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Sorry, your vote has been lost, hacked, miscast or recordered twice. Nov 2004 Popular Science

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Ellipsis Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-16-11 02:27 AM
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Sorry, your vote has been lost, hacked, miscast or recordered twice. Nov 2004 Popular Science
Edited on Sun Oct-16-11 02:53 AM by Ellipsis
New electronic voting machines are supposed to prevent another Election Day disaster, but these paperless PCs could make hanging chads seem like a minor nuisance.

By Annalee Newitz

Its 2 a.m. on November 3. The polls have been closed for hours, but the election has yet to be called. Around the country, reports of snafus with new electronic voting machines have been pouring in; no one is sure how these problems have affected the results. In Maryland, machines failed to boot up, and voters were turned away for hours. In South Carolina, officials bought machines too late for adequate testing, and on many of the onscreen ballots, the presidential contest included names of candidates from local elections. Several Texas counties are thousands of votes short because a bug in the software failed to record Spanish-language ballots. Pundits are already clamoring for a recount potentially larger than that of 2000.

But this time, there will be no hanging chads to contend with. In fact, for hundreds of thousands of votes, there will be no paper record at all. Ballots cast on many of the new touch-screen machines disappeared into computer memory or onto smartcards, leaving behind no paper trail to audit. Officials can print the results that have been saved in the machines, but theres no way to know if thats an accurate reflection of the votes that people actually cast. Adding to the chaos, one network news reporter has received a tip that mercenary hackers were hired to alter the code of a particular brand of machine so that every 10th vote for Candidate A was recorded as a vote for Candidate B. Meanwhile, in Colorado, another group of hackers is boasting that they stole a box of electronic smartcards used to activate e-voting machines and reprogrammed them to allow multiple votes, just for funthe way someone might hack a videogame. Or, in 2004, a presidential election.

This is a worst-case scenario, but its not a fairy tale. When one third of the countrys voters walk into booths containing electronic voting machines this November, many of them will have no idea if their vote is being recorded accurately or if it is being lost to malfunction or fraud. I dont think the technology exists to make entirely trustworthy voting systems, says Stanford University computer scientist and e-voting expert David Dill.

Why? Put simply, e-voting machines are computers, and as we well know, computers sometimes fail. When those failures occur, there is often only the highly fallible digital record to rely on, because adding a paper trail was deemed too expensive or unnecessary. Several grassroots groups are working to prevent an election-swinging symphony of disasters like the scenario above, but theres just no way to fix, test, and secure all of the tens of thousands of e-voting machines in time. This presidential election may well be a crapshoot.
Welcome to the age of high-tech voting.

Extremely well written piece.

... I'm in love

Hey...Let's design a new voting machine. Anybody got the schematics for the standard voting machine Designed by Alfred J. Gillespie and manufactured by the Standard Voting Machine Company of Rochester, New York, in the late 1890s? Just Askin'.

The point of the post:

Seriously- would a "new and improved high tech" Gear and Lever machine make for good discussion?


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renate Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-16-11 03:00 AM
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1. American democracy: vote if you want, it doesn't really matter, because TPTB will decide for you
To look on the bright side, it saves all the trouble and bother of actually going out to vote.

But seriously--Oregon has done voting by mail for ages now, and it's great for working people and everybody else. It's certainly more convenient than standing in line for hours, if you're in a poor/Democratic district that hasn't been supplied with enough "voting" machines. Why on earth hasn't it been more widely adopted?
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Ellipsis Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-16-11 03:30 AM
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2. Wisconsin has absentee voting... one has to sign the ballot, which is counter to voting anonymously.
Edited on Sun Oct-16-11 03:31 AM by Ellipsis
I would think the 3.9 Billion in HAVA Dollars spent ...and now junking the equipment would make more the a few pols. look bad, even now in 2012.

..and our society's need for instant gratification.

There has been much discussion as to the the viability of voting by mail here. There were mixed positions. I'm sure someone will chime in.
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Lugnut Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-16-11 11:32 AM
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3. I wish I could rec this 100 times. n/t
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toddwv Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-16-11 02:11 PM
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4. When I voted last year, it was on an electronic machine.
It had a paper trail as ALL voting machines should.

You inputted your vote, the screen verified it and the machine showed you that it was recording your vote on a teller roll behind a small plexi-glass window.

There is ABSOLUTELY no reason why precincts should even consider purchasing voting machines without a paper recording device.

Machines are fairly reliable but prone to error.
More worrisome is that there is little recourse when HUMAN actions, deliberate or inadvertent, affect the outcome of a vote.
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zacherystaylor Donating Member (97 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Oct-18-11 09:14 AM
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5. After reading "Steal This Vote" by Andrew Gumbel
After reading "Steal This Vote" by Andrew Gumbel I have come to the conclusion that a major part of the problem is that the selection of the technology has been influenced by people with political connections and they have even attempted to use proprietary information to keep the process secret. This doesn't mean that computer technology shouldn't be used but it should be under the control of the public and it should all be in the open and it should only be done if it is the best after being compared with other options.

I think one option worth considering is the possibility that we could set up a computer program that could be used with any PC to chose the ballot, to keep costs down; however it would have to be printed on approved ballots. This would create a paper trail which could be verified in recounts and it could have both print names using proportionate representation and a bar code which could be used for quick counts. If there is a discrepancy then the print copy should take priority over the bar code since it can be verified by the voter.

If this works and a few more details are worked out it could enable accurate voting and quick counts. The system could be checked to make sure there are no discrepancies in trial runs. And it could be double checked during actual runs; this would be important since some of the computer technology has been subject to changes by those with the knowledge necessary; however since the voter would be able to read it before making it final he/she should be able to verify it.
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