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Voting Machines Selecting Default Candidates 794

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the just-helping-you-out dept.
overThruster writes "Some voters in Las Vegas have noticed that Democrat Harry Reid's name is checked by default on their electronic voting machines. By way of explanation, the Clark County Registrar says that when voters choose English instead of Spanish, Reid's Republican opponent, Sharron Angle, has her name checked by default."
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Voting Machines Selecting Default Candidates

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  • I abstain (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Robadob (1800074) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @10:50AM (#34024802)
    Surely there should be a box to abstain from voting (spoil your ballot), and this neutral should be checked by default.
    • Re:I abstain (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @11:06AM (#34025054) Journal

      Really, all voters should be presumed to cast a "none of the above" ballot unless they specifically vote otherwise. Yes, even those who abstain by not showing up. Failure to even show up is a vote of no confidence in the system itself, which is a very important statement and deserves to be counted.

      If the majority of the population doesn't even show up to vote, that is a de facto vote against the system. Nobody can claim a mandate to govern under such circumstances. Any government elected under such circumstances cannot be considered legitimate.

      • Re:I abstain (Score:5, Insightful)

        by iluvcapra (782887) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @11:15AM (#34025206)

        The problem with a no-confidence plebiscite is the resolution. Historically, when an election provides the option of returning no winner, like many parliaments have or once implemented, you'd end up with a situation where the body went months or years without a leader, and in the vacuum other institutions (like revolutionary parties) would take over -- eventually if you belong to the group with the most money or guns, it becomes in your interest to spoil the votes because you benefit from the chaos and can claim the body is "do-nothing."

        The best way to protect the democratic institution of voting is ensure that it always returns an unambiguous result. If it isn't able to do this all the time, the institution itself will lose legitimacy.

        • Re:I abstain (Score:5, Insightful)

          by cayenne8 (626475) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @11:21AM (#34025300) Homepage Journal
          Err...exactly why is there a choice to vote in Spanish or English?

          I mean...is it not a requirement for those coming to this country, to attain citizenship to show on the exams, a proficiency in English??

          And you do have to be a citizen of the US in order to vote, don't you?

          • Re:I abstain (Score:5, Informative)

            by molo (94384) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @11:33AM (#34025482) Journal

            A person can be born in the US and raised and educated speaking a non-english language.

            BTW, in some jurisdictions, you can register to vote in local elections just by being a resident. I'm not sure if Nevada has any jurisdictions like that however.

            -molo

          • Re:I abstain (Score:5, Insightful)

            by HungryHobo (1314109) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @11:34AM (#34025496)

            However you do not have to know english in order to be an american citizen.

            Of course people who don't speak english don't deserve to get their vote counted if you listen to certain radio hosts.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Anonymous Coward

              Uh... actually, it is a requirement, at least if someone is not currently an American citizen but wants to become one. Per Wikipedia [wikipedia.org], under "Eligibility for Naturalization", they "must have a working knowledge of the English language". It does note some exemptions for older applicants and those with disabilities.

              For immigrants to vote, they must be Citizens. To become one if they aren't already, they need to understand English. Not at a graduate level, perhaps, but they need to know some of it.

              And if th

          • Re:I abstain (Score:5, Informative)

            by snkline (542610) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @11:37AM (#34025548)
            The US does not have an official language at the Federal level. If a state only wants to issue ballots in English, I believe they can, but they are also allowed to issue them in other languages if they want to. If Nevada wanted to they could provide you with options for every single written language in the world.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Enderandrew (866215)

            Many States have gone out of their way to allow illegal immigrants to vote.

            Iowa allows you to register to vote the day of the elections, and the polling place without identification, and then provides ballots in Spanish.

            What is stopping a felon or an illegal immigrant from voting? What is stopping you from going to every polling location and voting multiple times?

            Minorities and illegal immigrants tend to slant to one side, so obviously that party wants votes in any way they can.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by TheEyes (1686556)

              I don't know about Iowa, but in California you can only cast a provisional ballot; your vote doesn't get counted until your registration checks out (which usually means the electin is decided before they get around to counting your vote.)

          • Re:I abstain (Score:5, Insightful)

            by malraid (592373) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @12:18PM (#34026106)

            I'm sorry, but your comment is just ridiculous bigotry. I was born outside the US, and since my mother was a US citizen, I have US citizenship by birth. I did not become proficient in English until I moved to the US around the age of 13. So yeah, the test is required for naturalization, but that's not the only way to citizenship. And yes, those born here in the US have no requirement to learn English. Then there's those who can only speak one language (English), but can't really read or write. But that's beyond help.

          • by cwgmpls (853876) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @12:54PM (#34026566) Journal

            Voting requirements are typically established by local and state government, not by the Feds. I assume small-government types would like it that way. Historically, non-citizens have been able to vote in local, state and federal elections in over 40 states and territories. [immigrantvoting.org] It is more recent, anti-immigrant sentiment that has started to restrict voting to citizens only.

            Historically, voting has been considered a right of anyone who pays taxes. "No taxation without representation!" was the rally cry of the original Tea Party. The current "tea party" seems to have an altogether different agenda.

            There are tens of millions of workers in the U.S. who are not citizens but pay taxes. According to the principles of the founders the U.S., their payment of taxes entitles them to vote.

      • Re:I abstain (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anrego (830717) * on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @11:21AM (#34025294)

        I'm Canadian, so maybe the political situation is completely different "down there", but I think you are reading a little too much into people not showing up to vote.

        Sure some people are making a statement by not voting, but I think most who do not vote are either lazy (probably the majority) or don't feel they have enough understanding to make a serious choice.

        And personally, I would actually rather have a relatively small turn out of voters making a choice based on their beliefs, than a huge crowd of people just randomly picking a candidate because everyone is telling them they must vote. Voting isn't the important part.. keeping yourself aware of the politics of your country is!

        I do like the idea of specifically counting people who say "I don't think any of these are good" and maybe even a "I don't feel confident to make a choice". Would be an interesting number to see.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Raistlin77 (754120)
          If there was an option for "I confidently feel that none of these candidates are deserving of my vote", I'd show up every time.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by houghi (78078)

          In Belgium there is an obligation to vote. As we have a multi-party system, the situation is also different then in the US. People are so fed up will all the silliness, many vote at random. This paralyzes politics.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Samalie (1016193)

        You cannot assume that someone not showing up equals a vote against the system.

        My wife will regularly not-vote in an election. It is not because she's disillusioned with the system...its that she just really doesn't give a fuck.

        I do believe that there absolutely has to be an option of "All these assholes suck" on every ballot, and these votes should be counted against the rest of the votes. If the majority ov people who voted voted for "none of the above" - then basically the vote for that district should

  • Article Typo... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @10:51AM (#34024810)

    Reid's opponent is Sharron Angle, not Sharron Reid.

  • Typo (Score:3, Informative)

    by ByOhTek (1181381) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @10:52AM (#34024820) Journal

    the Clark County Registrar says that when voters choose English instead of Spanish, Reid's Republican opponent, Sharron Reid's name is checked by default."

    Did they mean Sharron Angle?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by m509272 (1286764)

      No, they mean Sharron Reid. It's so if you're not paying total attention you see Sharron and think it's Sharron Angle. This way the vote will be for neither Harry Reid or Sharron Angle (where it obviously would mean more). Just kidding.....

      The more interesting question, what if you don't want to vote for anyone (which should be the default)? Is there no option for that? Don't have time to read thru this whole thread.

  • Explanation? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @10:52AM (#34024826) Homepage

    How is:

    By way of explanation???, the Clark County Registrar says that when voters choose English instead of Spanish, Reid's Republican opponent, Sharron Reid's name is checked by default.

    an explanation? Who cares what language you're using the voting machine in. A voting machine should never have default candidates -- it needs to be explicitly blank until the user makes a selection.

    • Re:Explanation? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by digitalhermit (113459) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @10:58AM (#34024932) Homepage

      "Never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence..."

      The problem is likely some poor interface design. I've seen it used deliberately on some installers in order to sneakily add other products. It may follow a series of "Next" buttons that asks "Also install McAfee agent" or "Install Yahoo Toolbar"... In this case, the checkbox for the candidate may happen to be on the "Next" button of the previous screen.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by virtualXTC (609488)

        "Never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence..."

        .... Never (and always) are strong superlatives that one would be wise to avoid.

    • by Lehk228 (705449)
      sounds like it's not a "default" per se, i bet something isn't being cleared from the register after selection so the next menu has a persistence of touch location.

      shitty embedded UI programming,

      i would guess that rather than being even driven the UI cycles through an input loop that looks like an old basic getkey x loop, (except gettouch x,y) and fails to clear x and y after selecting a language and proceeding to the voting menu
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        >>>shitty embedded UI programming,

        The geek's definition of government.
        I think we should go back to paper scantrons. They can be counted twice - once by machine, and again by hand, for verification. Also it's hard to rig an election when you have several thousand pounds of paper laying around.

    • Re:Explanation? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by xaxa (988988) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @11:04AM (#34025020)

      The article talks about old people having this problem.

      I expect if you're "firm" with the touchscreen you end up pressing a button on the following screen (selecting a candidate) while you still think you're pressing "English" (or "Spanish").

      Easy solution 1: A "please wait" screen for a few seconds, which waits until nothing on the screen is being pressed
      2: Not having any buttons "underneath" a button on the previous screen

    • Re:Explanation? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Gravitron 5000 (1621683) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @11:05AM (#34025036)
      The article implies that it's due to people keeping their finger on the touchscreen when they select a language preference. The location of Harry would be in the same screen location as English, where Sally would be in the same screen location as Spanish. Really, it's just sloppy coding, as you should wait until the user's finger is lifted before allowing another selection.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ArcherB (796902)

        The article implies that it's due to people keeping their finger on the touchscreen when they select a language preference. The location of Harry would be in the same screen location as English, where Sally would be in the same screen location as Spanish. Really, it's just sloppy coding, as you should wait until the user's finger is lifted before allowing another selection.

        I saw nothing in the article that says all of these voters selected Spanish as their language. The only close I saw was the explanation given by the poll worker.

        "Something's not right," Ferrara said. "One person that's a fluke. Two, that's strange. But several within a five minute period of time -- that's wrong."

        All these people selected "Spanish"?

    • Re:Explanation? (Score:5, Informative)

      by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @11:05AM (#34025050) Homepage Journal

      Well if you read the link and not Slashdot's terrible, slanted, and sensationalist summary you will see that wasn't said.
      The problem is a simple UI issue.
      From reading the article it seems that they implemented the select language touch as select on touch begin and not select on touch end.
      So if you hold your finger down long enough the next screen pops up and your finger will be on one of the candidates.
      It is a simple UI issue combined with people being on auto pilot. Honestly not a huge issue because you should really check it before you hit next anyway but it should be fixed.

      Not evil or a conspiracy or anything but a UI error that really isn't that terrible if people bother to read. And yes it is so the type of UI problem that I would expect in any program like this.

      • Re:Explanation? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by khallow (566160) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @11:20AM (#34025274)

        It is a simple UI issue combined with people being on auto pilot. Honestly not a huge issue because you should really check it before you hit next anyway but it should be fixed.

        Now suppose you found out that the electronic ballot had been deliberately configured so that Reid's name would be under the finger when this error occurred? Would you still call it a simple UI issue?

        My point here is that we should take even innocent mistakes seriously when significant things are at stake and it is easy to pass off fraud or other deception as an innocent mistake.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mark72005 (1233572)
        This.

        It's a quality control issue with whatever Mickey Mouse company wrote this software.

        The state board of elections also bears the accountability for this, in my opinion, for not thoroughly doing acceptance testing on the platform before rolling it out.

        Software will always have defects. It's everyone's job to catch it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by formfeed (703859)

        Not evil or a conspiracy or anything but a UI error that really isn't that terrible

        If incompetence and sloppy design work in your favor it is exactly that: "evil or a conspiracy".
        That's how most gender or minority discrimination usually works. Incompetence and a attitude of not-thinking/ not-caring is what protects the status quo. I've seen it in job applications - and also your defense "just a mistake".

  • by AnonymousClown (1788472) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @10:54AM (#34024866)

    Voter Joyce Ferrara said when they went to vote for Republican Sharron Angle, her Democratic opponent, Sen. Harry Reid's name was already checked.

    Whoa!

    Sometimes, when I don't like any candidate for a particular office, I abstain and thinking, maybe naively, that it will be noticed in the count - 20,000 votes cast but only 19,999 for the office of [whatever] . Selecting someone by default goes against my choice and I would consider that to be fraud. Period.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Alsee (515537)

      The article was lousy. There was no "default" candidate being set. It correctly starts out as a blank ballot. The issue is that if your finger is still lying on the touch screen when the ballot comes up it will instantly trigger whatever candidate your finger happens to be touching. It happens so fast that the voter never saw the blank ballot. It looks as if the candidate came up pre-selected. You can change that mistaken selection before casting the ballot.

      There is no fraud, nothing remotely resembling fra

  • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @10:55AM (#34024884)

    (Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry) Lomax said voters need to have faith in the system.

    Pure gold!

    • by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@ g m a i l . c om> on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @11:10AM (#34025144) Journal

      The real irony of it is that the system the Nevada Gaming Board has for checking slot machines, is the exact same system [procon.org] I'd like to see for electronic voting machines.

      You can see which one they value.

  • by richg74 (650636)

    the Clark County Registrar says that when voters choose English instead of Spanish, Reid's Republican opponent, Sharron Reid's name is checked by default.

    This is so screwed up it's not even wrong. Why on earth should there be any default selection on the ballot? And why should the language have anything to do with it? It sounds like Clark County needs some new election officials, after they finish tarring and feathering the current ones.

  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @10:57AM (#34024908) Homepage Journal

    Actually if one reads the link you will see that Slashdot is at it again.
    They are touch screen systems. If you keep your finger on them to long you end up with double picking.
    This is a coding error. They just need to change the select from touch begin to touch end and maybe add a next button to take you to the next screen.
    In other words it is a UI error and not some great evil conspiracy.

    Okay Slashdot please stop using the FOX News and the Daily Workers guide to ethical journalism when writing the summaries!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Cwix (1671282)

      Thanks.. I kinda figured it had to be an error. I bet Harry Reids name shows up where "Spanish" was and Sharron Angles name shows up where "English" was.

      This is a non story.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by 91degrees (207121)
        This is a non story.

        Wouldn't say that exactly. Nevada using buggy voting machines that are prejudced towards a candidate is pretty bad. Suggestions of deliberate fraud are a little sensationalist though.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      They just need to change the select from touch begin to touch end and maybe add a next button to take you to the next screen. In other words it is a UI error and not some great evil conspiracy.

      That's just what they want you to think! When rigging elections, do you honestly think that there's a code block that started with:

      "/* Begin election rigging code here */"

      They want it to look like it's just a "coding error" in case they get caught and then they can say "Oppsie! Our bad!".

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ArcherB (796902)

      Okay Slashdot please stop using the FOX News and the Daily Workers guide to ethical journalism when writing the summaries!

      This is the local Fox affiliate, not FoxNews. These are two entirely different entities.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @11:20AM (#34025272) Journal

      They are touch screen systems. If you keep your finger on them to long you end up with double picking.

      That's not the only thing wrong here. A properly designed electronic voting machine will randomize the names of the candidates to avoid giving any one of them an advantage from being on the top of the list. If this voting machine had done this, the double picking errors would be random and not affect the result of the election. That the names are not randomized is a much, much bigger flaw in this voting machine than the double picking bug described here.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by LWATCDR (28044)

        Interesting idea but I wouldn't say that is a design flaw.

        Paper ballots are not randomized and in my state they send out copies of the ballot so you can study them and see who is running.

        Suppose I did study the ballot sent to me and then I am presented with one that doesn't match?
        I am allowed to take may study ballot in with me and for some people a randomized ballot could be more confusing.
        A non-randomized ballot is no worse then a traditional paper ballot.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zotz (3951)

      "Actually if one reads the link you will see that Slashdot is at it again.
      They are touch screen systems. If you keep your finger on them to long you end up with double picking.
      This is a coding error. They just need to change the select from touch begin to touch end and maybe add a next button to take you to the next screen."

      Perhaps, but it is a coding error in a production system of some importance right? Should this have not been dealt with before going live? To me, this sort of error would invalidate an e

  • From TFA: "Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said there is no voter fraud, although the issues do come up because the screens are sensitive. For that reason, a person may not want to have their fingers linger too long on the screen after they choose their candidate."

    It is interesting how the options work out; but the real issue here is a lousy hardware/software implementation. I wonder if any individual can control the layout well enough to purposefully take advantage of this. (Obviously the orig

  • Seriously, we need to dump electronic voting and go back to the paper ballot with ink stained thumbs method. Far more reliable.
  • The actual story... the explanation... the summary... nothing makes sense here.

    Only this obligatory reference [youtube.com] does...

  • I thought Nevada had a "none of the above" choice.

  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @11:01AM (#34024970) Homepage
    They did not build in a default candidate on purpose.

    What happens is that when you touch the screen to select "English" as your language, it immediately goes to the next screen where you select your candidate. But the old button that said "English" is very close to where the new button that votes for candidates appears.

    So if you are slow to remove your finger from the "English" button, your finger is already on the 'vote for candidate button', resulting in what the slow voter thinks is a default vote.

    This is:

    1. A bad GUI design. Grade D- in my opinion for putting the touch buttons so close and keeping the touch time too short/sensitive.

    2. A bad tester, if they did any. Grade F. I mean really, was this that hard to catch?

    3. Reminds me of moronic and illegal paper 'butterfly ballot' used in Florida not that long ago. Can't we get competent people to design these things?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by metrometro (1092237)

      > Can't we get competent people to design these things?

      That depends. Does your community pass every tax cut referendum on the local ballot? If so, then no, you can't get competent people to design these things.

      Maybe Mozilla can build us a fucking ballot box.

    • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @11:28AM (#34025402)

      Can't we get competent people to design these things?

      welcome to the new economy, mate. its not about getting things right, its about getting it down the cheapest way possible. hiring people who are too inexperienced to know better (hint: younger ones are cheaper. overseas ones, cheaper yet).

      we get what we pay for. when we disrespect our own working force, we all lose.

  • Ob. Homer! (Score:3, Funny)

    by DarthVain (724186) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @11:02AM (#34024990)

    DEFAULT! DEFAULT! DEFAULT!

    Scientist: [resigned] Well, Homer, I guess you're the winner by default.

    Homer: Default? Woo hoo! The two sweetest words in the English language: de-fault! De-fault! De-fault!

                            [assistant clubs him]

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @11:11AM (#34025154)

    When installing software, always choose "default (recommended)." This policy also applies to voting.

    CNN is about to have a special about "default" candidates . . .

  • by Kaenneth (82978) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @01:54PM (#34027374) Homepage Journal

    Diebold even ran a poll to determine which voting method people prefer, out of 100 people 65 preferred electronic voting, 45 preferred paper, and 5 George W. Bush.

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