Diebold protestors stand ground
October 22, 2003 9:47 AM   Subscribe

"If voting could really change things, it would be illegal." More fun from Diebold: on Tuesday, two PA-based student groups announced they will engage in "electronic civil disobedience" by ignoring Diebold's demands to remove public access to leaked memos from Diebold offices, which indicate among other things "...that Diebold, which counts the votes in 37 states, knowingly created an electronic system which allows anyone with access to the machines to add and delete votes without detection."
posted by XQUZYPHYR (48 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- Brandon Blatcher

There were also several great links on this on Body and Soul last week.
posted by homunculus at 9:59 AM on October 22, 2003

the memo location gives a 404 error to me.
posted by goethean at 10:04 AM on October 22, 2003

I'm still trying to wrap my head around this exchange that has a diebold rep asking why, in the 2000 election, in florida, diebold machines reported -16,000 votes for Al Gore in one county.

I can't imagine a more damning revelation.
posted by malphigian at 10:14 AM on October 22, 2003

goethean, they were slashdotted... read first link in story above for more info and mirrors.

The entire archive apparently is downloadable and is also on BitTorrent. Once something hits BT it can be officially labeled "out of the barn".

I've voted in every major election since I turned 18. Every one, even if I had to leave work early or in one case travel several hundred miles because I didn't move my registration in time.

I've often wondered if it ever mattered. I don't so much wonder anymore.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:27 AM on October 22, 2003

that's my alma mater! and that's my old student computing society trying to keep up with the hosting! Go team! The slashdotting isn't the big problem--there was a server change recently and DNS has had some trouble keeping up. Here's a link to the memos on the SCCS server with the IP address in the URL instead of the hostname.

The big meeting with Dean Bob Gross is at 4:00. SCCS sysadmins will be standing by at 4:30 if the college puts the kibosh on files served from on-campus computers. I suspect that SCDC and why-war will work on finding another way to make the data available.
posted by tss at 10:50 AM on October 22, 2003

It might be fair to note that "If voting could really change things, it would be illegal." is from a signature not an actual email (body).
posted by Dr_Octavius at 10:52 AM on October 22, 2003

and for those interested, a freenet link to the BT archive (in case the tracker gets taken down or whatnot)
(after freenet is up and running, just hit this)
posted by fiz at 10:56 AM on October 22, 2003

The name "Diebold" conjures for me an image of a man in a casket with one arm thrusted skyward, holding a musket. Maybe he represents democracy.
posted by squirrel at 10:58 AM on October 22, 2003

Again, just say NO to electronic voting
for the following reasons

1) you don't know, but your fridge is smarter then you
2) so is anything electronical , including computers
3) you like lists that make fun of other people shortcomings
4) other may include you
5) if you give up paper voting I'll give you a coupon for a limited edition 10 hour long DVD of Limbaugh & O'Reilly vs
Moore & Franken Celebrity Deathmatch. I'll throw a free Taco in the deal if you tell me how much 6x6 is
6) I'll hack the hell out of the voting machines and blame YOU for supporting paperless machine, so reinforcing in you the idea you're clueless.
7) Why should I explain you why e-voting machine is bad by the way ? It's not like you're going to move your ass from your couch anyway. Repeat with me " I'm an idiot, I'll let the intelligent guys take decisions for me" Repeat again.
posted by elpapacito at 11:53 AM on October 22, 2003

Or you can choose the Clue Pill and follow this reasoning:

1) Given that anybody can hack any computer
2) if given enough money
3) I want some piece of paper to record MY VOTE
4) and I want that piece of paper to be STORED
5) so that in the event of a recount, the hackers will be
6) I don't give a flying f*ck about having results of election in realtime on my computer. I'd rather read Metafilter.
7) I don't want to have a Prez or Gub elected by a computer and not by me
8) I don't like lists that make fun of me.
posted by elpapacito at 11:57 AM on October 22, 2003

We use paper ballots (NO CHADS-marked by felt tip marker) which are sucked into and read by a machine. I'm a poll worker, and I can tell you there is no way to fudge results at least on our level. We have to print out the results immediately(Like a grocery receipt) sign off on results (both political parties have a representative poll worker) and then we seal the box with the used votes with way too much duct tape-then an official seal.

I'm sure there is no perfectly foolproof method to do this but I like our way better than anything else I have seen or heard of.
posted by konolia at 12:11 PM on October 22, 2003

Konolia: so let me see if I've understood the procedure

1) voter enters the boot, marks a piece of paper with marker
2) voter puts the paper vote into a sealed box
3) after voting is closed, you guys open the box
4) proceed to feed the paper votes to a scanning machine
5) the vote is recorded on some computer and the paper ballot is stored in another sealed box.

Is this right ? Thanks for your comment and your time.
posted by elpapacito at 12:26 PM on October 22, 2003

When I last voted (San Francisco, in the most recent election) I marked the ballot with a black felt-tip marker, then put it through the vote counting machine myself. not cheat-proof at all, but it makes me feel a little better about at least the first-round count.
posted by antimony at 12:38 PM on October 22, 2003

Man. We just count our votes, up here in Canada. We look at them, we count them, and then we write the number down on a piece of paper somewhere. There's no way in hell I'd trust my electoral process to a closed, unproven computer. Especially one put together by a vocal supporter of a political party.

Not to be offensive, but seriously, what the fuck is going on down there? There'd be widespread rioting up here if we had even a tenth of the political madness that we hear about. (Hell, we rioted when The Exploited got held at the US border last week.)
posted by Jairus at 12:53 PM on October 22, 2003

There's no way in hell I'd trust my electoral process to a closed, unproven computer.

Instead you trust it to Madge the Semi-Retired Grocery Bagger, who comes out once a year to count paper ballots. That's one foolproof system you've got up there.
posted by jpoulos at 12:59 PM on October 22, 2003

We can't riot - that would be a terrorist act. There are Free Speech Zones somewhere, but nobody has a map to them.
posted by yesster at 1:01 PM on October 22, 2003

But they don't have to trust Madge, since they can simply audit her.
posted by yesster at 1:02 PM on October 22, 2003

I don't think Americans will riot for anything until their freaking remote controls no longer work. And even then I doubt it would be more than breaking into Best Buy to get new ones.

As for Diebold I remember them making drive-up bank systems (the machine with the platic tube you get money from) when I was a kid.

To be honest, I've gave up on politicians of any stripe a long time ago. Vote fraud just seems to be a symptom of the political and economic problems in the US and not a cause.
posted by infowar at 1:07 PM on October 22, 2003

Is this right ? Thanks for your comment and your time

Actually, the voters mark the ballot and feed the machine themselves. We don't even touch them unless one messes up. The machine has a special interior bin for those, and they would be hand totaled and put on the tally sheet. (we had no messed up ones last time.)

There is also a special procedure for provisional ballots-these do not go into the machine at all-they go into a special envelope. The Board of Elections goes thru these to see which ones count. (This would be people whose registration doesn't show up, or people who are too stinking lazy to go to their own stinking precinct, etc.)

We print out at least three tapes when all voting is done, and we all have to sign them, etc. Oh, and usually at least one candidate has a poll observer outside who will ask to see vote totals. They then report to him or her what the totals are for that particular precinct. Legally we are required to provide them with the info. I guess that would be to cut out any mo nkey business once everything gets turned into the Board of Elections-and EVERYTHING is turned in that night.

I forgot to say we make sure that the machine is set at zero before the polls open, and we are not allowed to vote ourselves until someone else comes in to cast the first ballot. (altho not required, most of us work in our own precincts.)
posted by konolia at 1:09 PM on October 22, 2003

Instead you trust it to Madge the Semi-Retired Grocery Bagger, who comes out once a year to count paper ballots. That's one foolproof system you've got up there.

Maggie's a valid part of my country and my community, and I trust her bored impartiality a hell of a lot more than I trust a republican fundraising CEO.
posted by Jairus at 1:16 PM on October 22, 2003

Our system in Madison, WI, is pretty much the same as konolia's. I like it.

I've been thinking about these electronic voting machines, and vote-rigging, and all I can think of is this:
Should nasty, behind-the-scenes rigging take place and improperly give power to a government, how would we know?

Do we even know right now? Do we have to wait until things get so bad that a revolution is the only solution?
posted by rocketman at 1:22 PM on October 22, 2003

Well at least Madge can count to 3. That, and there's usually someone looking over madge's shoulder, like the candidates for instance.

Can someone explain to me why pen and paper is so wrong?
posted by fullerine at 1:30 PM on October 22, 2003

Voting is a government plot.
posted by jonmc at 1:39 PM on October 22, 2003

I guess the scariest thing about all of this is that its only just coming to light in the last few years. This can't be a new problem, can it?

And am I understanding that Gore actually did take Florida and the election? Wouldn't that make Bush an illegal president then? How in the hell is he still in the White House then?

Is there any sense in voting anymore now that the system has been proven to be utter bunkum?
posted by fenriq at 1:40 PM on October 22, 2003

konolia: Ok so I see that the paper ballot is scanned by a machine (good, it makes the counting faster) and the paper ballot is later archived for recount. That's OK in my opinion because _each_ vote is a piece of paper that can be recovered _later_ for recounts. Thanks for your help.

Now, there may be other flaws in the counting and recounting scanners and process, but with a completely electronic voting system you wouldn't have a 2nd chance to recount the votes reliably with any method.

With an individual paper vote system , with or without electronic recounting, you always have the chance to do even a MANUAL count or recount if it's necessary (for instance imagine a nationwide blackout during a voting session).

Now let's disregard for a minute the so called "tinhat paranoid conspiracy" dudes. You were told credit card systems were reliable right ? Yeah, so reliable I know
at least 10 people who suffered credit card frauds. They didn't always get a refund. But at worse they lost $200-300 ..they didn't lose an entire friggin election which is the very _foundation_ of democracy.

On a tangent : According to this site the difference in votes between Bush and Gore in the 2000 election in Florida was 537 votes out of more or less 6 MILLION votes (so much for the "genius" who say one vote doesn't count).
posted by elpapacito at 1:50 PM on October 22, 2003

The ballots I've cast in NC and TX have been as konolia describes. Are these the ballots with the arrows that you complete?

Can someone explain to me why pen and paper is so wrong?

Nothing's wrong with pen and paper, and plenty of Americans vote on paper ballots. But having optical scanners read them (first) makes more sense down here because we vote on a lot more stuff.

Having representatives from all candidates in presidential, US House, US Senate, state gubernatorial, state lieutenant gubernatorial, state secretary of state, state insurance commission, state attorney general, state comptroller or treasurer or both, state agriculture commission, another 5--10 state offices, several state judgeships, state House (sometimes x2), state Senate, several county commission, several city council, mayor, county judgeships, several school district, and other local races, in addition to representatives of groups pushing for and against the up to 40 or so ballot propositions would be ungainly, time consuming, and (if they were all allowed to handle all ballots) likely cause problems with ballots being lost or damaged (intentionally or not) in the process.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:56 PM on October 22, 2003

537 votes out of more or less 6 MILLION votes (so much for the "genius" who say one vote doesn't count)

One vote didn't count, even then. 537 votes counted. 537>>1.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:58 PM on October 22, 2003

Well at least Madge can count to 3.

Ah, but can she count to -16,022? There you have it.
posted by soyjoy at 2:11 PM on October 22, 2003

537 votes is 537 times 1 vote (537*1) That's math. 537 is more the one ? True as well. If 537 people were brainwashed enough into believing their personal ONE vote is worthless, you would have 537 less votes. 537-537=0. But if only one person of that 537 doesn't fall into the trap of thinking his/her vote doesn't count, we have 537-536=1. Somebody may as well win or lose one election for ONE vote. One vote may as well be worth one entire election.
posted by elpapacito at 2:17 PM on October 22, 2003

In my country, each political party is allowed to place a "scrutineer" in each polling place. Scrutineers look out for possible problems, and audit the counting process. "Madge" does not count alone.

Anyway, isn't Madge a straw woman? Who says bored retirees are the only alternative to machines? (also, look at Brazil, where machines do the counting, but there are paper ballots for audit).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:33 PM on October 22, 2003

I'm another Madison, WI voter with the felt-tip ballot as konolia described. As this is the only place I've ever voted, I once thought that *everyone* used these ballots. They are pretty easy to read, damn hard to screw up, and I'm very comfortable with the results. I'd certainly prefer them to touch-screen voting. I fucking hate touch screens.

Another thing we have in my area that I adore is voter-registration at the polls. Sure, you may have to wait in two lines at the polling place, but it takes away an excuse not to vote. One stop shopping.
posted by kayjay at 3:17 PM on October 22, 2003

Is there any way to prevent Diebold's machines or system in the first place? like a "no-confidence" vote or something? They've certainly proven themselves to be non-objective about elections. (We're going digital very soon here in new york state, and Diebold is in the running--hopefully, we may be spared them because of a "full-face" requirement)
posted by amberglow at 3:31 PM on October 22, 2003

I voted using the electronic system for the first time a few months ago, and I have to say that I walked away feeling unsure about the process. As my husband and I walked back to the car, we looked at the little slip of paper you get handed that says you voted and had some sort of user number or something on it, but no actual info about what my vote was. We started wondering if there needed to be a recount, how anything could actually BE recounted. It's all data in a spreadsheet stored on a computer.

Previous to this we had always used the ballots that you mark out with a pen and then fed into a machine that tallied it and stored the paper for potential recounts. I felt much more comfortable with this, and I can't see why the electronic machines can't spit out a piece of paper for me that lists my votes on everything and which is then placed in a lock box so there is SOME sort of paper trail.

I know how I voted that day, but I have no actual way of knowing that the computer I was inputting the votes as I intended or tallied them the way they should have been. I get no hard copy feedback, just a screen that tells me "this is the way you voted" which vanishes into the ether when you press exit. The sad fact is that NO ONE knows whether or not it counted my votes the way it should have, except the computer. I love computers, use them every day and really can't imagine life without them, but I don't happen to trust them (or the people who make them) so much that I am comfortable not having a paper trail that can be followed and recounted should something "funny" come up.
posted by Orb at 3:36 PM on October 22, 2003

amberglow: guess I got some info for you.

First, let me say that I am no expert of legislative actions in U.S. (I don't live in U.S :) so I recommend you seek for more information from friends and people that know the U.S. "system" way better then I do.

Second, while browsing the net I've found:

a) Campaign to support Voter Confidence Act HR2239
b) Introductory Remark on HR2239 by Congressman Rush Holt

A few interesting lines from the last link

) A requirement that all voting systems produce a voter-verified paper record for use in manual audits. A system using optical scanning of cards marked by the voters is one acceptable version. For those using the increasingly popular direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines (such as `touch-screen' machines), this requirement means those machines would print a receipt that each voter would verify as accurate and deposit into a lockbox at the polling station for later use in a recount.

Which seems reasonable and good in my opinion.

Probably you'll need to contact your representatives/congressman ; fax is probably the best instrument to contact them, given that -as far as I know- there are problems with e-mail and sometimes it's routinely discarded (but I'm not sure about that). Maybe the email is filterd by some spam-filter.

I'd also pay A LOT of attention to the -final text- of that Voter Confidence Act, as I think it may change before it's submitted for votation.
posted by elpapacito at 4:49 PM on October 22, 2003

I've heard about that already, but thanks. (we discussed it in the older thread)--I'm happy it's coming, but it's not yet a law, and I don't think it will be by the 2004 elections. It's in committee, according to this. (My rep is one of the co-sponsors--Jerrold Nadler). Most, if not all, of the names on the bill are Democrats, and the Repubs control the house and senate. What's to stop them from letting it sit in committee until after the next elections?
posted by amberglow at 5:18 PM on October 22, 2003

I don't think Americans will riot for anything until their freaking remote controls no longer work.
posted by infowar at 1:07 PM PST on October 22

"You will not be able to stay home, brother.
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.


sorry, weird, tangential thought processes.
posted by memnock at 5:41 PM on October 22, 2003

amberglow: probably nothing, unless people starts literally crowding streets saying "no to e-vote machine" ...which is possible , but unlikely . Or that some Rep realizes e-voting is a double-edged sword, or pickups up people votes hoping to capitalize on dissent. Whatever happens keeping people informed of this long enough may have positive effects.
posted by elpapacito at 6:01 PM on October 22, 2003

In Japan, in each race you have to read the list of candidates, and then write the name of your choice on a blank line. No card punch, no fill in the circle. Counted by hand, obviously.
posted by planetkyoto at 5:50 AM on October 23, 2003

Everytime I use an ATM, this perverted little lyric comes to mind:

Diebold tablets in your hair,
Diebold tablets everywhere,
we can't be silent
'cause they might be giant,
and what are we gonna do unless they are...*

posted by piskycritter at 5:50 AM on October 23, 2003

I've worked elections here in Canada, in all sorts of capacities. I've even been a Polling Day Revising Officer, which gave me the legal right to act as a Justice of the Peace within the voting area (a gymnasium). I could legally have people arrested under my authority, but I was really hoping some starry-eyed young couple of politically-minded kids would ask me to preside over a marriage ceremony....

Where was I? Right, the counting. There are always three people at every ballot box doing the counting. One each appointed by the parties, and a third from Elections Canada. So even if "Madge" is a right-wing nut, she's balanced by "Phil" the left-winger, and "Mike", who really doesn't give a damn for either party. Plus each party - even the loopy, no-hope-in-hell ones - is permitted to have someone in the room to oversee everything. It's a pretty open counting process, and it would be very difficult to cheat. All the ballots are sealed in their polling boxes afterwards and sent on to Elections Canada in case of recount.

There can be issues with a few individual votes. I remember one voter put a smiley face in the box instead of the standard X, and "Madge" thought it should count as spoiled. But it was agreed that, since the voter clearly identified one and only one candidate, the vote counted.

If you're at all interested in the process, next election you should volunteer. I've done enumeration for voters lists and worked on some candidate's campaigns as well (different years, of course). I found it very informative.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 8:25 AM on October 23, 2003

There are always three people at every ballot box doing the counting. One each appointed by the parties, and a third from Elections Canada.

That works well with strongish parties and a few races.

But in the US, party organizations have little to no control over their own nominations, so it's not that uncommon to have party nominees that the party organization isn't terribly fond of. So some minority of candidates might have reason not to trust either party to be honest WRT their votes. Practical upshot: you'd need to have representatives of the hundred-plus candidates, not the two parties.

Add in groups with an axe to grind about the different ballot propositions, and it gets uglier.

Hand counting is also pretty easy with one to five offices on a ballot, but it doesn't scale well to 50+ offices and questions.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:56 AM on October 23, 2003

We have to have representatives of both parties too.

Oh, and I get paid. And not too shabbily for one day's work.
posted by konolia at 9:03 AM on October 23, 2003

There can be issues with a few individual votes. I remember one voter put a smiley face in the box instead of the standard X, and "Madge" thought it should count as spoiled. But it was agreed that, since the voter clearly identified one and only one candidate, the vote counted.

Are you crazy?! I poll watch for my party at most state elections and would NEVER, EVER allow that to count as a vote. There are clear instructions (Mark an "X" in the box, or whatever) and if you don't follow them, your vote gets tossed. Madge was right. I would have contested that vote and no one would have challenged me. You can't interpret what that smiley face meant, it could be the voter's way of saying "I scoff at this choice!"
posted by palegirl at 9:59 AM on October 23, 2003

If you American people don't start agitating in a BIG way starting RIGHT NOW, your next federal election is going to be completely fraudulent.

The entire world knows your system is hackable. There are many powerful groups, both within and without the USA, that would like to control the election.

You can be damned sure that if electronic voting machines are in use, they will be hacked.

The system that Konolia has described is sensible and significantly more secure. If any of you give a good goddamn for your country, you will make every effort to ensure that her state's system is used in your own state.

You can not afford to be complacent.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:03 AM on October 23, 2003

in the US, party organizations have little to no control over their own nominations

Could you explain that? Who chooses the candidates for each party? In Canada, it's the rank-and-file party members in each riding who decide on their candidate, with the odd star candidate parachuted in by the party leader. And even if they didn't care much for the candidate, they're most likely to prefer them to the alternatives.

Regardless, it's not so much the bias of the counters but the sheer number of them that's important. As long as there's one person with a sense of justice in the group, the count is going to be reasonably accurate.

As for multiple candidate situations, the number of volunteers available to oversee counting is in rough proportion to the number of votes they're likely to get, so all viable candidates are likely to be represented at each polling station. Look at the California recall - do you really think having representatives of each and every candidate count all the votes would have had a statistically significant impact on the results?

However, if it came to that I'd rather have every candidate scrutinize every vote and have the outcome in doubt for a week rather than trust a fallible machine to do it. This need to have the results known 15 minutes after the polls close seems driven more by big media than anything else.

(and on preview, palegirl, just what constitutes a "whatever" mark to you? It sounds like the rules are different again for US & Canada. It doesn't have to be an X in our elections - "place a mark in the circle beside the name of the candidate" is the rough wording. So a smiley is "a mark", period. By discounting the vote, you're the one interpreting the smiley face as a political statement. A smiley face vote counts in Canada, period, as long as it's within the circle of one and only one candidate.)
posted by GhostintheMachine at 10:57 AM on October 23, 2003

We have the same voting process as Konolia described, but it's my understanding that all of Texas will have have electronic voting in place before the 2004 election. But even if they don't...every voting location in the entire USA must comply with the Help America Vote Act by no later than 2006.
posted by dejah420 at 11:22 AM on October 23, 2003

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