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The First Federally Certified Voting System 68

InternetVoting writes "The Election Assistance Commission has announced the first ever federally certified voting system. While the Election Management System (EMS) 4.0 by MicroVote General Corporation has successfully completed 17 months of testing, many questions still remain about the United States' voting system Testing and Certification program. Many systems are still being tested to obsolete standards, the current standards are set to become obsolete soon and cost estimates for future certifications are skyrocketing. The future of improved innovating voting systems does not look bright."
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The First Federally Certified Voting System

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  • by BiggerIsBetter ( 682164 ) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @10:34AM (#26763663)
    Good for them, but it's worth noting that they've previously been fined [] for violating election laws by selling uncertified equipment to the State of Indiana.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      And California: []

    • by cbiltcliffe ( 186293 ) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @10:57AM (#26763769) Homepage Journal

      Good to know.

      And realistically, wouldn't a paper ballot and a pencil be the first federally certified voting system?

      Or was that method so simple that no certification was deemed necessary?

      I'm not an American, so I'm making some assumptions here, and I'd really be interested in knowing this.

      If paper and pencil are certified, why the need for a second system?

      If paper and pencil are not certified, why the need for a system that's so complex that it needs certification in the first place?

      (Probably preaching to the converted with that last question, but still.....)

      • Paper and pencil ballots still need to be counted, either by hand or by machines.

        Hand counts are time consuming and, in tests, rarely match one another.

        Machine counting has meant relying on companies like Diebold: see []

        • All true, but an accurate election is more important than immediate results. And if a hand count reveals inconsistencies, there's a definite paper trail, and you can have 20 different people count if needed to find a consensus.

          I guess the simplest election strategy is a dictator saying "I elect myself for another term."

          So no, paper and pencil is not necessarily the simplest, but it's transparent, and easily understood by even the most simple-minded citizen.

          This electronic garbage will just end up being a c

          • Yes, I agree that paper and pencil are the best way to vote. But tested open-source software, backed up by the ability to hand count the ballots themselves if necessary, is probably a better way to count than hand counting.

            For one person's funny take on hand-counting (not mine), look 3 hours and 57 minutes into this meeting of the Humboldt County CA Board of Supervisors [].

            Geeks have a tendency to underestimate the difficulties involved. If geeks were doing the hand counts, I'd be all for them.

            (Full disclosu

            • by Darkk ( 1296127 )

              Probably the best way would be is use a standard electronic voting machine that everybody can agree on and print out the voter's vote on paper in both machine and human readable form to be deposited into the voting box by hand. This way the machines already have a running number of the votes and still have a paper trail.

      • by PlazMan ( 40335 )

        And realistically, wouldn't a paper ballot and a pencil be the first federally certified voting system?

        Not really. There was no federal certification program until the EAC and no uniform standards. The states are basically free to make up their own rules. Delaware might decide to require everybody to vote using red crayons and the feds don't have any say.

      • ...or to put it another way, four excuses used:

        1) "We have to let the blind and disabled vote privately". This is huge. See, even before Diebold got into voting, they were giving big money to the National Federation of the Blind, who would sue banks that didn't use "accessible" ATM (cash) machines, and then as part of the settlement the bank was supposed to buy "accessible" ATMs made by, you guessed it, Diebold.

        Once Diebold got into voting in 2002 they pulled the same scam. The same National Federation o

  • Human factor (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WarJolt ( 990309 ) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @10:37AM (#26763689)

    Doesn't matter how much testing you do; There is always the human factor. Machines won't change that. I guarantee you either the voter or the administrator will somewhere somehow mess it up.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by blueg3 ( 192743 )

      Of course, but that factor is present in voting systems that don't use voting machines, too.

      It's fruitless to expect an electronic voting system will be perfect -- it's probably impossible to prevent all attacks. The important thing is that the electronic voting system is not worse than the already-existing alternatives.

      • Yeah, but with voting computers[1] human errors will be quite disastrous... if a programmer makes a mistake (intentionally or unintentionally), then this may very well change the whole outcome of the voting. He's even comparatively save, as most voting computers use closed source software, and the public can't (even theoretically) prove the fraud.
        If you're voting pen&paper style, election fraud will be time- and cost-consuming and there's a quite large probability that it will be noticed.
        Replacing a few

        • by blueg3 ( 192743 )

          That's an extremely general and vague argument. There are particular failure modes, costs, and methods of prevention for attacks in both conventional and electronic voting systems. (Note that even voting machines, the mechanical sort, have both bugs and security holes.) There are methods for both sorts of voting systems to influence the outcome of the vote, and methods of mitigating it. Reducing it to "electronic voting systems are bad" is nonsensical.

  • by JimMarch(equalccw) ( 710249 ) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @10:39AM (#26763701)

    Some have even been booted out of the process for poor performance, most recently when NIST (National Institute of Science and Technology) started looking at them. Systest was just kicked out, see this story and links from there for details: []

    Cyber was so bad, you could jam a cheap pocket calculator halfway into a banana, pay 'em enough money and they'd have declared it "an acceptable election technology" or somedamnthing.

  • That would be like the beef industry certifying its own standards. Or for an analogy that I understand better - video game publishers rating their own games.
  • Show me... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 07, 2009 @11:15AM (#26763853)

    ... the source code?

    • by CoolVC ( 131998 )
      well they make sure someone sees the source code...

      Q: Will the source code be available to the public?
      A: No. The EAC will make all information available to the public consistent with Federal law. The EAC is prohibited under the Trade Secrets Act (18 U.S.C. 1905) from making the source code information available to the public. However, the test labs will examine the source code to ensure compliance with the voluntary voting system guidelines. Test plans, test reports, and other information about the test l

      • Q: Will the source code be available to the public?
        A: No. The EAC will make all information available to the public consistent with Federal law. The EAC is prohibited under the Trade Secrets Act (18 U.S.C. 1905) from making the source code information available to the public. However, the test labs will examine the source code to ensure compliance with the voluntary voting system guidelines. Test plans, test reports, and other information about the test labs and the voting system manufacturers are availa

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why? You can't even prove that the machine that you're using to cast your vote is using the binary that was compiled from a particular source code, or that the processor abides by its specification and doesn't switch to internal memory when it encounters a specific sequence of commands. This whole certification business is hogwash. Either you trust the companies or you don't. If you don't trust them, you can't use their machines. Ask the DoD how that works.

      • Yes, actually, it is possible to verify whether compiling a particular source code gives you a particular binary file. (That is, assuming that the compiler itself is specified.) You compile it, and compare.

        Not very hard.

  • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @11:26AM (#26763937) Homepage

    But the real problem with voting is the One Vote, Plurality wins counting system, which drives out third parties and means that in a multi-contestant election, the winner almost never gets a majority. This is known to be a bad system. It may indeed be true that all voting systems may have problems, but one vote, plurality wins has very bad [] problems.

    There are much better counting systems-- approval voting [] is simple and easy, for example, and much much better. Range voting [] also has a lot to say for it-- mathematically it's similar to approval, but hey, if you can rate your local restaurant on a scale of 1 to 5, you can learn to rate politicians the same way.

    • Being elected president actually requires a majority of the electoral college not a plurality. []
    • Please demonstrate a clearly well-run town, state or organization that uses this system.

      Pointing out the flaws of a system is easy- everyone is a critic.

      The use of your proposed system needs to end in objectively better, real results for it to be worth considering at all.

      The collision of a scheme based on a sound theory quite often exposes unconsidered lethal weaknesses. It might also demonstrate that there is no practical difference in outcome. It could end up being better.

      My point? Show me where it has wo

  • I'm sorry, but this an area in which I absolutely do not want innovation. I want votes to be cast the way they always have in this country - on paper and in ink. I, the voter, get NO VALUE from any other system, electronic, mechanical, or colored pebbles in a jar. The media gets to publish electronic voting results earlier -- big deal.

    Innovation should never be a part of voting -- every innovative idea brings unknown risks to the accuracy of the system, giving corrupt people the opportunity to find a

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eyrieowl ( 881195 )

      As a voter, you, personally, may not get much (any) benefit from any other voting system. As a citizen, it is in your collective's best interest to ensure that voting and counting go smoothly. People writing on paper or punching holes in paper is a system which leads to discrepant results. You can say "fill in the bubble", and the question then becomes, "what percentage of the bubble must be filled in to count?" or "what if another bubble has a mark in it?" or any number of other questions (see the Frank

      • Preliminary results are easily generated from electric vote count. Final results can be determined from scanning paper ballots.

        Further, it's not really even necessary to scan all the paper ballots. Random sampling can do the job just as well as full counting, and much faster and cheaper. In particular, you should:

        • Randomly select a set of precincts, scan all of their ballots and verify that the tallies match the electronic totals.
        • Randomly select another set of precincts and randomly select a subset of their ballots and manually verify that the scanning equipment agrees with human reading.

        It's a simple statistical calculation

  • switch (candidate) {
        case candidate1:
        case candidate2:
           throw std::exception("invalid candidate");
  • The problem is the "standard" Section 5.2.1 Selection of Programming Languages Software associated with the logical and numerical operations of vote data shall use a high level programming language, such as: Pascal, Visual Basic, Java, C and C++.

    Yes, one could write the system in Pascal...
  • posted this before, hopefully this time it will catch or something... Not only do we need votes that count (rigged elections last few times b/c of diebold/diablo voting machines crapping out/tampered easily with) but we also need voting for issues as a people. "show me the source code!" - awesome. exactly my thoughts too....especially ESPECIALLY since it's elections and those are supposed to matter! I love how people care about this thing but we need voting on ALL ISSUES. an Open sourced government is
    • by fr!th ( 834381 )
      The problem of this is the 'tyranny of the masses'. As any slashdotter will gleefully explain, most people are stupid. Ergo, the majority will be stupid, thereby always frustrating the efforts of the smart to implement intelligent policies. The idea of a democracy (as a friend of mine once put it) is to 'Represent the Majority, Respect the Minority'. Unfortunately, in most places it seems to be 'Represent the Minority, Respect?' I do agree that there should be simpler and more readily available means of
  • The problem - as I see it - are vendors who are more interested in money than actually doing something right. Our voting system (Los Angeles County) seems to do just fine. We processed through over three million votes between about 9:00PM and 1:00AM on this past election. Not one hitch. We had several thousands of ballot groups spanning over four thousand precints which were all correctly identified and batched by our twenty-year-old mainframe ballot tabulation system. Even with the election terrorists stan
    • If the mainframe system is so good then why do you need to move off of it? Why is it a waste of taxpayer dollars when it works?
    • From the Brad Blog...

      "L.A. County 'Double Bubble' Disenfranchisement Happened Before, Registrar Conny McCormack Did Nothing About It

      44% of Non-Partisan Cross-Over Ballots Went Uncounted in March '04, 42% Uncounted in June '06, Before Same Ballot Design Used Again for the February 2008 Super Tuesday Primary
      As LA Times Gets Religion on Election Integrity Issues, But Doesn't Bother Apologizing For Their Failures to do so up to Now.

      Given the potential disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of voters, and maybe

      • Oh, we're quoting the intellectual, reliable source, Bradblog now are we?

        Maybe bradblog should locate in which precints "double bubble" most often occurred.

        Keep in mind - I don't work in elections. I just watch them like everyone else.
        • by leftie ( 667677 )

          You obviously neither work in elections or know anything about voting rights issues if you don't recognize the award winning work Brad Friedman has done in regards to bringing attention to voting rights problems all over the country.

          I'm quite certain Freedman can answer in detail any question you might have about all the problems LA County has had regarding election problems. He lives in LA County. I don't. You'll have to discuss the specific issues with him.

          • I'm sure Brad can answer any questions I have is right. Of course, being an election terrorist (along with Bev of blackbox) and having the desire to ruin basic freedoms by use of fear and intimidation, I'm sure he'd not answer the way a sane person would.

            No thanks.
            • by leftie ( 667677 )

              You're calling Brad Friedman a "terrorist," huh?

              Brad Friedman is voting rights advocate, part-time radio air personality,and political blogger. He's never lifted a hand in anger toward anyone in his life.

              So that means you are either one of those far right extremist from either or ...who call anyone they disagree on ANYTHING either a "terrorist" or insane... ...or you are projecting your own history of mental illness on others.

  • is the good 'ol fashoned paper and pen. Those were the good 'ol days. *sigh*
  • This is not the first system to be federally certified. It is the first system to be certified under the current standards. The standards change every couple of years and anything that enters testing while one set of standards is in force is grandfathered with that set of standards, even when new ones come into force. (When a significant revision is released, the current standard then takes effect - that is what slows changes in voting equipment to a crawl.)

    By the way, good luck getting an open source group

  • Fanny Mae was Bush certified. So was Washington Mutual. So was Lehman Brothers, and Merrell Lynch, and Bear Sterns....

    Everyone of these failed banks was Bush-certified...

    County Bank, Merced, CA February 6, 2009 February 6, 2009
    Alliance Bank, Culver City, CA February 6, 2009 February 6, 2009
    FirstBank Financial Services, McDonough, GA February 6, 2009 February 6, 2009
    Ocala National Bank, Ocala, FL January 30, 2009 January 30, 2009
    Suburban Federal Savings Bank, Crof

  • Its the same problem with testing software -- you can only prove the existence of bugs, not their absence.

    In ordinary software, its reasonable to assume everyone in a company is working towards the same goal, of removing all bugs, and still it is hard to trust testing to get rid of all bugs.

    With voting machines, its reasonable to assume some will intentionally insert bugs in order to control these machines when the time comes.

    No amount of testing will ever catch malicious bugs meant to allow control of thes

    • Ok asshole, lets just vote on paper with a pen, allow fraud and the same bush like crooks to manipulate the results. I assume you are typing on a typewriter? Its time for all you morons to actually understand what voting machines do, the deep security of the election administrations and the zero percent that any "genius" could actually crack any system.
      • by Peaker ( 72084 )

        Actually, most computer security experts agree that computer systems are not secure for voting.

        I am all for using computers in most areas of life, but the paper voting system has worked for a long time, and if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

        Computer-based voting systems are too open to manipulations, whereas paper ballots are easier to reasonably secure.

        No need for pens, by the way (e.g: See Israel's voting system).

  • ...just like the rest of the world uses?

    I've never understood why the US insists on these Rube Goldberg methods of voting, using electronic devices that can be so easily rigged or otherwise circumvented. Paper ballots do the trick for the rest of the planet, with nary a hanging chad in sight.

    I take note that Rube Goldberg methods of execution seem prevalent in the States as well.
    • by bbhack ( 98541 )

      Morons are getting deviously more incompetent all the time. Minnesota currently has some paper ballots marked incorrectly. Rather than throw them out, it's in the courts right now - divining intent or some such. Granted this is only a problem when the counts are so incredibly close.

You will never amount to much. -- Munich Schoolmaster, to Albert Einstein, age 10