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outsource the 2004 election!!!!!
May 14, 2004 11:00 AM   Subscribe

indian electronic voting vs. diebold
"Reading this article, some of you might remember that Cold war era joke, about NASA and its multi million dollar experiment with a pen that can write in micro gravity to solve the writing problems of astronauts, and the Russian solution of using a Pencil to solve the same problem."
posted by quonsar (29 comments total)

 
for $230, hard wired circuitry and assembly code trump diebold's $3300 microsoft-based "solution".
posted by quonsar at 11:14 AM on May 14, 2004


This system rocks! Go India!

Hmm speaking of which, I should've found out how I'm supposed to cast my vote here in NYC.
posted by riffola at 11:20 AM on May 14, 2004


Another interesting article on the election in India from one of my favorite writers, Arundhati Roy.

Let us hope the darkness has passed. India's real and virtual worlds have collided in a humiliation of power. ...
posted by nofundy at 11:30 AM on May 14, 2004


With regards the pencil, its actually a crap solution because the graphite ends up floating all around the pod causing all manner of mischief...
posted by zeoslap at 11:37 AM on May 14, 2004


My understanding was that pencils were not used because tiny pieces of the graphite could break off and fly into the equipment. Being that graphite is conductive, it could short out sensitive equipment. At least that was their reasoning, even if there was only a small (if not zero) probability of it happening. As for the pens, it has recently been noted that cheap pens work well in space. It was previously thought that the ink wouldn't flow properly, and so NASA had those fancy space pens developed. So that's the story on that.
posted by banished at 11:37 AM on May 14, 2004


Snopes on the fucking space pen....
posted by mr_roboto at 11:51 AM on May 14, 2004


this isn't about the space pen, you morons. the space pen anecdote (true or not) simply illustrates the point of this article. electronic voting is perfectly feasible, as long as glitz, glamor, hyperbole and microsoft are kept out of the equation.
posted by quonsar at 11:59 AM on May 14, 2004


as long as . . . microsoft are kept out of the equation.

*small red light begins blinking on the big board in Redmond*
posted by petebest at 12:13 PM on May 14, 2004


Great ... now even fucking democracy is being outsourced to India
posted by ElvisJesus at 12:30 PM on May 14, 2004


quonsar loves microsoft
posted by mr.marx at 12:31 PM on May 14, 2004


Great ... now even fucking democracy is being outsourced to India
posted by ElvisJesus at 12:30 PM PST on May 14


I was wondering where it went ....

Also, quonsar is absolutely correct.
Keep corporate whores out of our elections!
That means the "first white wash house CEO" too!
posted by nofundy at 12:34 PM on May 14, 2004


The Indian system only works for an election involving one race. This makes sense for a parliamentary democracy, but American voters are asked to vote in several different races on a single election day.

Also: The voting unit has a list of candidate's names and their Party Symbols pasted on the surface, and a Blue button to cast a vote faces ever candidate's name. What happens if some polling location accidentally puts the symbol for the Congress party on the wrong button?
posted by profwhat at 12:35 PM on May 14, 2004


The Indian system only works for an election involving one race. This makes sense for a parliamentary democracy, but American voters are asked to vote in several different races on a single election day.

oh, well, that certainly justifies the use of insecure, easily duped crapware at 14.35 times the price now, doesn't it?
hint: more circuitry + more assembler code = more races. duh.

What happens if some polling location accidentally puts the symbol for the Congress party on the wrong button?

read the article, and find out.
posted by quonsar at 12:53 PM on May 14, 2004


sorry, i forgot:
[this is good]
posted by mr.marx at 1:20 PM on May 14, 2004


hint: more circuitry + more assembler code = more races. duh.

We'd be confronting voters with something resembling a UNIVAC control panel. 8 races, each with a sixteen-button daisy-chained box? If you couldn't handle the butterfly ballot, you can't handle that.

oh, well, that certainly justifies the use of insecure, easily duped crapware

Actually it argues in favor of traditional, secure systems, like paper.
posted by profwhat at 1:21 PM on May 14, 2004


The Indian system only works for an election involving one race. This makes sense for a parliamentary democracy, but American voters are asked to vote in several different races on a single election day.

The voting methods of US Democracy are only one of many problems of US Democracy. I wouldn't advocate that the US move toward parliamentary government (well....okay, I guess I would) but we should try harder to reduce the amount of noise to signal in US politics. The confused (and confusing nature) of US voting is one of many tools to keep certain populations disenfranchised and sow the seeds of apathy among the population. It doesn't matter if we vote with a pencil or a space pen, nor does it matter if we vote with a diebold or a simpler, better electronic ballot - the problems of US democracy will remain the same.
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:23 PM on May 14, 2004


I don't see text when I click on the FPP link, so I can't read the article.

I speak as a computer programmer when I say that:

1) Microsoft has no business being involved in voting machines. There's no reason for a multifunctional operating system, especially one made by Microsoft.

2) All source code must be open source and audited more carefully than NASA code. Machines must be audited too.

3) There must must must must be a paper backup for recounts.

4) Why we can't just have a touch screen machine which prints out a filled-in paper ballot which can then be put into a box or rejected is beyond me. It solves most of the problems of computer systems (trust, network attacks, inability to recount) and most of the problems of paper ballots (illegibility, hanging chads, etc.)
posted by callmejay at 1:38 PM on May 14, 2004


OK. So I am given the task of building an electronic voting system.

I would use OpenBSD. It is the most secure OS there is, more or less. To use the *least* secure OS there is would be... er, wrong or something.

I would make the user MARK a slip to indicate their choice. I would then have the system SCAN the slip to determine who they voted for and then ASK them to verify the results onscreen. I would then retain the scan, the counted results and the slip itself (which would have a barcode on it with a unique identifier.)

You have your results, your paper trail and your hardcopies. If you needed to do a recount, you'd simply feed the slips into the system and, slip by slip it would bring up the scan, a scan of the reprocessed slip and the recorded result. A user could easily verify thousands of votes an hour with this kind of system.
posted by n9 at 1:48 PM on May 14, 2004


can the government outsource its own work? (warning: irrelevant link)
posted by nish01 at 2:12 PM on May 14, 2004


OpenBSD? Come on, it's freaking voting machine. Very simple device, with no real OS needs. Use assembly code to drive the thing directly, or use Forth or a one-off custom language to do the job. A general-purpose is inappropriate.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:15 PM on May 14, 2004


Actually it argues in favor of traditional, secure systems, like paper.

yeah, i'd agree with that profwhat.
posted by quonsar at 2:15 PM on May 14, 2004


How about that traditional, secure system that was paper-based, where you punched a hole with a stylus into a punchcard--oops, my bad.

And you all know that quonsar gets a big flashing red light on the board in Redmond.
posted by Vidiot at 3:53 PM on May 14, 2004


and then there's the one in the situation room in DC...
posted by quonsar at 3:56 PM on May 14, 2004


I thought that one didn't even bother to flash. It's constantly illuminated.
posted by Vidiot at 4:16 PM on May 14, 2004


Great ... now even fucking democracy is being outsourced to India

And why not? It's obviously too expensive when it's done here in the U.S.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:32 PM on May 14, 2004


there's a dire point to all this hoopla too :

India came up with a fractional-cost solution which beats the competing American monstrosity (Diebold) by a long margin.

America needs to wake up or prepare for economic free-fall.
posted by troutfishing at 9:48 PM on May 14, 2004


So if we need a paper trail anyhow - why do we even need voting machines in the first place?
posted by destro at 4:10 PM on May 16, 2004


destro - Canada doesn't need them.
posted by troutfishing at 8:36 PM on May 16, 2004


So if we need a paper trail anyhow - why do we even need voting machines in the first place?

Because the TV networks demand instant results, and counting crosses in boxes takes... oh, a few hours? (In which case, the TV networks should pay for voting machines, shouldn't they?)
posted by riviera at 2:47 AM on May 17, 2004


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