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Deafening silence over GAO e-voting report, new evidence of abuse.
November 16, 2005 1:18 PM   Subscribe

Mainstream Media to American Democracy: Drop Dead! Brad Friedman ask alarming questions about the complete lack of attention which has been paid to the GAO report on electronic voting technology (PDF link) released more than a month ago, which confirms what security experts have been saying for years: these systems are vulnerable to multiple independent attacks targeting system and network vulnerabilities, access controls, hardware controls, and overall management practices. If you're short of time, at least read Rep. Waxman's fact sheet summary.

Ultimately, there is no real security on these machines; the report shows that overturning election results would not be at all difficult for even a single moderately skilled attacker. And now Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are wondering if American Democracy has died an electronic death in the wake of massive discrepancies between final pre-election opinion polls and the results of several citizen initiatives designed to reform Ohio's electoral processes.
posted by dinsdale (68 comments total)

 
I don't have the means to verify the allegations made by Friedman, but assuming they're true they're not surprising..in the sense thatn thousand of interesting stories are not reported. Not that all the eventsl MUST be reported, but the lack of some nationally relevant one is suspicious.

Expecially not reported are the stories that could anger the current bosses and hurt the bottom line of profit..one more reason for NOT letting profit or special interest based media companies choose what is to be reported and propagated
and what not...but they if it hurts the bottom line, who the fuck cares if it's true or false it goes in the john.
posted by elpapacito at 1:36 PM on November 16, 2005


When the owner of the company that makes your state's voting machines promises to "deliver" your state to a particular presidential candidate, if flags aren't going up in your brain, there's something wrong with you.

This issue deserves much more mainstream media coverage than it's gotten over the years.
posted by wakko at 1:41 PM on November 16, 2005


Hmm... It is odd that these stories havn't been reported in the main-stream news.

But I think there is a feeling that suggesting anything is really wrong with america on TV makes you paranoid, and thus it's best to be avoided.

Even now, they just keep saying "Americans think bush lied to get us into war" not "Bush lied to get us into war."
posted by delmoi at 1:43 PM on November 16, 2005


When the term 'liberal' (subscribing to an ideology, or current of political thought, which strives to maximize individual liberty through rights under law) is commonly used as an insult, liberty in essence is fucked.

Jefferson would say widespread corruption of the voting system amounts to grounds for revolution. Tree of liberty, tyrants, et cetera. When the voting system itself is circumvented, democracy no longer exists.
posted by mullingitover at 1:50 PM on November 16, 2005


The fourth link makes a pretty serious statistical error. Pre-election polling discrepancies can certainly make you suspicious, but they can't be used as proof of election tally problems. Figuring out who is going to actually vote on election day is a hard, black art. It's quite possible to get it wrong. Methinks they are confusing the efficacy of exit-polling with that of pre-election polling. Exit polling is rock solid (as far as knowledge of the unknown goes ;-), but pre-election polling is not.

That said, if an election has not already been stolen by misusing these machines, it's a matter of when, not if. Something as trivially hackable as the current crop of electronic voting machines is going to be abused, period.

And then there is the complete lack of transparency. "They're fair" the heavily Republican makers of these machines tell us. "How do we know?" we respond. "Trust us," is their reply.

Um, excuse me, but fuck you. I don't trust you. A closed, non-verifiable system is almost the same as a fraudulent system. The appearance of impropriety can be just as damaging do democracy as actual impropriety.
posted by teece at 1:52 PM on November 16, 2005


How the US was sold on the use of these electronic cheating machines without a paper trail is astonishing to me. What can we do to make sure that this crap isn't pulled another time?

How do we demand absolute transparency in our electoral process?
posted by fenriq at 1:53 PM on November 16, 2005


This is hard (for the layman[1]) security stuff to get across. The only way I see this being seriously discussed in the mainstream is if the green party sweeps the '08 elections or something.

I'm so glad my country still uses X's on paper.

[1] layman = the totally ignorant or anyone who thinks security through obscurity is a viable approach.
posted by Mitheral at 2:03 PM on November 16, 2005


American democracy has demonstrated that citizens are perfectly willing to game the process (Rove the classic example). Add this to electronic voting and you've got yourself a big fucking mess.
posted by mek at 2:03 PM on November 16, 2005


What would happen if we started protesting the media rather than the government? Seems about time for that -- people hear about issues through independent media or through blogs that highlight buried stories, and then protest the government and the government does nothing because the general population never finds out because the media does nothing to emphasize these stories. Activists are basically operating in a vacumn...
posted by VulcanMike at 2:04 PM on November 16, 2005


I pay attention to the msm only to see when and if they'll tell me something important I already know.

It's a pretty boring game so I play it less and less.
posted by fleetmouse at 2:17 PM on November 16, 2005


What would happen if we started protesting the media

The press would underestimate the turnout and the government would overestimate it.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:18 PM on November 16, 2005


I remember reading an article during the '04 election about the security of the Diebold machines. I believe a group of computer science professors inspected the machines and were absolutely shocked at the poor quality of the software. They said any ATM on the street was much better programmed than any voting machine, (sorry, wish I had a reference for that. the search continues.)
posted by zardoz at 2:26 PM on November 16, 2005


How do we demand absolute transparency in our electoral process? posted by fenriq at 10:53 PM CET on November 16 [!]

Well my guess is the same way the religious freaks become very influential in the current administration. How did they pull that, I'm not so sure but maybe vote fraud is part of the scheme.

Facts are some people think they know about electronics (or some technical subject) but reality is they don't know jack or not enough to see the risks that come with ANY technology, primitive or up-2-date.

You see , one may wonder.... what use is a voting system if the owners of the voting system (in theory the citizens) are so stupid as to let their representatives change the system into a less transparent one ...even if for a brief period, long enough to win an election ?

They fall in the trap of thinking they deserved their treatement, but the same hypercritical people are only very much afraid of thinking "if it happened to them, it may happen to me" ....so they blame people for not knowing about electronics. Little do they know about brain surgery, I guess...or the application and interpretation of law..yet they feel obliged to comment on how stupid is people.

Solution ? Finding a way to let most people know in the shortest time possible..it's called TV and its under strict control. Gotta find some other way.
posted by elpapacito at 2:30 PM on November 16, 2005


Wouldn't it make sense to petition your local voting authority? Barring that I'd second mullingitover's sentiments on revolution.
With the exception that I wouldn't ascribe striving to maximize individual liberty as a liberal trait. But then, what the hell really is a liberal or a conservative anymore?
I'd think that some serious protests would probably get some press. Even bad press is better than no press.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:33 PM on November 16, 2005


zardoz, voting machines are a hippie commune to ATM's Fort Knox.

It gets worse, though. I interviewed for a job once, at a company that certifies slot machines and other gambling machines as fair (that is, they do what they are claimed to do, pay out X%). The sad thing is that Schneier is absolutely correct on this:

In the US, gambling machines are more heavily regulated, and much better made, than our voting machines.

You get the government you deserve, I guess. Sigh.
posted by teece at 2:34 PM on November 16, 2005


USA: We take petty cash transactions and gambling much more serious than voting.
posted by teece at 2:36 PM on November 16, 2005


A big problem I have is that a fair amount of people out there are saying let's use electronic voting machines with a paper receipt.
Excuse me, but it's still an electronic voting machine. Who's to say what's printed on the receipt would not match what's talied on the machine?
Let's just go back to paper ballots and leave it be at that.
government officials and representatives from all voting parties (not just democrats and republicans) and cross-matching with exit polls would make for a much better and secure system.
It's worked for other countries for quite some time now, modern Germany as a for instance.
posted by mk1gti at 2:38 PM on November 16, 2005


teece writes "In the US, gambling machines are more heavily regulated, and much better made, than our voting machines."

That's 'cause there is real money involved, voting machines only effect freedom and stuff.
posted by Mitheral at 2:39 PM on November 16, 2005


Neil Postman: for those that would like a refresher.
posted by tzelig at 2:43 PM on November 16, 2005


Finding a way to let most people know in the shortest time possible..it's called TV and its under strict control. Gotta find some other way.
posted by elpapacito at 10:30 PM GMT on November 16


Spamming your mates? Those 'send this email on to 10 friends' round robins seem to have never gone out of fasion. Must work for some.
posted by dash_slot- at 2:44 PM on November 16, 2005


You get the government you deserve, I guess. Sigh.
posted by teece at 11:34 PM CET on November 16 [!]


There you have it, some think they deserve what they voted yet forget they couldn't possibily know better as they were not informed. Their not being in the loop enough make them deserve their treatement....talk about a neverending spiraling depression with self fulfilling phropecy..
posted by elpapacito at 2:45 PM on November 16, 2005


dash_slot: yes but how often do you read spam mail ? It doesn't work on imposition and forcing, it works of proposition and presentation, relentless repetition. Did you know terrorist attacked ? The terrorist are evil and bad, news at 11. Amber alert the terrorists are there. 9/11 and the terror attack. What do you want to forget about, terrorists ?
posted by elpapacito at 2:49 PM on November 16, 2005


...a group of computer science professors...

You're probably thinking of Avi Rubin et al Analysis of an Electronic Voting System from 2003. Prof. Rubin has stated that if one of his undergraduate students submitted such a system as a term paper, it would receive a failing grade...
posted by dinsdale at 2:50 PM on November 16, 2005


Wuz I to game this as a scenario - and I’m being purely speculative here - and were I to be some sort of computer expert, or knew some folks who were, and had some money for low level bribes or blackmail material, etc. to gain access to the machines, I could probably, within a year, put the right mix of talent together to hack the systems and get - say - Donald Duck (or Wavy Gravy, we’re I of a 60’s counterculture rebel bent) elected. Or even a third party candidate. Or the communist. Or LaRouche. Or what-have-you.
And I would document it.

That would probably get some people’s attention.

Purely theoretical. Even if I wasn’t speculating, I could only do it if I were George Soros or someone with a bank roll. The Bruce “put a $1millon bounty on his head” Willis kind of bank roll. I don’t have the money or juice.
Of course, that’s factoring in staying out of prison. Someone willing to take that hit without the juice could do it.

Considering it...It’s only a matter of time really, before someone attempts it for real.
That’s the hell of putting a system like this in place. It’s a machine. It has no loyalties. Whether it’s your machine or not, someone can grab it and use it against you.

They have to have considered that.
I’m curious whether those in power expect to be out of power ever again.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:17 PM on November 16, 2005


mk1gti says: "Excuse me, but it's still an electronic voting machine. Who's to say what's printed on the receipt would not match what's talied on the machine?"
With a voter-verified paper trail, when the voter votes, they see the receipt before it's collected, and verify that it matches what they input on the voting machine. If multiple voters at a polling place see problems, you know there's a problem with the voting machines there, and act accordingly - whether that means pulling out the malfunctioning machines, or reverting to absentee ballots, or whatever.
Much of the legislation pushing voter-verified paper trails also requires random auditing of results; which includes pulling X% of paper receipts that are collected, and confirming they match the specific records being totalled in the computer. If there is a discrepancy between the audited paper receipts and the computer records, you know there's a problem, and act accordingly - probably go with the paper receipts, which at least some voters confirmed as they were being put in the boxes. (Going with the paper receipts is no more susceptible to fraud than using paper ballots in the first place.)
The silence from the mainstream media is bad; but the lack of action from people concerned with the issue is what gets to me personally. I'm working on the Election Incident Reporting System, which tracks voting irregularities. If you're concerned about our election system and have technical skills, volunteer to help.
posted by mistersix at 3:20 PM on November 16, 2005


mistersix,
I understand what you're saying about the paper receipts and all that, but the bottom line is now is not the time or place for electronic voting machines considering how they are being used (and certainly abused) now.
One can argue all day about receipts, but it is still an electronic voting machine producing them. No Electronic Voting Machines. Period.
posted by mk1gti at 3:32 PM on November 16, 2005


Exit polling is rock solid (as far as knowledge of the unknown goes ;-), but pre-election polling is not.

Agreed. But the exit-poll discrepancy in the 2004 presidential has NEVER been explained.

It's either outright theft, or a mind-boggingly bizarre statistical event. I'd bet dollars to donuts on the former.

On preview: what if I'm "concerned about our election system" yet have limited technical skills?
posted by mrgrimm at 3:33 PM on November 16, 2005


Re: The Avi Rubin thing. He's a prof at Johns Hopkins (my alma mater). I had a couple friends in CE, and they took some classes with him. In one of the classes, he had the students work at cracking some vote machine code (pretty sure it wasn't the Diebold code, as they won't release that to anyone)...something like 85% of the class cracked it and was able to change various values in the record's without triggering any sort of intrusion alert. Bradblog had that big article a while back, featuring a Diebold employee "coming clean" about some of the company's policy. And a really great article (which was a FPP about a month ago) in Harper's, written by Mark Crispin Miller (another Hopkins peep, now at NYU), really nails the 2004 Ohio election problems.

Further, as someone who was born and raised in Ohio, and voted absentee in the 2004 election, I heard, anecdotally, all sorts of tales from friends and relatives throughout the state who found themselves in predominantly Democratic precincts that were woefully (many might say, intentionally) understaffed and under-machined. so they left. guess it probably didn't matter anyway, since the machine tallies were just "recalibrated" anyway before the results were made public.
posted by Lee Marvin at 3:41 PM on November 16, 2005


One can argue all day about receipts, but it is still an electronic voting machine producing them. No Electronic Voting Machines. Period.

The problem you described, mk1gti, is a solved problem.

There is a broader issue, though, and that is that we (the security research community) don't fully understand electronic voting. That is, we don't have a Theory of E-Voting.

We don't have a big picture of how an e-voting system should work so that we can start fine-tuning the details. We're still not sure what that big picture ought to look like.

So it's premature to say, "No electronic voting machines, period." But by the same argument, it is also premature -- way way WAY premature -- to have them out in the real world.
posted by event at 3:48 PM on November 16, 2005


From the last link:

Among other things, 186 memory cards from the e-voting machines went missing, prompting election workers in some cases to search for them with flashlights before all were allegedly found.

Oh come on, if the election officals can't even keep track of the ballots!?!?
posted by darkness at 3:49 PM on November 16, 2005


Fucking Jim Lampley, man. Who knew?

"find some witnesses who will turn" is the key. I'm not holding my breath, however. These shady operations all work like Al Qaeda, i.e. no centralized command. Law of Fives and whatnot.

I heard, anecdotally, all sorts of tales from friends and relatives throughout the state who found themselves in predominantly Democratic precincts that were woefully (many might say, intentionally) understaffed and under-machined. so they left.

There's a lot about this (and not just anecdotally) in Miller's book.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:51 PM on November 16, 2005


event
I have seen no information indicating that the receipts issue is a 'solved problem'. Perhaps you can provide some links to confirm this?
At this time, electronic machines are very suspect indeed. If they were not, every 1st world democracy across the planet would use them. But they do not. The experience this country has had with them since they have been used here is a very good reason not to use them at all for the forseeable future.
Once they take the manufacturing rights away from companys that have a clearly indicated political agenda and institute some real, verifiable safeguards against their compromise then the 'printed receipts' question can be re-visited.
At this time though, printed receipts is a dog that just won't hunt.
posted by mk1gti at 3:56 PM on November 16, 2005


This country needs to go back to paper ballots and institute some real processes to make sure that those paper ballots are in no way compromised and able to be confirmed in every possible way. Using the models of countrys that seem to have discovered and made use of real verifiable democracy would be a good place to start. Say Sweden? Germany? I don't think they are having any issues with vote fraud these days.
posted by mk1gti at 3:59 PM on November 16, 2005


The only proper use for electronic voting machines is to present the ballot in as many languages as required by the community in which it is placed, and then to create a legible, human-readable record of the votes cast. The voter verifies that the ballot printed matches their intentions, and then places it in a secure ballot box. The paper ballot becomes the only vote of record; the machine can be used to satisfy the media's need for immediacy by providing an unofficial tally, but certification of results must come from the paper ballots in the locked boxes.

Because so many election laws are determined at the county or local level, it is difficult to create a comprehensive solution to the problems. Here in Florida we have a little experience with whacked out elections, so to get a Miami-area perspective on the problem you could review reports prepared by the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition, a vehemently non-partisan group of citizen activists. (Disclaimer: I have worked with MDERC in the past.) And if these issues disturb you -- and they really should -- then find a similar local group to work with. Most of MDERC's results have come from public records requests, sending citizens to monitor the closing of the polls, and browbeating^H^H^H^H meeting with elections department officials. None of this requires a technical or legal background at all, and it's been their experience that most local governments are astounded that anyone is taking an interest in the voting systems.
posted by mkhall at 3:59 PM on November 16, 2005


Perhaps we should call in the UN inspectors.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:03 PM on November 16, 2005


mistersix described one solution:

Vote is recorded electronically and printed on a receipt. Voter confirms that receipt is correct, then drops it into a lockbox. (You don't want the voter walking out with the receipt, as that leads to bad things like vote selling.)

If the votes from the polling place are ever called into question, the lockboxes are broken open and tallied.

For some more hardcore solutions, check out Ron Rivest's links. There's a lot of stuff under Technical Papers on Voting Methods, but, in particular, look at the Voter Verifiable Elections.
posted by event at 4:11 PM on November 16, 2005


Pretty sad that Venezuela (paper receipts) and Brazil (open-source voting software) are putting our system to shame.

Electronic voting machines are a hammer in search of a nail. There's simply no need to add layers of technology on a problem that has such wide time constraints.

As my father (former reliability engineer for NASA) used to say: "Just more shit to break down."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:28 PM on November 16, 2005


Civil_Disobedient
Hit the nail right on the head. Keep It Simple Stupid (for a nation of stupids)
posted by mk1gti at 4:30 PM on November 16, 2005


Why aren't people more outraged about this?

Possible reasons include:

a. Outrage fatigue. It seems that once or twice a week we learn about some new outrageous behavior of our government. It's hard to keep up a sustained level of moral outrage in the face of such a perpetually aggravating reality. Simple self-preservation demands you turn down your emotive response after a while.

b. Middle-class inertia. As long as people have their jobs, their cars and their provaluing real estate, there will be little interest from those folks in rioting and burning cars. It's folks who have no political power who have the most to gain from revolution, and commensurately the least likelihood of effecting it.

c. Obfuscation. The millions and millions of dollars pumped out in spin by lobbyists, paid hacks, flacks and pundits that throw up just enough of a smokescreen to make folks distrust the watchdogs and question whether the reality they are seeing is actually the true story (and thus, worth getting all riled up about).

d. Selfishness. For various reasons (retaining journalistic access, gaining political leverage, base cowardice and financial conflict of interest, as examples), many people in positions of power simply decide it's not in their personal interests to act, even when they know that others will suffer and the country will be harmed by their appeasement of those perpetuating the outrage.


Sorry, but Cynicism is the new black...
posted by darkstar at 4:33 PM on November 16, 2005


Electronic voting machines are a hammer in search of a nail. There's simply no need to add layers of technology on a problem that has such wide time constraints.

Yeah -- it's a simple calculus: We have high confidence that regular voting works -- it has hundreds of years of field testing behind it. The benefits e-voting give us over regular voting are marginal, and the consequences of failure are large.
posted by event at 4:42 PM on November 16, 2005


On voting day this November, and also last November, my landline telephone recieved several calls. When I listened, all I heard was a standard handshake signal. Several other people in the same county (Greene, Ohio) had the same thing happen. I want to write it off as some sort of fax thing, but I always wonder.
posted by adzm at 5:02 PM on November 16, 2005


Civil_Disobedient: Electronic voting machines are a hammer in search of a nail. There's simply no need to add layers of technology on a problem that has such wide time constraints.

Unfortunately, there is a nail; that nail being the inaccuracy of non-electronic voting machines. You can argue that non-electronic voting machines currently in use are better than electronic ones currently in use, and thus we shouldn't be using electronic ones until better standards and oversight are in place (which is what the voter-verified paper trail is about); but the old machines are not perfect. For example, Florida 2000 - people using those non-electronic machines submitted ballots which were not counted because the chads weren't completely punched out. People using the butterfly ballots, on mechanical machines, also had problems, as their votes were counted for candidates they didn't intend to vote for.
Just throwing a computer at these problems certainly won't fix them; but done properly, electronic voting machines can provide better interfaces for people to vote on, and not have mechanical failure problems.
I agree that precincts using unauditable electronic systems should throw them out and either use mechanical systems or auditable electronic systems; I don't agree that they should have to use mechanical systems.
posted by mistersix at 5:04 PM on November 16, 2005


mistersix
The issue with the 2000 elections is a group of conservatives conspiring to disenfranchise voters of their right to vote (successfully). The issue with the 2004 elections is a group of conservatives conspiring to disenfranchise voters of their right to vote using rigged electronic machines (successfully). The stories circulating around the country and reported on and validated are significant enough to place real doubts on the desire of persons identifying themselves as conservative, republican, etc. to have fair elections in this country (or for that matter anywhere else.)
posted by mk1gti at 5:33 PM on November 16, 2005


Vote Fraud Archive of news stories by whatreallyhappeded.com
posted by Balisong at 6:04 PM on November 16, 2005


I have used absentee ballots in the last few national and statewide elections. If I didn't live in a solid 'red district', I would just have to assume that my ballot was rotting away, uncounted, in a warehouse somewhere, with bags and bags of other mail in ballots. Do they even check those unless the electronic vote numbers are 'too close to call'?
posted by Balisong at 6:21 PM on November 16, 2005


There was a really good article on this subject in Harpers a few months back called None Dare Call it Stolen.
posted by chunking express at 7:37 PM on November 16, 2005


Don't blame me! I voted for Kevin Mitnick!



10,000,000 times!
posted by swell at 7:42 PM on November 16, 2005


swell
You only voted for him 10,000,000 times? I've got you beat, I imported overseas votes for Kevin from five different countries!
posted by mk1gti at 8:07 PM on November 16, 2005


But seriously though, how are americans supposed to extol the virtues of democracy and freedom and accountability when they do such a poor job of safeguarding it in their home country?
posted by mk1gti at 8:09 PM on November 16, 2005


"Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are wondering if American Democracy has died an electronic death" - Gee, I got hooted off this forum over a year ago for making lots of noise ( and a few damn good posts ) on this topic.
posted by troutfishing at 10:04 PM on November 16, 2005


I got hooted off this forum

Not by me. But yeah, point taken. Actually this should be added to darkstar's list above: in addition to outrage fatigue, middle-class inertia, obfuscation and selfishness might I add

5. ridicule and ostracism of any "sore loser" who refuses to "move on".
posted by dinsdale at 10:29 PM on November 16, 2005


Gee, I got hooted off this forum over a year ago for making lots of noise ( and a few damn good posts ) on this topic.

And the case for shenanigans is much weaker in Ohio '05 than it was in Ohio '04. What happened in '04 would be enough to call the election into serious doubt, had this happened any where but in America. But for some reason, in America, it's simply impossible for election fraud to happen, so if you point out that what happened was, at best, a 1 in a million anomaly, you're just a shrill lunatic who needs to move on and a sore loser. The people have spoken (oddly, they spoke differently to the exit pollsters than they did to their ballots, but who cares?).

*wonders what happened to that country of myth they taught me about as a kid*
posted by teece at 11:58 PM on November 16, 2005


Oh, and I forgot, what is the American solution, in elections going forward, for this problem of exit polls disagreeing with vote tallies? Why, eliminate the goddamn exit polls, of course.
posted by teece at 12:00 AM on November 17, 2005


mistersix
What's wrong with the old fashioned method of a piece of paper and a pencil like we use in the UK? Why do you need the 'mechanical voting machines' at all?
posted by talitha_kumi at 2:51 AM on November 17, 2005


Advantages of electronic voting
Problems with electronic voting

talitha_kumi, I'm not familiar with the UK voting system; but some quick online searches suggest it's in flux now, with experiments in evoting and voting by mail. If you've got sources worth looking at online that describe your system well, I'd appreciate 'em.
I can't find any definitive information online on how the paper and pencil ballots in the UK are tabulated; if a computer (or even a mechanical counting system) is counting and tabulating them, you obviously won't fall prey to faulty machines at your polling places, but you still can have problems when votes are counted.

Did turn up this from a Cringely column though:
"In Canadian Federal elections, two barely-paid representatives of each party, known as 'scrutineers,' are present all day at the voting place.... To vote, you write an "X" with a pencil in a one centimeter circle beside the candidate's name, fold the ballot up and stuff it into a box. Later, the scrutineers AND ANY VOTER WHO WANTS TO WATCH all sit at a table for about half an hour and count every ballot, keeping a tally for each candidate."
Problem is, we tried something similar in Florida in 2000, and it failed.
[for those who don't want to bother reading it, that last link goes to an article about out-of-town Republican protesters shutting down the hand recounts in Florida.]
[BTW, I mentioned above I'm volunteering for EIRS. I don't speak for them, or any of their parent organizations; all I do is technical web work for them.]

posted by mistersix at 3:46 AM on November 17, 2005


You are exactly right troutfishing. It's the price we pay for being ahead of the curve on these things. I could recount similar experiences on the blue.

"Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything." - GOP Chair Joseph Stalin
posted by nofundy at 9:10 AM on November 17, 2005


Folks, folks, folks.

The problem is not with electronic voting. There's nothing you can do electronically that can't accomplished with paper ballots. You just need a different mindset.

The real problem is that electronic voting has not been given the same strict requirements that paper voting has. And the electronic voting companies have been started by partisan Republicans. Ouch. And shame on us.

First, voting maching manufacturers must be insulated from partisan politics. Second, the voting process must be made secure and auditable, like any electronic system (payroll, accounting, personnel, etc.). Third, no employees of companies who produce, program, or service such machines can engage in partisan politics. This isn't just another business, but, like the priesthood, must be treated in a sacred manner by an open society.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:26 AM on November 17, 2005


Funny, I'm reading a bio of Stalin now; what a truly boring and mediocre character this person was. And responsible for the death of as much as 10 million in the 30's, not to say anything of those who died afterwards.
posted by mk1gti at 9:28 AM on November 17, 2005


Sorry, "...like the priesthood in a religion..."
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:28 AM on November 17, 2005


As far as electronic tabulators go, they are made by the same companies that make the voting machines. And subject to the same problems with manipulation. Throw your votes into a blender and take your chances, make a wish, don't look for the truth. . . .

The canadaian system is transparent and seems to be the most valid. Go Canada ! ! !
posted by mk1gti at 9:29 AM on November 17, 2005


I love my Canadian ballots.

Canidate Name, Party Affiliation ( )
Canidate Name, Party Affiliation ( )
Canidate Name, Party Affiliation ( )
Canidate Name, Party Affiliation ( )

Where ( ) is a blank circle. You take the pencil (supplied) and mark X beside the name you want to vote for. If there is no X, or multiple X's, your vote will be counted as spoiled. If you screw it up, you can request a new ballot. Once you're done, you stick your ballot in the locked box. The box isn't opened until the end of the voting day. Then, elections officials open the box and count the votes, while watched by a representative from each Candiate. The ballots are kept for a pre-determined legnth of time so that any Canidate can request a recount (they've got a week or something like that to request a recount).

I trust this system. ((hugs.Canada))
posted by raedyn at 11:13 AM on November 17, 2005


I love Canadian elections: transparent, accountable, and timely. We count the votes publically and by hand, and we get results just as fast as you do in the US. It works for us, why can't it work for you.

I also *hug Canada*. I'm reminded every day how lucky I am to have been born there.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:26 PM on November 17, 2005


IMO there are several things our Canadian system can do to improve.

One, switch to Aussie-rules voting. You vote, or you get fined for not voting. The low voter turnout is a pretty strong indication that we need to start using a carrot-and-stick system.

Two, get rid of winner-take-all. Most voters vote with their gut, not their head, and it shows by the wild swings from left to right. We need to build the intelligence into the system, so that we end up with something closer to what we really need.

Three, eliminate corporate and union campaign funding. Special interest groups are the death of us. We need to pay our reps well, and we need to throw them in jail with hard time when they sell out their constituent's best interests for easy coin. And cap election spending: the US elections are proof that big money = big bullshit.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:38 PM on November 17, 2005


We count the votes publically and by hand, and we get results just as fast as you do in the US. - [expletive deleted]

fff - Oh! Electoral reform! Yes, I think there are other reforms that the Canadian system could benefit from. You're right that winner-take-all has some problems. I was only etolling the virtues of our vote counting system, not the entire electoral & democratic system!
posted by raedyn at 12:52 PM on November 17, 2005


We count the votes publically and by hand, and we get results just as fast as you do in the US. It works for us, why can't it work for you.

Because we elect lots of offices at the same time, and you don't. Nothing any harder to figure out than that.

A normal American election day might have 50--100 offices and ballot propositions in question, almost all at the state and local level. Hand counting ballots doesn't scale well with large numbers of elections on the same ballot, and having observers from all candidates and all groups with an interest in ballot propositions would become instantly unwieldy.

Unless and until we reduce the number of state and local elective offices, and put stricter limits on direct democracy -- neither of which are at all likely -- the US will realistically need to rely on machine counting to get timely results.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:26 PM on November 17, 2005


Ding! Thanks for the cogent answer, ROU.
posted by raedyn at 5:58 PM on November 17, 2005


I voted for STV in the BC referendum, and I continue to support it. Canada does need some electoral reform, but we're still leaps and bounds ahead of the US.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 2:51 AM on November 18, 2005


A normal American election day might have 50--100 offices and ballot propositions in question, almost all at the state and local level.

Little wonder voter turnout is so shitty. Who the hell would want that kind of hassle? Even I would stay away from the polls if we were doing that kind of thing in Canada. Gahd, what a collosal pain!

I voted STV as well. I'm not sure it's a good solution, but I strongly suspect it's a step in the right direction.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:33 AM on November 18, 2005


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