    • by puhuri (701880) <puhuri@iki.fi> on Sunday February 01, 2009 @05:18AM (#26682981) Homepage

      The number of rejected votes has been less than 1% [www.stat.fi] in most muncipal elections.

      In Finnish voting, a number of choisen candidate is written in booth by pen on paperboard sheet, that is then folded, stamped by official and put into ballot box. Many of invalid votes can be considered as protest votes (vulgar drawings, names of fictional charactes), but some of votes are rejected because number cannot be clearly identified (like 1 or 7). In larger cities, there are more than 100 candidates, so numbers can be upto 3 digits.

      • In Finnish voting, a number of choisen candidate is written in booth by pen on paperboard sheet, that is then folded, stamped by official and put into ballot box. Many of invalid votes can be considered as protest votes (vulgar drawings, names of fictional charactes), but some of votes are rejected because number cannot be clearly identified (like 1 or 7). In larger cities, there are more than 100 candidates, so numbers can be upto 3 digits.

        Articles in sentences are then discarded to make sound like bad American stereotype of European talking.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by thesupraman (179040)

      Quite, reading through this reasonably carefully it would appear that 2% of the votes 'Were not counted at all' which from my election experience would mean that 2% of the issued/recorded voters whom entered a booth did not then result in a vote in the system.

      The obvious reason for this would be that either a machine or machines were not transfered to the centralised count - something that should stick out in the paperwork like a sore thumb..

      OR

      2% of people did not understand/complete the voting procedure co

      • by amorsen (7485)

        It is quite common, although rather surprising, to get paper voting papers that have not been marked in any way - one can only guess that the voter got in to the booth, could not find the person/issue/whatever they thought they wanted to vote for, and didnt bother.

        My guess would be that most of them are protest votes.

    • by getuid() (1305889) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @05:24AM (#26683013) Homepage

      I don't see why this is any more or less a problem than the old method.

      I do. It's because of why the spoilage occured.

      In the case of paper ballots, it's easy to imagine where the spoilage comes from: thousands of helpers handle millions of pieces of paper. Either they mis-count, they accidentally destroy bills... whatever. It's easy to imagine that there is some damage, and the most likely scenario is not a systematic error or a manipulation.

      In the voting machine case, it's different. There's a machine counting results. It's not supposed to miscount. There's also the machines adding the numbers and doing the math -- it's not supposed to be wrong. If it is wrong, then it's propably not because of 1000 small errors adding uncorrelated small pieces to the spoilage (like it would be in the case of the manual counting), but it's most probably because of one single error or manipulation in the system. Being one single malfunction, it is not at all likely anymore that it has nothing to do with manipulation on purpose -- on the contrary, this scenario is very possible, and more or less likely.

      An analogy with weapons, to clarify (not to justify) my points: if a bow+arrow wouldn't be able to hit a 1 foot target at 1000 yards distance, you wouldn't complain. That's the limits what a bow can do, after all... But if a high-tech sniper rifle missed the same target from the same distance, you'd have all rights to complain! The gun is supposed to work orders of magnitude better, there's no room for such a big error there.

      • Precisely. There should be 0% of votes 'lost' with an electronic system - where could they go? A computer is not like a physical system operated by humans, with pieces of paper going left, right and centre. It should be utterly trivial to ensure that the number of votes and voters matches precisely.

        People are amazingly tolerant/ignorant about these things. Anyone who follows elections closely would be well aware that 2% is more than enough to swing an election in many situations.

        For example, to pick US

    • by kaip (92449) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @05:59AM (#26683107) Homepage

      In the Finnish municipal elections 2008, 0.17% of the paper votes were inadvertently spoiled (unclear marking in the ballot ticket etc.) and had to be dismissed. This can be compared with the 2% of the electronic votes lost in three municipalities in which the new voting system was piloted (see Effi's Electronic Voting FAQ [effi.org], in Finnish).

      The total fraction of the spoiled paper votes in the municipal elections was 0.6%. Most of the dismissed paper votes were due to a deliberate action by the voter (votes for Donald Duck - a popular candidate here!, empty ballot tickets etc.). There is no evidence to support the claim that the lost electronic votes were due to a deliberate action by the voters. On the contrary, in addition to the usability problems with the voting machines, there is evidence of system malfunctions which may have contributed to the lost votes (slow response times, freezing of the voting machines during the voting etc.). Additionally, the electronic voting did allow to cast an empty vote.

    • by vuo (156163)
      0.5%
    • by Hatta (162192)

      It doesn't matter what the non-electronic spoilage rate is. This is electronic, if it loses anything it is hopelessly broken. Would you be ok with 2% of the deposits at your bank going missing? 2% of your credit card charges going missing? We have the technology to do this right. A single uncounted vote is unacceptable. 2% loss is proof of sheer incompetence, and the results should not be trusted no matter what margin the results seem to indicate.

  • Unfortunately, around 2% of the EFF's press release was not translated correctly into English. I would like to assure all slashdotters that their comment posts about it will still be accepted for discussion.
  • 2% (Score:4, Insightful)

    by clarkkent09 (1104833) * on Sunday February 01, 2009 @04:25AM (#26682809)
    I guess this is a question of whether it is possible to have a "perfect" user interface such that 100% of people who use it will get it right. Given the number of nincompoops out there, that is a pretty difficult problem. What is the percentage of mistakes with paper ballots? I bet there are 2% who manage to screw that up too.

    I looked at the demo of the voting machine user interface and it seems perfectly sensible. You put your voting card in and press the number of the candidate you are voting for. A message comes up with large friendly letters telling you something like "This is the candidate you are voting for: <candidate details>. Press OK to cast your vote. [OK] [CANCEL] Apparently, at this point 2% of the voters simply pulled their card out of the machine and walked out of the booth without pressing OK. If they didn't have the confirmation screen, then the same people would press the wrong number and vote for the wrong candidate, and then complain that they weren't given a chance to correct it.
    • Re:2% (Score:5, Informative)

      by raynet (51803) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @05:13AM (#26682975) Homepage

      It seems that the [OK] [CANCEL] buttons didn't have very good feedback and they didn't work all the time, sometimes requiring multiple clicks to register, which is why some people took their cards after clicking on OK several times.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by legirons (809082)

        It seems that the [OK] [CANCEL] buttons didn't have very good feedback and they didn't work all the time, sometimes requiring multiple clicks to register, which is why some people took their cards after clicking on OK several times.

        OK/Cancel buttons are a disaster-area anyway, since every OS and every application has a different idea on what order they should go in, and people get used to clicking the left/right one for OK without looking at the labels.
         

        • Re:2% (Score:4, Interesting)

          by LateArthurDent (1403947) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @02:03PM (#26685591)

          OK/Cancel buttons are a disaster-area anyway, since every OS and every application has a different idea on what order they should go in, and people get used to clicking the left/right one for OK without looking at the labels.

          If you color the ok button green and the cancel button red is there any culture for which that would seem backward? I honestly don't know the answer to that, but the convention of "green=ok, red=pay attention, something's wrong" might be universal.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jaria (247603)

      There were multiple problems. Bad user interface design, which allowed modes where the votes don't get registered. Machines becoming frozen at the time of the voting process, making it impossible to press the OK button. Instructions which stated to press OK once, when you had to press it twice. And so on.

      The most serious issue is that if the machine freezes for several minutes, the voter does not know what to do. If he pulls the card out before the machine returns to life and you can press the 2nd OK, your

    • by jeti (105266)

      Good testing would have found the problem with people pulling the card without confirmation of the vote. The machines should have been modified to lock the card until the vote is cast.

    • by sa1lnr (669048)

      Here's an idea, what if the machine did not release the voting card until a vote had been properly cast. It surely can't be hard to implement in this day and age?

      • by legirons (809082)

        Here's an idea, what if the machine did not release the voting card until a vote had been properly cast. It surely can't be hard to implement in this day and age?

        You're still trusting the software to do the right thing -- I can just imagine this voting machine being like trying to persuade a Mac to spit-out a CD when it's "sure" (incorrectly) that something is using it.

    • by ultranova (717540)

      I guess this is a question of whether it is possible to have a "perfect" user interface such that 100% of people who use it will get it right. Given the number of nincompoops out there, that is a pretty difficult problem. What is the percentage of mistakes with paper ballots? I bet there are 2% who manage to screw that up too.

      You lose. According to EFFI [effi.org], only 0.6 percent of paper votes had to be rejected, and of those, only 0.17 percent were not obviously intentional screwups, such as voting for Daffy Duck

  • It all depends... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @04:34AM (#26682843) Journal
    Except in extremely close races, a smallish percentage of lost/spoiled/uncounted votes isn't an issue as long as the lost votes are a representative subset of all the votes. If it is a selective subset, then you have a serious, serious problem.

    Same thing as polling. If the people you do poll are a representative sample, you don't actually need all that many of them to get the correct answer. If you get an unrepresentative sample, then your results are worthless. It should be noted, of course, that with elections, unlike polling, you are still obligated to put forth your best effort to count everybody's vote(though, depending on the technology, imperfection is inevitable to some degree).
    • by Kizor (863772)
      Good point. I'd hazard a guess that people from the demographics that have the most trouble with new technology were the most likely to have trouble with electronic voting.

      Selective.
      • by jaria (247603)

        Perhaps, like the elderly. But we have to remember that in this case we also had young computer savvy people who experienced problems. (This is all well documented in the court case and not under dispute by the way.)

        For instance, a computer science teacher saw the machine crash when he inserted his smart card.

        A young student saw the computer froze for several minutes in the middle of the voting process. Had she not waited, pulling out her card before the process was final would have resulted in her vote get

  • Unless the 2% of lost votes actually matter (e.g., the race is close, or 2% is signifant for proportional representation, or it indicates a deeper systemic problem) why do they really matter?

    • by raynet (51803)

      In my municipality, about 80 votes for candidate was about the maximum, 11 got you elected and 5 was enough to get a in as a backup. Also votes are used for dividing up seats in different comissions/boards/positions etc. And if I recall correctly, of about 2000(ish) ballots cast here, one was spoiled, rest were valid.

    • by jaria (247603)

      The race was close. In two of the three cities, the last person to be selected was chosen randomly because they got the same number of votes as some one else. In the third city there was just a few votes of difference.

      In addition, the lost number of votes alone would have been enough to get someone elected, i.e., 2% would get you to the city council.

    • by legirons (809082)

      Unless the 2% of lost votes actually matter (e.g., the race is close, or 2% is signifant for proportional representation, or it indicates a deeper systemic problem) why do they really matter?

      Because it shows that their computers can't count. Computers are supposed to be very good at counting - if they fail at something very simple like that, it means they've been programmed to incorrectly count, which would be illegal because that's election-fraud.

    • by ruin20 (1242396)
      Another aspect is how does this compare to the error margine in paper balloting? Is 2% really that much larger then, for example, the number of hanging chads in florida?
  • by Novus (182265) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @05:14AM (#26682977) Homepage

    Standard disclaimer: legalese may not be 100% accurate. I am not a lawyer.

    Electronic Frontier Finland ry (Effi) is shocked by today's decision by the Helsinki Administrative Court. The court downplayed the problems of e-voting and declined to annul the result of the election. Thus, the elections will not be repeated unless the Supreme Administrative Court overturns the decision. After last year's municipal elections, it was found that 232 voters' votes were lost.

    Effi assisted in 16 complaints regarding e-voting in the three municipalities in which it was trialled. Based on the witness and expert statements gathered by Effi, the problems were due, amongst other things, to machines freezing at the moment of voting, inadequate testing, user interface design issues, not fixing detected problems and incorrect instructions. In some trial municipalities, even one vote could have changed the members of the council that was elected.

    A central basis for the decision was that "A failure rate of slightly more than 2% can not, as such, be considered to show erroneous activity on the behalf of the election authority... The threshold for repeating an election must also be high even with respect to realising basic state rights."

    Lawyer Mikko Välimäki, the complainants' advocate, comments: "The decision does not seem to be well founded. The problems are undeniable, and the election result was incorrect. The Administrative Court's line chips away at the trust in Finnish democracy. What happened to the basic rights of the "slightly more than 2%"?"

    The vice chair of Effi, Ville Oksanen, wonders: "I understand that we agree that the election trials had serious problems. Now, however, the Administrative Court has accepted a situation in which it is clear that the result of the election did not correspond to the will of the voters. The last candidates to pass are within the margin of error of the system." Oksanen continues: "Not even the municipalities have denied the existence of problems in the judicial process or the possible effect of the missing votes on the results of the election. Going by the Administrative Court's logic, we could give up recounting votes, because the results don't change by more than a few votes anyway. The constitution guarantees everyone an equal right to vote. It doesn't say anything about 98%!"

    Jari Arkko, who complained about the elections in Kauniainen, intends to appeal the decision: "We will study the court's decision in the next few days, but we have previously considered the matter to be so important in principle that we have reason enough to appeal to the Supreme Administrative Court." In Vihti, complainant Tero Miettinen agrees: "A badly implemented system should not decide who is elected to the council of my home town. The margin of error in the electronic voting was many times that of the traditional election system. It is hard to understand why the Administrative Court does not consider this an indication that the system has failed."

  • by jaria (247603) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @05:45AM (#26683071) Homepage

    We can never have a 100% perfect system. Paper ballots lose about 0.5% of votes in Finland. But 2% is way too much. We spent a lot of money on that system, and it gives worse results than the almost free paper ballot system (the votes are counted by volunteers).

    The reasons for the mess include incompetence on the part of the ministry organizing the elections and completely ignoring the feedback from external experts prior to the election. For instance, minister of justice, Tuija Brax, painted the worries as "science fiction" just before the elections.

    But I am even more stunned by the handling of the problems after they were discovered. Normally, if you get problems you try to deal with them and rectify the situation. But many of the government officials, voting boards, etc. have focused on blaming the users, explaining that 2% isn't a big deal, and attempting to avoid discussion of the actual technical problems that were discovered.

    And it gets worse. My city voting board actually blamed the votes for purposefully misusing the machines so that they would appear unreliable. Conspiracy! Normally it is the crazy citizens who suspect the government of conspiracies, but this time the government thinks the citizens are conspiring against them. Maybe the officials involved should be re-allocated for JFK murder investigations...

    More information here:

    http://www.arkko.com/vaalit/evoting.html [arkko.com]

    • by SLi (132609)

      We can never have a 100% perfect system. Paper ballots lose about 0.5% of votes in Finland. But 2% is way too much. We spent a lot of money on that system, and it gives worse results than the almost free paper ballot system (the votes are counted by volunteers).

      Volunteers?

      I assure you I got paid in the order of 300 euros for essentially the single voting day. Ok, only 92 (IIRC) euros of that were for the counting itself.

  • There will be an appeal to the highest court.

  • by blind biker (1066130) on Sunday February 01, 2009 @06:05AM (#26683119) Journal

    Luckily, I am one of those who voted with pen and paper. From what I've heard, the electronic voting system was fairly complicated, and my guess is that I could have fallen victim of it.

    The candidate I voted for didn't get through. I think I'll blame it on the fucking electronic voting (I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that he promoted a rabidly anti-car and pro-cycling agenda).

  • by EdIII (1114411) *

    Does this mean 98% of votes is enough to figure out how the other 2% voted?

    Of course NOT. ABSOLUTELY NOT. The answer here could never be yes if you are going to even begin to pretend you have a form of democracy.

    I can accept that my own vote may not be counted due to any number of errors in the voting process. I WILL NEVER ACCEPT that somebody uses math to determine how I *may* have voted and use that to determine who will represent my interests in government.

    If the 2% does not make a difference in decid

    • That's all true, but you're thinking of this in the wrong way. If I count up the votes and candidate A receives 70% of the vote, and candidate B receives 28% of the vote, then it really doesn't matter how the remaining 2% voted. Mathematically speaking, they can't change the outcome of the election.
      • by EdIII (1114411) *

        I think you missed my point. I even stated that if the 2% made no difference in the vote, than they would not matter.

        What the article was suggesting was "figuring out" how the 2% voted. You can't figure it out or make any assumptions as to which way it voted. It's an error. Math cannot apply here since it is a vote. It's wrong to mathematically determine the probability of what an error is and then using that information.

        It's like saying, "Yes Mr. X, we had an error with your vote. However, our mathem

  • I can deal with 2% lost votes in one election. But why they want to use electronic voting machines in the first place I'm not getting. And if they plan to use them after this I'll be voting by pen and paper as long as it is an option.

    The Finnish system is so simple that you can't really make it any better. You get a piece of paper, with a circle designating where to write your number. A line shows which way is down.

    In the voting booth there are writing models of every number, and a list of all candidates wi

    • by drsmithy (35869)

      The Finnish system is so simple that you can't really make it any better. You get a piece of paper, with a circle designating where to write your number. A line shows which way is down.

      Heh. Now that's an interesting little cultural difference. As an Australian I would expect an arrow like that to be showing which way is up. :)

      • by SLi (132609)

        The Finnish system is so simple that you can't really make it any better. You get a piece of paper, with a circle designating where to write your number. A line shows which way is down.

        Heh. Now that's an interesting little cultural difference. As an Australian I would expect an arrow like that to be showing which way is up. :)

        Well, that's not surprising, because you live down there and there's really nothing that is more down except penguins :)

  • The EFF says the system is flawed because it requires people to verify their vote once they selected it? It would be far worse if there wasn't a verification.

    It's not like this is unusual behaviour in any electronic system. You don't take your bank card out of an ATM or chip and pin machine until you're told to and most ATMs require a 'yes I'm sure' for any actions that would cost. You also don't yank out your card until you're told to.

    A 2% spoilage rate although higher than the typical rate, isn't incredib

    • The EFF says the system is flawed because it requires people to verify their vote once they selected it?

      No, they criticize that it was possible to stop the voting process unintentionally. This could have been solved using card readers that took whole card inside the reader, so it wouldn't have been possible pull it out without voting. Other solution would have been to display clear message that the voting process was interrupted and no vote was cast.

      You also don't yank out your card until you're told to.

      ATM won't give you any money if you yank out the card too early. That means that there is a clear feedback when the transaction has happened correctly. With voti

      • by abigsmurf (919188)

        ATM's don't let you yank out the card but there are scores of Chip and Pin machines that will.

        Who says the system is worse? Spoilage rate and costs are only 2 factors. There's staff levels, level of monitoring needed, speed of voting, speed of counting etc.

        2% spoilage isn't huge and it's probably safe to assume that it'll improve in the next election. All the advantages with only a slight difference in spoilage would make it a sensible choice.

  • I remember reading about 'foolproof' paperless voting machines in the 1960's. In fifty years, nothing seems to have changed except for the technology. You don't have a full record of the votes. People vote for a day, and at the end of the day the total does not tally, but you don't know what went wrong.

    If at the end of the day, the machines logged who voted, which way, and when, then everyone would be able to check that their vote was logged correctly. However, this might allow others to know or guess th

    • by bentcd (690786)

      Suppose your voting paper had a unique random barcode generated at the time your ballot paper was printed. The machine takes the candidate number of your vote and adds it to the total. It also adds your candidate number to your barcode number, and puts that in a public database. The public database would contain a set of apparently random numbers. However, if you keep your ballot paper with the number, you or someone at the voting booth ought to be able to find the number that corresponded to your vote, and check that the machine correctly tallied it.

      This would make it possible to purchase votes and have a receipt to check that the service was delivered. Or bully people for votes or whatever. It is generally considered an undesirable feature.

      This is a crude proposal. There are probably much better ones out there. I bet ATM software doesn't put up with a 2% error rate.

      An ATM doesn't have the onerous requirements that a voting process does: it doesn't need to not give receipts and it doesn't need to be ignorant about who is using it. This makes auditing very much easier. It is also not a disaster if someone tries to use it, fails to and walks away thinking they have received cash

      • This would make it possible to purchase votes and have a receipt to check that the service was delivered. Or bully people for votes or whatever. It is generally considered an undesirable feature.

        I disagree. The simple scheme is just to cover the 'uh-oh - I don't think it took my vote' case. The piece of paper with their number should not leave the polling station.

        An ATM doesn't have the onerous requirements that a voting process does: it doesn't need to not give receipts and it doesn't need to be ignorant about who is using it. This makes auditing very much easier. It is also not a disaster if someone tries to use it, fails to and walks away thinking they have received cash when they have not. Moreover, it is legal to get direct assistance in using an ATM if for whatever reason you can't figure out how.

        Do voters need a permanent receipt for their vote? Surely, this allows for the very vote selling and bullying you were arguing against? Quite apart from that, I don't think it helps. Once the voter is satisfied their vote has gone into some distributed robust database, it should be impossible to lose except by some sort of widespread frau

        • by bentcd (690786)

          I disagree. The simple scheme is just to cover the 'uh-oh - I don't think it took my vote' case. The piece of paper with their number should not leave the polling station.

          This requires you to keep the voters separate not only in the voting booth but also when moving from the booth to the functionary to cast the ballot. Which is just a matter of logistics I suppose, if a bit inconvenient to arrange. Also, if I understand the proposal correctly, it is undesirable that the functionary be allowed to learn what vote you cast as it, again, opens up for verifiable purchase of votes. This can presumably be kept under some sort of control though if a record is kept of which functiona

    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      For god sake, every single time.

      Secret voting means you can't connect a vote to a voter. In your case someone who gets your receipt, say your boss or union rep who demands everyone hand them over after the election, can determine who you voted for.

    • by Aerion (705544)

      This is a crude proposal. There are probably much better ones out there.

      Yes, quite a few. They tend to run along the same lines, but with different approaches for ensuring, with high probability, that your ballot ID can't be tied to you.

      See ThreeBallot (and variants) [mit.edu], for example. Others include Scantegrity II [scantegrity.org], which has gotten a fair amount of attention recently.

  • From the Slashdot article:

    Does this mean 98% of votes is enough to figure out how the other 2% voted?

    I can think of at least two folks in Minnesota that would have a problem with that many votes lost...

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2008/11/franken-coleman.html [latimes.com]

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      It's not getting it to lose 2% of the votes that is important... the trick is getting it to lose the right 2% of the votes!

      Yes, if all lost votes being cast for one candidate or the other would make no difference in any of the outcomes, then the results should be certified. If there was any possibility that it would make a difference (as was clearly the case in the Minnesota senate election) then they should hold another special election.

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