Vote for, er, Jim?
October 24, 2006 12:38 PM   Subscribe

Vote for James H. "Jim"? Voters in certain Virginia precincts will see electronic ballots featuring only part of some candidates' names. For some reason this is said to be "unfixable", even though this has been discovered two weeks ahead of election time. This problem only affects voting machines made by... not the one you'd expect, but Austin, TX-based Hart InterCivic, whose motto is "Always Accessible". Senatorial Candidate James H. "Jim" Webb (D) is, one may assume, not amused.
posted by clevershark (56 comments total)

 
Allen gets truncated also, the "(R)" at the end of his name will not appear. Of course that "(R)" has become almost a scarlett letter these days.

To be fair, this appears only on the summary screen, not while making the initial selections.
posted by caddis at 12:50 PM on October 24, 2006




or even scarlet
posted by caddis at 12:52 PM on October 24, 2006


George Wash and Abraham Linco are rolling over in their graves.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:58 PM on October 24, 2006


Do they even test these things? What the fuck?
posted by delmoi at 12:58 PM on October 24, 2006


For a country that so prides itself on democracy and elections, you gotta admit that the US electoral process seems awfully Keystone Kops-ish.
posted by clevershark at 1:05 PM on October 24, 2006


I've used these machines in Austin elections but hadn't noticed people with long names getting truncated. Early voting is this week, and I'll check.
posted by birdherder at 1:06 PM on October 24, 2006




Do I read this correctly, that Virginia's ballot for senator has the choices:

George F Allen
James T "Jim"


Naaaah... They're really going to try to have ballots without the candidates names or parties on them?

posted by cotterpin at 1:12 PM on October 24, 2006


And Bo Li (R) wins by a landslide!
posted by gurple at 1:14 PM on October 24, 2006


Do I read this correctly, that Virginia's ballot for senator has the choices...

Yes, but only parts of Virginia -- Alexandria, Falls Church and Charlottesville. Still despicable that these things are being used, but it's a tiny bit better than it could otherwise be.
posted by inigo2 at 1:16 PM on October 24, 2006


Pretty pathetic, but it seems unlikely to distort the results, especially if notices are posted or handed out describing the problem.

On preview, cotterpin, the names apparently aren't truncated on the voting screen, it's only on the summary page.
posted by brain_drain at 1:17 PM on October 24, 2006


U.S. Senate candidate James Webb's last name has been cut off on part of the electronic ballot... also affects other candidates with long names, city officials said yesterday.

WTF? 'James Webb' is a long name? I'm of the mind that if your entire name is only two syllables, it can't be considered "long".
posted by quin at 1:18 PM on October 24, 2006


Interesting:

From the company website: Charlottesville General Registrar Sheri L. Iachetta said the system has worked flawlessly."We haven't had any problems in the past, and we have spare machines in case there is a problem," Iachetta said. "We are very confident in our machines since they have run well in the past elections."

From the article: "Sheri Iachetta, general registrar for Charlottesville, said the city purchased 72 machines in 2002. Election officials have had trouble displaying long names ever since. "We do have people complain and say they don't get it," Iachetta said. "I completely understand what they're saying, but it's not something I can control...."

Bit of a disconnect between the two quotes, considering the issue's been around since 2002, no?
posted by inigo2 at 1:21 PM on October 24, 2006


quin, it's the "Jim" that pushes his last name off.

Apparently, the problem surfaced when the font on the voting page was enlarged. Why would that happen?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:23 PM on October 24, 2006


I guess that means the voting machines won't be able to fit in the full "George F. 'Macaca' Allen" on the intro screen. How disappointing.
posted by clevershark at 1:26 PM on October 24, 2006


> WTF? 'James Webb' is a long name?

Maybe the quotes fucked it up.

Are there no penalties for screwing up an election? These guys should be going to jail for their negligence.
posted by pracowity at 1:26 PM on October 24, 2006


who do you want to vote for for senate

1) Macacawitz
2) Thunderthighs

posted by delmoi at 1:31 PM on October 24, 2006


I would like to see as much media attention as possible on any irregularities this election. No, this doesn't seem like a big deal by itself, why is it so fucking hard to fix shit like this? Election reform needs to be a way bigger issue than it is. No way an incumbent congress is going to challenge the system that sends them back every time.

We've been getting absentee ballots at our house for people who moved away and voted in other states for the last two elections. It's everything I could do not to fill them out myself, especially for the right wing fuck tard who used to live with us.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:33 PM on October 24, 2006


I have an idea. Let's have a recount if and when the Democrats win.
posted by diastematic at 1:34 PM on October 24, 2006


Apparently John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy would have a hard time getting elected in Virginia!

Why does "Jim" need to be specified though? Isn't the James-Jim connection a bit obvious?
posted by clevershark at 1:35 PM on October 24, 2006


When you think about it, we're lucky it says anything more than "[D] or [R]?"
posted by hermitosis at 1:37 PM on October 24, 2006


I would vote for a guy named James H. Jim.
posted by Mister_A at 1:38 PM on October 24, 2006


Calvin Cool over Richard Nix any day.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:56 PM on October 24, 2006


Putting nicknames on a ballot is dumb enough, but "jim" takes the cake.
posted by 2sheets at 1:58 PM on October 24, 2006


For a country that so prides itself on democracy and elections, you gotta admit that the US electoral process seems awfully Keystone Kops-ish.

From my perch on the precipice, it looks to me like most Americans prefer their dream of democracy to paying attention to reality.

Probably the only way to fix it is to have the government actually run over a couple of elementary schools. Short of those in power actually doing something blatant like that, I don't think most people will care enough to even find out how they're being shafted.
posted by namespan at 2:02 PM on October 24, 2006


Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos "Alien" Kod
posted by Eddie Mars at 2:02 PM on October 24, 2006


Meh. This is a dumb and pointless error.

That said, it'd be nice if a bunch of local governments could put together a grassroots effort to make a secure, reliable, verifiable electronic voting machine, if only so all these dumb bugs could be ironed out.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 2:03 PM on October 24, 2006


Quick fix: Throw the Macaca machines in the Potomac River, and vote on paper. Suppose they can figure that in two weeks?
posted by BillyElmore at 2:21 PM on October 24, 2006


From the comments, it seems like a lot of people aren't reading the article, so I just want to make sure that people realize that this doesn't affect the screens on which people are making their choices; it affects the confirmation screen at the end of the process that summarizes what choices the voter has already made.
posted by dfan at 2:21 PM on October 24, 2006


It's also eyebrow raising that Falls Church, Alexandria, and Charlottesville are high-population, left-leaning areas of Virginia.

The court ought to demand these machines be corrected at any cost, even if it means delaying the Virginia election. It's unfathomable that the summary screen only shows 14 characters of a name.

Especially when those 14 happen to be the precise amount to cut the baggage (R) off of George Allen's name and remove Webb's entire last name.

Even on the summary screen. It's unacceptable.
posted by JWright at 2:24 PM on October 24, 2006


2sheets: "Jim" is probably how he goes day to day, so he would introduce himself as "Jim Webb". However, in most states the requirement for ballots is the candidate's legal name. Some allow a "nickname" to be included. Hence the "Jim". Other candidates of course have more interesting nicknames. However, in Webb's case, if "Jim" wasn't on the ballot, some voters might not realize that this Webb was the Webb they wanted. No, seriously. :)
posted by R343L at 2:25 PM on October 24, 2006


He's Webb, Jim.
posted by Flashman at 2:35 PM on October 24, 2006


He's Dem, Jim.
posted by exogenous at 2:46 PM on October 24, 2006


I have an idea. Let's have a recount if and when the Democrats win.
Oh, you can pretty much bet the farm that the Republicans will go recount-crazy if the Dems pull-off big wins.
As I noted in another thread, I've been seeing a lot of pieces on FoxNews about the sketchiness and insecurity of electronic voting. I'm pretty sure they're greasing the wheels for an all-out, wall-to-wall "Election Fraud" campaign if the Dems pull-off the upset.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:47 PM on October 24, 2006


I came up with the same thing as JWright, 14 characters. Which raises the question, why can't they just drop the nick-name and have it show 'James Webb-D' and 'George Allen-R'?

I realize it's just the summary screen, but come on, 14 characters? Are we back to using Windows 3.1 naming conventions?
posted by quin at 2:51 PM on October 24, 2006


I'm pretty sure they're greasing the wheels for an all-out, wall-to-wall "Election Fraud" campaign if the Dems pull-off the upset.

No doubt.

If Democrats win, the nazis will cry about vote fraud.
If Republicans win, they won't.

This will be explained away by asserting that the reaction would be symmetric for the Democrats, ignoring the fact that the last election WAS stolen (unless you convince yourself to ignore solid stats) and no significant hue and cry was raised, and also ignoring the fact that it is Republicans who are in bed with the vote counters.
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:56 PM on October 24, 2006


Charlottesville, if you don't know, is where the University of Virginia is, and where VA's most vibrant arts and theater scenes are, and where a lot of the state's artists and musicians live and (try to) vote.
posted by nicwolff at 3:03 PM on October 24, 2006


One wonders what would happen to these incredibly secure and well tested systems if a candidate named James COM1 tried to get elected.
posted by theducks at 3:04 PM on October 24, 2006


Good thing Zbigniew Brzezinski isn't running in Virginia. Nobody would know who to vote for if all they saw was Zbigniew Brzez.
posted by I Am Not a Lobster at 3:06 PM on October 24, 2006


More fuel for the fire,
Maryland - Diebold software may have been stolen
Ohio - Blackwell and others sued over voter id issues
posted by edgeways at 3:15 PM on October 24, 2006


I'm an election official in Charlottesville (and a Democrat, for full disclosure).

I don't think this is going to be too big of a deal. On the page where you vote, his full name will appear, so when you choose who you are voting for, you will be voting for James H. "Jim" Webb. Only on the summary screen before you cast your final ballot will the name be truncated.

Personally, I'd like to see the machines be eliminated or a voter verified paper trail implemented. Why any sane person would be against this is beyond me.
posted by AaRdVarK at 3:21 PM on October 24, 2006


One wonders what would happen to these incredibly secure and well tested systems if a candidate named James COM1 tried to get elected.

Before I run for office, I'm going to change my legal name to $_ .
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:30 PM on October 24, 2006


Are we back to using Windows 3.1 naming conventions?

more like MS-DOS 1.0
posted by caddis at 3:53 PM on October 24, 2006


Are we back to using Windows 3.1 naming conventions?

more like MS-DOS 1.0


The naming conventions in DOS 1.0 and Windows 3.1 are exactly the same, eight letters and a three letter extension.
posted by delmoi at 4:34 PM on October 24, 2006


AaRdVarK - IMHO, it's not that big a deal for a normal voter. However, you've got a close race, and the loser's gonna cry foul. This gives 'em something to hang a recount off of, no matter who wins.
posted by swell at 4:53 PM on October 24, 2006


I Am Not a Lobster writes "Nobody would know who to vote for if all they saw was Zbigniew Brzez."

"er, 'scuse me? I think there's something wrong with this machine! I want to see the guy's name but I only see jibberish!"

Although with a name like Zbigniew Brzezinsky one could argue it'd be hard to get elected outside of Poland, or certain parts of Chicago.
posted by clevershark at 4:59 PM on October 24, 2006


Apparently, the problem surfaced when the font on the voting page was enlarged. Why would that happen?

Probably cause the elderly complained about not being able to read it. Damn those old people, always ruining elections.
posted by smackfu at 5:02 PM on October 24, 2006


AaRdVarK writes "On the page where you vote, his full name will appear, so when you choose who you are voting for, you will be voting for James H. 'Jim' Webb. Only on the summary screen before you cast your final ballot will the name be truncated."

Our last presidential election was plagued by voter issues around butterfly ballots. They didn't change while you looked at them -- they were a piece of paper. You look at the piece of paper, you punch a hole. If that caused such massive issues, then this surely will have an impact and given how close many races have been in recent years, any impact whatsoever can throw an election to a different candidate.

Voting is not a low-anxiety experience. It requires travel to a location which may not be compeltely familiar, with officials searching through a list to hopefully find your name. Electronic voting carries its own level of anxiety -- one would assume especially for those who are on the disadvantaged side of the technology gap. This one screen is your final look at a ballot you have not marked by hand and of which you have no other lasting record and it is thus very critical in the electronic voting process -- without it, you literally have one opportunity to make and observe your choice accurately.

We as a technology-oriented society have so many complaints that result from a lack of review and quality assurance -- you wouldn't want a car that hasn't been tested or ride in an elevator that hasn't been inspected -- why would you want to vote in a way that gives no opportunity for accurate review?

Like it or not, my right to vote carries with it no obligation to know the names of the candidates. If I want to vote down the line for a Republican and I make a mistake with this new technology, the party affiliation would be the only way to tell. Heck, where's the last campaign sign you saw that included the candidate's first and last names? Assuming that someone didn't ignore the confirmation screen (where they might catch an errant D out of the corner of their eye) or shrug their shoulders and submit their final vote despite the lack of detail, the process for a doubtful voter to accurately review or change their choice then requires several additional steps, thus increasing the abandon rate and given the anxiety levels above, compounding the overall risk for error.

Absolutely ridiculous.
posted by VulcanMike at 6:00 PM on October 24, 2006


I live in Falls Church (technically, though I'm away at college), and it really pissed me off when I first saw that they were advertising the new voting system. They had flyers talking about how they were offering little info/demo sessions where I'm sure they were going to talk about how awesome they were.

Now I can say that I was right in being pissed off. Glad I get to vote by absentee ballot, but sorry for the people that have to use the stupid machines.
posted by malthas at 6:29 PM on October 24, 2006


That said, it'd be nice if a bunch of local governments could put together a grassroots effort to make a secure, reliable, verifiable electronic voting machine

secure, reliable, verifiable electronic voting machine system

There, I just made it a lot easier on you.
posted by flug at 7:00 PM on October 24, 2006


On the page where you vote, his full name will appear, so when you choose who you are voting for, you will be voting for James H. 'Jim' Webb. Only on the summary screen before you cast your final ballot will the name be truncated.

We're talking about an electorate that needs James to have the nickname "Jim" come after it because election officials are worried enough people would get confused otherwise. "I don't think anyone will have a problem" is as lame now as it was with the butterfly ballot.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:10 PM on October 24, 2006


We're talking about an electorate that needs James to have the nickname "Jim" come after it because election officials are worried enough people would get confused otherwise.

Oh, come off it. The candidate must request the use of a nickname.
posted by dhartung at 8:11 PM on October 24, 2006


I don't think the problem is so much that the code can't be fixed (it almost certantly can), but that there is a certain lag time on this type of software for auditing any changes - the fix may take a programmer ten minutes, but then six months worth of beurocrats have to sign off on it before it goes in to production systems.

But then, you don't want your systems running un-audited code, right? I mean, it's fucked that the issue made it in there in the first place, but it just seems to me to be not big enough to be worth the amount of pain that a new audit and approval process would entail, this close to an election.

But then, it's entirely possible that I'm smoking crack.
posted by jaymzjulian at 10:03 PM on October 24, 2006


So, if I understand this correctly, there were complaints that the summary page was correct, but not readable by some portion X of the voting populace. So, the fix that was selected has the summary page displaying incomplete information for 100% of the voting populace?

The summary page is apparently important enough to change the font size to accomodate some portion of the voters, and now they can read the summary page, but the information is incomplete? The summary page is important enough to fix, but not important enough to get the information correctly displayed for all voters?

On what fucking planet does this remotely constitute fixing the original problem?
posted by dglynn at 6:31 AM on October 25, 2006


You are SO outraged.
posted by smackfu at 7:04 AM on October 25, 2006


Apparently, the problem surfaced when the font on the voting page was enlarged. Why would that happen?
[Me]

Probably cause the elderly complained about not being able to read it. Damn those old people, always ruining elections.
[smackfu]

My question was actually, "Why would enlarging the font on the voting screen cause truncation on the confirmation screen?"
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:32 AM on October 25, 2006


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