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Reddit user captures video of 2012 voting machines altering votes (thenextweb.com)
1072 points by jipumarino on Nov 6, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 637 comments

I know that this will remain at the bottom of this thread, because it doesn't have enough conspiracy theory in it, but does anyone really think that this is actual vote tampering?

I mean, why on earth would you tamper with a voting machine so that it stuffs the ballot, but have it update the UI so that the user can see and report the error? This should fall to the way side of failing basic logic, but it doesn't because people want a sensationalist article to argue over. Changing votes would be much easier to do on the back end, and would have the additional benefit of never being detected by the user

It may very well be that changing the UI map is the easiest way to accomplish this. Any particular person may not have access to the backend code, but may have access to the code that maps screen positions to selection.

Having no knowledge of this machine in particular, I can't say much more, but it's certainly feasible that this is the easiest or only method to modify the outcome of a vote.

Based on the description and assuming it's accurate, we could conclude that there is some sort of mapping of the display to vote selection that is configurable locally. This makes sense, as every locality has different ballots - school districts, etc.

We do know that these things tend to be pretty poorly written, so you also can't assume even reasonable or typical component design.

I don't think your logic is valid.

If I were tampering with voting, I would do it on the front end, not the back end. That's because if the code is ever discovered on the back end, it is damning. A misaligned or badly proportioned mapping from touch coordinates to ballot options is much easier to explain away as an error or incompetence.

Doing it at the front end won't flip as many votes because many people will see the incorrect registration and stab at the touch screen a few more times until they find the right spot. But some will not notice, and in a close race that could be good enough.

I agree. Has no one here used a touchscreen on an airplane seat before, it's usually more than one finger width offset...

America: Our electronic voting is just as good as our airplane seats


Re-read the article. The guy tested just for that and it wasn't a case.

He says a lot of things, but amazingly only shows us the one thing that can be easily debunked as a glitch/error.

Thank you for being the voice of reason. It's a fucking calibration error. I hate sensationalism like this.

How is it a calibration error?

He clearly says he tested for calibration error, and it wasn't the case.

This is of course, we assume he's not lying.

He doesn't have to be lying, just unaware of how touchscreen calibration works. With resistive and infrared touchscreens, some portion of the screen can be miscalibrated or faulty even if other portions of the screen work correctly.

His "calibration test" doesn't actually demonstrate anything. Having some portion of the screen work incorrectly, while other sections of the screen work correctly, is entirely consistent with a calibration error for these types of touchscreens.

The only way to eliminate calibration error as the cause here is to: 1) re-calibrate the screen and see if the touch mappings are still incorrect. 2) if they are, the touchscreen itself could be faulty, so the next step is to replace the touchscreen with a known working version, and see if the issue persists.

Obviously there's no way he could have performed either of those steps, so there's no way he could eliminate calibration error as the cause.

Source: I've developed touchscreen kiosks in restaurants for years, and this behavior is entirely consistent with the miscalibrated touchscreens I've seen in the past. Often (generally with crappy touchscreens), a screen will hold its calibration for some period of time, and then stop working correctly until it's recalibrated once again.

Now, whether it's a good idea to use these types of crappy touchscreens in electronic voting machines is an entirely different question...

Having slept on this, I think he's lying.

For such a major accusation, one would think to video all other choices working as expected, and only Obama being an exception. The simplest explanation for what he showed is a calibration error, but the matter is dramatically сomplicated if you take what he has to say for granted.

His testing isn't thorough. He shows us the incorrect voting, and doesn't have enough sense to prove the other buttons are fine with his video camera.

There are people who are so out of touch with technology that they might not understand the (to us, incredibly obvious and clear) feedback the UI is providing, and might overlook it or be scared of pressing the screen again. Grandmothers and curmudgeons.

It seems ridiculous to be unable to comprehend something that would be as familiar as using a hand calculator to people like me and you, but there are people out there who are afraid to touch the power button on their computers because they think they'll burn their house down or get a virus or something.

Imagine people like that trying to learn a brand new user interface in the span of 5 minutes while people are waiting in line for them to finish. It's a small population of people but it could conceivably make a difference given the right conditions.

edit: I forgot to add that this would be a good way to commit voter fraud and still have plausible deniability. Also, it would probably be more cost efficient to bribe someone for this small bug that gives a 0.5% advantage than it would be to pay for the campaigning that makes a 0.5% difference.

That's not the point. Yes, there might be people who will ignore the UI feedback and cast the wrong vote. The point is that, if you're going to tamper it, you'd rather tamper the back end. As it is, if this is happening to a lot of people, many of them are bound to report it and that risk completely outweighs any gain from the "grandmother" group.

In any case, I'm skeptical of the tampering hypothesis because only one person reported and filmed it.

If you assume that the team developing the software consists of more than one person, and a hypothetical vote-stuffer wants to minimise the number of people who know about the vote-stuffing attempt, they might not have any choice about who on the team actually implements the stuffing. It might be that they only have influence over the guy doing the UI.

Or it could be an attempt at plausible deniability. If all the machines need calibrating, but an uncalibrated machine just so happens to mis-register votes in the direction you want, that would give you an edge because you can guarantee that some machines won't be deployed correctly.

In the video they should have tested for calibration. It suggests that the votes are being forced to Mitt when really the screen is just off.

Further to this, why aren't the names randomized?!

> "Further to this, why aren't the names randomized?!"

Do you know how many millions of lines of code they would need to add to do this?

Voting machine manufactures have repeatedly proven themselves the most incompetent people in technology.

But what is the other explanation then?

Hanlon's Razor would suggest a bug in the hardware or software as the more likely explanation.

Unfortunately, when politics are involved, people default to assuming malice far more than they perhaps should.

These voting machines flaws were widely reported last election. They always favoured the Republican candidate. Here's court testimony of an developer who was asked to create one of these rigged systems:


They don't "always" favor the republican. That's just hyperbole. There have been widespread reports of Romney votes being altered -- days ago.

I think our biggest problem is voter registration flaws and the lack of being able to identify that the person listed on the form is the actual one voting. We should also be dipping people's thumbs in ink like they do in Africa and Mexico to ensure that people don't vote twice.

Voter fraud is far more common than alleged insidious voting machine malfunctions. Those machines are checked by reps of both parties and under heavy, continual scrutiny. Voter rolls, on the other hand, or absentee ballots are rife with fraud. For example, thousands of military members won't get to vote this election because the department of defense failed to mail the ballots on time.

In 2010, I lived in China and didn't get my absentee ballot until 1 month after the election, even though I requested it 6 months prior from the US Consulate in Shanghai. I was disenfranchised like millions of other legal voters, both civilian and military.

Some people are more concerned about some old minority lady allegedly with the inability to get a free photo id, yet ignore the military and overseas vote. Yet for the old minority lady, she need only go to the local courthouse to get things straightened out, while a solider in Kabul doesn't have that luxury.

Another problem is blantant violations of election law by generally Democrat election judges. Examples from today: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2012/11/06/judge-orders-oba...



And voter intimidation here: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/nov/6/problems-blac...

If the KKK were to show up at a Philidelphia polling site, there'd be cries of outrage and National Guard deployments, but since it's the New Black Panthers, it's ignored.

>They don't "always" favor the republican. That's just hyperbole.

I've yet to see a credible instance of vote machine "malfunction" favoring Democrats covered by a reputable source, but if you have any links I'd be interested as it's certainly possible.

>Voter fraud is far more common than alleged insidious voting machine malfunctions.

Due to the nature of electric voting without a paper trail, there's no way to make this assertion as contemporary electronic voting can't be audited.

>Those machines are checked by reps of both parties and under heavy, continual scrutiny.

Not quite.

See: http://techcrunch.com/2012/11/06/experimental-software-discr...

Electronic voting in its current form is a remarkably bad idea. It invites corruption as a scale that requires much more resources than traditional analog voting fraud.

30 seconds with google found:

http://fellowshipofminds.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/malfunctio... """touched the screen to vote for Mitt Romney but the machine lit up the name of Barack Obama. Stevens tried a second time and again the machine lit up Obama when she selected Romney. She tried a third time and finally Romney’s name lit up. Stevens reported the malfunction to board of elections personnel and was told the voting machine had been “acting up all day.” """


""" Sher Coromalis ... says she cast her ballot for Governor Mitt Romney, but every time she entered her vote the machine defaulted to President Obama....

Marie Haydock, who also voted at the Bur-Mil Park polling location, had the same problem. ... Is it just me, or is this problem that “arises every election” one where malfunctioning machines always seem to err in favor of Democrats? """

Established media sources (preferably with some statistical analysis showing pro-Democrat anomalies) rather than random blogs would be nice, but thanks.

As opposed to some random Reddit user?

A random person's video carries more weight than a random person's unsubstantiated claim because video is, to some degree, evidence (it would be possible to fake, but would at least require some work).

But there is no real evidence. He shows a video of a garden variety bug/error with resistive touch screens, then makes some sensationalist claims in his comments that are completely unsubstantiated.

Here's a video from 2008 of the exact same problem.


Is there any video of these sorts of "garden variety" bugs happening in favor of Democrats?

Skip to the relevant part of the video [53 second], and the guy clearly touches the bottom of the McCain section with his finger, then rolls his finger down. My point still stands though: The user sees the wrong selection immediately, and can notify someone or try again. The only scandal here is that this is even a story


He makes no sensasionalist claims that I've seen, he's only said that it's not a calibration error according to his testing.

In any case the mere presence of this type of bugs are a really strong point against wasting money in these devices.

> Another problem is blantant violations of election law by generally Democrat election judges. Examples from today: http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2012/11/06/judge-orders-oba....

The content of those articles plainly contradicts your summary -- The judge ordered the mural to be covered up.

This face-palming mendactity renders the rest of your comment suspect as well.

What happened to this court case? Why isn't there a huge outcry about this?

My guess is the people who fund both the Democrats and Republicans like the idea of being able to rig elections and therefore there's mainstream silence about it. Otherwise, I find it hard to explain.

Per the usual, the witness 'suicided'.

I am wrong I was thinking of one of the investigators assigned to his claims. Raymond Lemme


Ah. Depressing, but not surprising.

people default to assuming malice

It's simply because of the stakes. The cost of ignoring a positive is much greater than the cost of freaking out over a false positive.

Even though a bug is not entirely unlikely, a bug which actively favors one candidate over the other is very unlikely.

That since Romney and Obama are going to each get lots of votes that the touch screen has been completly worn away and is now not very accurate.

I wonder what happens if you push on the screen over a candidate's name really really really hard for a minute or so.

Not hard enough to knock the whole machine over, but way harder than "touch."

It doesn't even need to be malicious. Maybe someone really liked Obama.

touchscreen calibration errors or related software glitches. I've certainly seen my own phone get screwed up enough on occasion that a touch on point x registered at y.

except the guy who recorded it claims that selecting candidate that's below Obama worked correctly.

From my phone experiences, it isn't always a matter of a touch being shifted up/down by X everyone. Sometimes individual areas are screwed up. (as a simple experiment, I can put some water droplets on my nexus S and things go haywire unpredictably).

I'm doubtful this is malicious not so much because I'm some idealist that believes voter fraud doesn't happen, but because of all ways to commit fraud, this is a but ridiculous - it's obvious to everyone the machine is recording wrong and it will be noticed.

Maybe too many people voted for Obama causing that part of the screen to fail?

Plausible deniability?

I would have voted for this comment, but because of the implicit plea for votes in the first line, I downvoted it instead.

normally i'd agree but i don't see it out of line at all. just take a look at all the Herculean efforts that Republicans have made in the past two years to reduce the ability for people to vote

>I know that this will remain at the bottom of this thread, because it doesn't have enough conspiracy theory in it, but does anyone really think that this is actual vote tampering?

This exact thing happened last election. Why does it only happen to the advantage of Republican candidates?

Posted above what I found w/ 30 seconds of googling: Same touch one candidate, other candidate gets the vote defect, same dismissive attitude from poll workers, only difference is it favored the opposite party.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, folks. If you're in the U.S. I highly reccomend being a poll worker in a contentious district in a swing state if you ever get the chance. I was in a suburb of Denver last election and saw all kinds of shenanigans, from people pulling fire alarms to clear out the polling places to people walking aaround with laptops "checking voter registration" (actually just lying to people to get them to go home).

There was also this, a few weeks ago: http://www.nationalmemo.com/man-connected-to-virginia-gop-ar...

The fact is that there is a concerted, coordinated effort to tamper with the vote every single election. I have no way of knowing whether this specific incident was malicious, but I sure wouldn't be surprised if it was.

That's just disturbing. The last time I went to vote I walked to a local school, waited politely in a queue, went and filled in my paper ballot and went home. A couple of people there were monitoring but nobody tried to influence or interrupt or anything. It was very British.

That's exactly my experience voting in the US. I suspect these stories are the exception but no less disturbing.

> The last time I went to vote I walked to a local school, waited politely in a queue, went and filled in my paper ballot and went home.

Exactly my experience as well. It was excruciatingly well behaved.

I can attest to similar actions as well in Nashville, IN. We've had a very nasty election cycle, given the (R) Governer has stepped down, and with the shenanigans with Mourlock (misspelled correctly; I am not an eloi).

At the polling place, there were quiet conversations and line chatter, yet was very professional and well, British.

Even when I was a poll worker during the 2000 election, it still was decent and honorable proceedings, even if the campaigning was not.

The bigger story in VA is this one, I think:

There was also a NYT article suggesting that fairfax co. could end up being this election's Florida. We'll see.

Isn't denying someone the right to vote a crime?

Not only that, but it is grounds to apply Section 2 of the 14th Amendment. Not many people seem to be aware of the second clause. Basically, it says that any state found to be denying citizens their vote will have their representation in Congress proportionately decreased in accordance with how many people were denied their voting right.

All this nonsense about voter IDs, altering votes, making it difficult for people to vote in contentious areas (e.g., the Florida districts who have already filed suits in the last couple days) and the like should really be handled by applying the 14th Amendment. Or at least by the executive making a clear statement that it will do so.

Any attempt to disenfranchise people should be met with Section 2.

When the election is decided by under 2%, a targeted denial that is enough to swing the election is small enough that very few states would lose any representation at all in Congress.

Besides, it is hard to convince a government to apply section 2 if the party in power is the one that was doing the disenfranchising.

I could be wrong, but the Congress does not and would not execute the amendment's clauses. That is the executive's job. Thus it'd pretty much be the DOJ, I'd think, stepping up to make the threat, calling the states' attention to the fact that there are consequences set forth in the constitution they cannot fight against.

Your representation of that clause makes it seem the clause has it a bit backwards - how does reducing the representation of a state help to counter the reduced representation of the citizens of that state; doesn't the amendment then enforce the goals of those who're trying to remove representation of individuals at the _national_ level?

If Florida is a state of party 2 voters then party 1 gains by preventing voting, not only do party 2 voters get removed from consideration in the state but the state gets weakened and so support of party 2's ends in congress is reduced?

Or am I misunderstanding? It's the first time I've heard of this part of the 14th amendment.

The idea behind it isn't party focused at all. Each state is represented in the House based on population. If, according to the Amendment (and keep in mind when it was written and the reasons behind it), a state acts in a way that denies legal citizens the right to vote, its allocated number of representatives is to be decreased according to the population that was denied the vote. The effect is to then decrease the state's overall say in national governing, with the desired end being that no state would allow voting to be denied, else they lose whatever power they have in the House. This means fewer votes to help push an agenda, to earmark money back to the state, etc.

It's not meant to punish a party, as the House isn't organized to proportionally represent party membership. So, in effect, the amendment wants to ensure that if states deny the vote by N citizens, that they are then recognized as having T citizens (total population) - N citizens (who were denied).

Oh, absolutely. But whether these things get prosecuted is a highly partisan affair.

Votes changing From Romney to Obama in Colorado


I get this in a popup: "We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access" and some info on becoming a subscriber.

And that's the first time I've visited the site.

Then try a different browser. Tried it in 3 and got nothing like that.

If there were one aspect of electronic voting I could change it would be the following: allow electronic votes to be reviewed by each individual at a later date, from two independent organizations. Each vote gets sent to two independent electronic counting organizations, and each let you verify your vote after the election, with an (anonymous) confirmation number issued at voting time.

If enough people cry foul to rule out a large group collectively lying or forgetting their confirmation numbers, fraud would be much easier to establish and localize. Moreover, requiring each independent database of votes to match to within some margin would also decrease the likelihood of fraud by requiring collusion between both organizations.

EDIT: Note that the confirmation number would be issued to you anonymously and sans receipt - there would be no way to prove your vote - you could have found some random confirmation number, and no recourse for a single citizen crying foul. The point, rather, is that if several hundred or thousand individuals noticed that their vote seemed to have changed, the likelihood that they were all making it up or forgetting their confirmation numbers would decrease substantially.

Definitely not! It's a secret ballot -- you cannot have any way to prove which candidates you voted for.

There is plenty of research and sample implementations of electronic voting schemes in which the final outcome is verifiable without anyone being able to see anyone else's vote.

As an example, I worked with Michael Clarkson on an implementation of Civitas: http://www.cs.cornell.edu/andru/papers/civitas-tr.pdf

Agreed. There are a couple of other papers as well.

The problem is they are far too complicated to explain to voters which makes them unlikely to be adopted and unlikely to be trusted. Having a secure vote is obviously the primary goal, but having a vote that people trust is pretty important too.

They're not necessarily so complicated. For example: you get a receipt, check it, and put it in a box. Another voter takes it home and can validate it against the official count.

This system was designed by a couple cryptographers, one of them Ron Rivest of RSA fame. For details on this and a couple other simple voting systems, see here: http://rangevoting.org/RivSmiPRshort.html

Here's one FROM Romney to Obama



Breitbart is much less credible than a reddit poster with video.

Actually, he'd be much less credible than an anonymous 4chan poster without video.

Do you have anything more than that? I can't accept an unsourced story from that site at face value given its past editorial failures.

it's from krdo. and there is also a video.


There is a video, but it doesn't demonstrate anything. Did you even watch it??

Yeah but now you can't use this reddit video as proof of voter fraud when Romney wins.

The original video isn't proof of anything but that a machine didn't work. Surprise! Not. Your video didn't prove anything. It's noise.

I'd argue that people from Pueblo don't know how use a touch interface

I haven't looked at Civitas. The other crypto based voting systems I did study don't actually hide voter's identity in real world elections.

The trick to these systems is there's some one-way hash done. This requires a lot of ballots, with enough hash collisions to ensure one's ballot gets lost within the herd.

Alas, elections in the USA are precinct-based, typically 1 to 1,000 voters in size. And our ballots are complicated. My ballot this election had 20 issues.

So combinatorially, it's very likely my ballot will be utterly unique within my precinct. Meaning my ballot is not secret.

Edit: Clarification at end.

This is all totally irrelevant - I speak as a former candidate for both the UK and Scottish Parliaments.

The count needs to be verifiable, and needs to be simply comprehensible.

The paper process has the following check points:

* the ballot box is seen to be empty at the beginning of the process

* the turnout can be collected and collated by the candidates nominees during the day

* the first count is the ballot count which the candidate's nominees can check against the recorded turnout

* the papers are sorted for the second count, publically - and the candidates nominees do what is called 'a box count' from which we can predict the final result

* the ballots are bundled and tallied in public

* disputed papers are agreed by the candidates and the candidates representatives

* the candidates have an automatic right of recount if the margin is below a certain amount, and at the returning officers discretion otherwise

On top of that we have collected voter id information and Reading cards so we can estimate the result based on the marked register after the event.

What this means is that not only is the result verifiable, it is publicly verifiable by almost anyone with basic high school maths.

The reason this is important because I have worked elections with Nazi candidates - and I worked in Belfast when the civil war was on and the degree of trust across the political communities was very low.

The critical purpose of the public count is not to establish who has won the election, but to bind the losers, and their voters into the result.

If I had to stand up on a platform and the Nazi said "they used these machines to take away our vote" and my only response is to start talking about how there are some papers that show if you have hard to factor prime numbers you can generate some low-collision hash or some other random klingon space talk, then it is game over.

The proportion of the UK who withdrew their consent to be governed during the 30 years of the war in Ireland was less than 1% - rising to 10% of Northern Ireland. Making it easy for a tiny number of people to be pulled out of consent by political extremists is crazy, crazy, crazy.

The 2007 Scottish Parliament election in the UK had a crappy ballot (edited originally said 9% which was wrong an error rate 4 times higher than expected - think of Florida's hanging chads across the whole country). If 26 votes had gone another way in one constituency we would have had a Labour Government not a Scottish National Party one.

This ballot paper was combined with electronic counting and it was a total shambles.

As a tallyman on the night I could not endorse or verify the result at all - we had no idea what the result was - except what the machine said it was. Everyone was all geared up for legal challenges - but the leadership of the two parties got together and agreed that everyone should walk away and we would let the chips fall as they did.

I never want to see that again - and we don't hate each other in Scotland like you American's do.

Paper ballots, paper counting is the way to go. (Don't get me started on how your electoral boundaries operate - or the fact that you don't have an independent electoral commission).

Please put info in your profile.

I strongly agree with everything you said, and am thus interested in learning more. I had no idea the Scottish election was so ridiculously bad. Is there anyone campaigning against this in the UK I can donate money to, or lend my support to?

Paper ballet (and the process you outlined behind it) is important to prove beyond all reasonable doubt to the losers and their voters that the election was fair. The primary purpose of an election is to be seen as fair. Any reasonable doubt at all and legitimacy is quickly eroded and then you may as well not have bothered with democracy at all.

There was an independent inquiry - the results can be read here: http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/electora...

On reading it I see that I have misrepresented the figures from memory: 2.88% of regional/list ballots were invalid 4.075% of constituency ballots were invalid 1.83% of local government ballots were invalid

These were against a historical spoilt paper rate of about 0.66%

(I have edited the original post to correct it)

The regional and constituency ballots were on the same physical piece of paper and if you voted a full ticket (eg SNP/SNP or Labour/Labour) there was only one way to do it.

For small parties (Greens, SSP) which only ran on the regional list you had to split the ticket. And there was one valid way to vote Labour/Green and one invalid way - so the small parties were much more liable to get invalid votes. The number of independent/small party MSP's was lower than expected.

Thanks for the link.

Yup. I'm totally, utterly against electronic voting of any form.

I'll weakly support ballot optical devices at poll sites in many USA jurisdictions, because our ballots can be quite complicated, until someone shows me that hand counting is generally feasible. With 30 issues on a ballot, sort / stack / count can get ugly.

Aside: Thank you for your work on elections. I wish more geeks would actually work an election, or at least observe, before spewing about how to fix voting systems.

The key observation is that, since counting votes is an inherently distributed problem (with a comparatively simple centralized step at the end), you can always deal with it by adjusting the number of polling stations.

I can speak for what happens in Portugal. We use the d'Hondt system with paper ballots, and it is not uncommon to have around 15 candidates on a ballot in certain elections, though we have no write-ins - only one checkbox per candidate.

In the last elections there were about 4,000 polling stations. Since about 6,000,000 people are allowed to vote, this is around 1,500 people per polling station on average (obviously, the distribution is not uniform). Turnout seldom exceeds 50%, so in practice the number of votes is much smaller.

Votes are counted by hand - no automation at all - at each polling station. Usually, within about 5-6 hours 99% of the votes have been tallied, with the remainder done with by the morning after.

I would say it is demonstrably workable to count votes by hand, even with a large number of candidates. I concede that write-ins may present a difficulty, but honestly: since (afaik) in the USA you can only vote on designated candidates, how difficult can it be to have all of their names appear on the ballot?

It's not that simple.

In the US, I think most places let you write in whoever you want. If they get enough votes, they win. Google "Lisa Murkowski".

The other problem is that unlike parliamentary systems, in the US we vote for multiple things and not which party/who your MP is. These are some of the things on the ballot:

1. President & VP 2. Senator 3. Congress Representative 4. Judges 5. Ballot measures

Unless each of these is on a different sheet of paper, counting them might be hard. Don't get me wrong though. I think that we should be using paper ballots. What does it matter if it takes 2 days instead of 1 to figure out who won.

> In the US, I think most places let you write in whoever you want. If they get enough votes, they win. Google "Lisa Murkowski".

Yes, I would imagine write-ins could complicate the situation considerably (thanks for the link, btw!) - though, if the proportion of write-ins is small, it probably won't matter much.

> The other problem is that unlike parliamentary systems, in the US we vote for multiple things and not which party/who your MP is.

This also happens in Portugal; we do use different pieces of paper (and different ballot boxes) for each of the positions we are voting for.

> I think that we should be using paper ballots. What does it matter if it takes 2 days instead of 1 to figure out who won.

Yes, I totally agree with you. There are more important things than a speedy count, and resilience to fraud is certainly one of them. And as far as costs go, they are probably dwarfed by the amount spent on the campaign. I really don't understand why anyone would be so eager to speed up the process, except for shady motives.

In Sweden people can also write whichever party they like and there are no problems counting those votes by hand. We get the preliminary result after 3 or 4 hours, and then they are all recounted the next day.

And, yes, we use one sheet of paper per election. On election day there are three separate elections (municipal, provincial, parliament) and optionally one or more referendums.

You have a much higher number of elected officials than we do in Scotland - we actually have the lower proportion of the population as elected officials in Europe - so I sympathise. Some of our elections use the de Hondt system which is a nightmare to count as well...

> I wish more geeks would actually work an election, or at least observe, before spewing about how to fix voting systems

Its the same every election - a hundred irrelevant cryptographically schemes...

> "So combinatorially, it's very likely my ballot will be utterly unique within my precinct."

I don't think this is true, since there's a massive correlation between ballot positions and they're not randomly distributed. Since the parties tend to take positions on amendments, bonds, and issues, that correlation extends to those as well.

There are certainly going to be unique ballots per precinct, and really tiny precincts like Hart's Location and Dixie Notch or whatever are subject to it too, but it's not "very likely" for the average US voter.

Unless you have an absentee ballot (e.g., everyone in WA state). You give your filled out (or empty!) ballot to the mafia to drop at the polling station, with the signed outer envelope (declaring under penalty of perjury that this is your vote), and collect your reward.

I dropped off my wife's ballot. It is totally normal for one person to drop off multiple ballots at the box. It would even be hard for you to notice multiple ballots being dropped. I did our two with one gesture.

The vote buying cow has already left the barn.

So it's far more important to let citizens verify that their vote was counted accurately, with some sort of anonymizing hash.

I dropped off my wife's ballot. It is totally normal for one person to drop off multiple ballots at the box.

I did the same thing with my wife's ballot this morning, and I saw multiple other people dropping more than one ballot as well.

Federal District Judge Christine Arguello denied the existence of a constitutional right to a secret ballot. http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_21601455/federal-j...

Given that

a) the secret ballot was introduced into the US (originally as the "Australian ballot") many years after the ratification of the Constitution b) no amendment has prescribed it

I find it hard to quarrel with the judge. I do consider the secret ballot an excellent idea, but I don't see it as constitutionally mandated.

You guys really should have copied preferential voting while you were at it. Or skipped over us entirely and gone with proportional representation.

This entire thread is interesting because our typical programming instincts - making sure user actions are linked to user desires via digital signatures, etc - get completely thrown out the window when you talk about voting and secret ballots. You need to be able to ensure the voter is able to make their choice independently, without pressure or publicity - but you can not perform any kind of integrity check that would link the vote back to the voter.

Nicely said. I have been pondering the comments and wondering if there is an over riding problem. From my (less than perfect) understanding of the US electoral system, it is possible to have a president elected who has been voted for by considerably less than half of valid votes. This part of the systems seems more broken to a non-US citizen than a (hopefully) single voting machine being caught on camera breaking.

Yup. There is exactly no way to ensure the secret ballot (voter privacy) or public count (auditable results) with any form of electronic voting.

This is actually not quite true. See http://www.cs.cornell.edu/andru/papers/civitas-tr.pdf

Skimmed that paper. Thanks for link.

Nice to see Civitas would use a tamper evident log file (rolling temporal hash). Alas, generally, encoding the order of the ballots cast destroys voter privacy.

I stand by my earlier comment (cross thread): These crypto based voting systems rely on hash collisions to hide individual ballots within a herd of ballots. Because Civitas encodes votes as ranked preference (to support winner takes all, Condorcet, approval voting), there's even more information contained within each ballot, decreasing the likelihood of a hash collision, increasing the likelihood of inferring each voter's unique ballot.

Something did occur to me, however. Right now, all races are encoded onto a single ballot. Making it more likely that every ballot within a precinct is utterly unique.

But if each race was split onto its own ballot, then a crypto based voting system might be workable.


As loathe as I am to validate a crypto-based scheme in any way, these schemes aren't going away, no small part because the geeks keep pushing technological fixes for perceived societal problems. So I'm somewhat resigned that I should make the most of it, help make sure the worst parts are mitigated.

One way hash with secret salt would work. You enter a secret password as a salt and get a hash code from all your votes so you have a provable record your vote got counted that you can verify but no body can reverse to know it's you.

Then stick all the votes up on a server somewhere. Let us go and check our votes are in the list. We could then have informal verification and audits of the counts.

No dice. One of the goals is that you can't prove how you voted (i.e. so you can't sell your vote).

>you can't prove how you voted (i.e. so you can't sell your vote). //

I assumed that if anything it was to prevent people being pressured in to voting a particular way (eg an abusive spouse) - what' wrong with selling your vote, surely that's still democratic: you've chosen to accept a particular candidate based on the outcome for you.

Vote buying is not about a voluntary market in a tradeable commodity - it is about your boss not being able to say 'prove you vote my way or I will sack you' or your landlord saying 'prove you vote may way or I will evict you'.

Nonsense. Existing laws protecting employees from employer retribution (e.g. for sexual orientation, or religion, or...) are still enforceable (and the judgments for plaintiffs are large, too).

There is no reason to prevent someone from verifying that their vote was counted -- not vote buying (or the presumed ease thereof), not vote tampering or stuffing (really?), not potential outside coercion of any kind. Laws exist for all of these things already, and would not suddenly become unenforceable or ineffective in the presence of vote verification.

Simply not true.

Coercive voting has disappeared because it is impossible for the coercee to prove to the coercer that they complied.

My granny used to tell of tying red ribbons (red being for the left) on the goats in the country and her mother getting a lift to the polls from the Tories (when women first got the vote) and voting Labour.

Verifying your vote cannot relate to ballot stuffing at all - so you can prove to yourself that you voted X, but I have 1,000,000 made-up votes for Y.

what's wrong with selling your vote, surely that's still democratic

Besides just being distasteful, just handing over powerful positions in our society to the highest bidder seems like a formula for brazen abuse.

But it would only be handed over to the highest bidder if the individuals chose to hand it over ... which is how democracy is supposed to work isnt it? Arguably the current system favours a cadre of the super-rich already. People now can vote for whichever party will make them individually richer. It just seems to me like a logical extension of capitalist economics.

No one can prove I voted with a one way hash either. That's the point. Only I can verify myself.

You are still missing the point. Voters can't be given a receipt for how they voted, because then they can sell their vote.

Voters can sell their vote with or without a receipt. Furthermore, they can sell with a reasonable degree of certainty (if the buyer demanded it) already by submitting to a lie detector test.

There is no valid reason, moral or technical, for preventing voters from verifying their votes were accurately counted, and verification does not enable any new crimes – but it does prevent the current crime where someone's vote is either miscounted or not counted at all.

If voters are given a receipt, buyers of votes can demand to see said receipt to verify they voted the correct way. boss/abusive family member/mafia can demand to see the vote receipt on threat of your job/safety/family returning safely tonight. The potential for a vote receipt means that these 3rd parties can reward/punish you based on the way you voted. Without it, they have no way of knowing if their coercion/blackmail worked or not.

Personally, I would like to have a receipt because I think the danger of my vote not having been recorded is greater than the danger of someone demanding my vote receipt off me.

Without it, they have no way of knowing if their coercion/blackmail worked or not.

Sure they do: use a lie detector and ask them.

Honestly, the situation you describe is the problem, not the presence or absence of verifiable voting. If you've got the mafia threatening your family, voting is the least of your problems.

What is this mythical lie detector you speak of? No trustworthy lie detector exists. If you disagree: does yours work for all mental variations (psychopaths, autism, retardedness, ...) and physical variations (Down syndrome, a score of other genetic abnormalities, ...)? Have you actually verified the research or trust someone who did?

No lie detector exists that is effective to the standards we demand in a court of law, but that doesn't mean there isn't one effective enough for the purposes of an organized crime syndicate looking to buy votes.

Make the receipt optional for each voter. Assholes will still be assholes regardless of the existence of receipts. If someone is extorting you to vote a certain way, I doubt the outcome of an election will affect your life very much. You have bigger problems.

Yes, you can prove which way you voted. That could potentially commoditise votes.

Total nonsense.

What happens when I stuff the ballot box with a million non-existent votes?

Oh, so you voted correctly and you can prove it. Whoopy do!

> Let us go and check our votes are in the list. We could then have informal verification and audits of the counts.

You have the square root of bugger all - the integrity of the total count is what counts - not the individual votes.

Vote stealing and ballot rigging is a well understood human phenomenon - it is a solved problem.

Sprinkling some poorly thought out computer pixie dust on it is not even the beginning of an answer.

Yes. Proof of who you voted for is an invitation to vote-buying.

What about, e.g. taking a video of your vote as the original Reddit poster did?

I think this verification may already be a reality. The alternative is to disallow any form of verification, as with the Reddit poster, but then we lose the ability to perform checks on the voting procedure, and would never have known about this current anomaly.

What's missing, though, is the proof that who you voted for is who the vote was internally counted for.

Due to anonymity you can't individually prove a confirmation number belongs to you - you could have found one on the street or made up some random number, but if 10000 people claim that their initial vote does not match the confirmed vote, it's worth looking into more carefully.

> What about, e.g. taking a video of your vote as the original Reddit poster did?

That'd be a felony in Wisconsin, presumably for that sort of reason. http://www.nbc15.com/home/headlines/Wisconsin_GAB_Is_Felony_...

Even taking video is illegal, as that could also be used as evidence of voting for a particular candidate, allowing candidates to buy votes.

Taking video is not illegal in all states.


Well, we wouldn't want money to be part of the political process!

Oh wait.

It amazes me how complicated electronic voting becomes. The current paper based system is far better.

You don't need to compromise secrecy. Are we ever going to stop complaining and call for using 3ballot or one of the any other methods? http://rangevoting.org/Rivest3B.html

Incorrect. You can combine a personal secret code with the output of the vote-teller in order to determine who you voted for. The vote-teller would have no way of determining who you actually voted for without your personal code. Even more secure would be to have two personal codes, one a "real" code, which outputs the actual candidate you voted for, and one "duress" code, which outputs a candidate you didn't vote for(in case someone is holding a gun to your head to confirm you voted for their candidate)

Wouldn't the person with the gun just demand both codes? And typically a ballot has multiple offices to elect. Would you flip all of them for the "duress" code? It seems like it gets complicated really quickly.

The duress code and real code would be indistinguishable. You could simply tell the person your duress as your real one, and your real one as the duress.

Another possibility is to make the duress an option. You can fill out a fake ballot for your duress code if you want, but you aren't forced to(since most people don't need to worry about it)

I was not the best civics student.. What is the significance of it being secret? Being able to verify your vote seems like a pretty simple, good thing ( I would think ).

Someone can give you money to vote for a specific candidate and verify that you voted correctly via the confirmation code.

> What is the significance of it being secret?

So that people can't bribe or blackmail you into voting a particular way.

Or rather, it makes the purchase of votes much less attractive.

So say if some party were to gain power and start harassing people that voted for the other party...

In Spain in 1936 the Francoists shot a proportion of people on the voter lists of the Government Parties.

If this is the reason, there is a bigger problem in America then simple voter fraud...

Ever dealt with a union election? That's exactly the problem with non secret ballots. You vote against unionization and thugs show up at your house. Union activists are among the most violent people around.

You could make your point without rabid partisanism. There is violence on all sides of unionization.


Gosh. Ever dealt with a union election? That's exactly the problem with non secret ballots. You vote for unionization and libertarians show up at your house. Libertarians are among the most violent people around.

Perhaps you know libertarians that I don't.

The ones I know are well armed, but about as non-violent as you can be and not be a Quaker.

Just to make it clear: This was sarcasm. I never have dealt with armed libertarians beating somebody up because he supported unionization.

The point is: Neither has he encountered union thugs beating somebody up because he was against unionization. It's a ridiculous myth.

I missed the sarcasm at first - my bad!

But I don't know about 'union thug' being a myth: lots of actual violence back in the dark days of the last century. Carnegie brought in an army to bust up the union and it wasn't because they were meek lambs.

> This was sarcasm

No, it was irony.

mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa

There are all sorts of laws that protect us from various government abuses, such as requiring search warrants, trial by jury, freedom of speech, etc. Voter secrecy is a prudent safeguard along those same lines.

The short answer is you can buy votes then. If you can prove to me who you voted for, I'll give you $5 or whatever.

Which is trivially easy with the availability of camera-phones (just include your ID in the shot).

I know it's not foolproof as you could request a new ballot, but I'm guessing those buying votes aren't the smartest folk. Plus you'd be crazy to not accept the money upfront, as there's no way they're actually going to pay out after the fact and it's not like you can take someone to court for not upholding their end of an illegal bargain.

What you're buying isn't a vote, but a receipt. What if we could increase the supply of valid receipts enough to make them effectively worthless?

For example, voting machines could drop duplicate receipts into a bucket that voters are free to rummage around in.

How would you tell the difference between a valid and invalid receipt when the voter came to verify it?

Or just not have receipts and avoid the issue altogether.

Sure, but there's a benefit to receipts: you can verify that your vote was counted correctly.

Well, you can verify that the receipt says your vote was counted correctly. That assumes you both trust the receipt system and believe that whatever tampering was done to cause your Obama vote to become a Romney vote couldn't have possibly also resulted in the receipt providing incorrect information as well.

Ideally, I think the complete list of votes (with receipt confirmation numbers, but no names, obviously) would be available for inspection.

What about this system covered a while back on TED: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=izddjAp_N4I

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Punchscan for an example of one such system which preserves the secret ballot property.

From reading the wiki article it seems that Punchscan allows the voter to prove which way they voted.

That is incorrect. Why do you think so? Are you thinking of this: ". The voter can look up her ballot by typing in the serial number and she can check that information held by the election authority matches her ballot. "

The voter must retain her vote (A or B) in human memory, which cannot be externally verified, except by brain scan, etc... but that detail is rather unsolvable.

Punchscan is a bit impractical for verifying large ballots, but large contested ballots are rare.

You're right, only the piece you've already kept, which by itself is not enough to prove which way you voted is kept. I was confused because it said that it showed you something which could prove that a vote was 'counted as cast', and I don't see how you can prove that without the system proving to you that it knew how you cast your vote.

Wow! That is a really elegant solution.

I wonder what (if any) pitfalls it has, other than the increased complexity and less obvious correctness (i.e. it would be hard to convince a non-mathematically inclined person that it works properly).

This system kind of does what you're asking:


I think all the electronic machines should print a recepit, deposit the receipt on a box, and at the end of the day, count all physical votes. If they don't match the electronic machine, then audit them.

You could give voters a receipt with the time, machine, and candidate they voted for. Checking for voter fraud would be as simple as comparing some receipts against the voter logs.

Or just let anyone grab a copy of the database so that any independent organization can host a lookup service so you can verify that your vote went through correctly.

Define an "independent" organization. There's no such thing. All organizations are partisan.

The shenanigans you seem to tolerate during elections are just incomprehensible to us foreigners. The number of horror stories I've heard in the last couple of weeks regarding everything from just weirdness of the system to blatant manipulation is farcical.

It's possible that I'm getting a bleaker picture than reality, I suppose, since I only read about the broken stuff and not the instances where everything just works.

Well to inject a bit of optimism here let me tell how of how it "just works" in the second largest city in New Hampshire.

There are several "wards" in the city, and each contains a school that is the voting location. Outside of each location will be people holding signs of all candidates, but all they said this morning are things like "Happy voting" and "Thank you for voting."

Inside the location there will be about 8 lines with last name letters. A-D and E-H, I-M, etc. If your last name was Dorette you would get into the A-D line. This is one bottleneck, but it resolves very quickly. You say your name, they find your name and cross it off, and you are handed a paper ballot.

With the paper ballot you then wait in a second line until a booth (containing nothing but a marker pen and writing surface) is free. There are about 16 of these booths, with privacy screens behind them.

If all the booths are filled you will have to wait, BUT if you do not mind people being able to possibly see your vote you are welcome to go to a temporary booth, that is just a series of lunch tables with cardboard dividers. Less privacy, far more seats. Maybe 30-40 people can fill out ballots at once at the ward I was in.

You fill out your ballot with a black marker and bring it to the end of the room where there is a single machine. This machine does nothing but take your ballot and scan it, so the line here processes near instantly. The ballots are kept to be recounted by hand if need be, and most importantly, the machine portion of voting is not a bottleneck.

It went very smoothly today.

Thanks for sharing what I'm sure is a fairly normal experience.

It sounds very similar to the last time I voted (also in a school building), except I never experienced a line longer than, say, 2 persons -- I guess we have more, smaller locations/voter --, and of course there was no computer at the end, you just put your ballot in the box. And there were no people picketing near the location, and nobody thanked me for voting. Well, that's not true, the people inside said thanks (and so did I).

Representatives of all parties are present when the votes are counted (and recounted). We get the results in the evening, 2 or 3 hours after the elections close.

It's not entirely comparable since our ballot is quite simple, two pages with large letters, it takes about a minutes to fill out with two crosses in the right place. From what I understand you often vote on loads of things at the same time and it takes a while to fill out correctly.

My district in California was exactly like this, sans the people out front. This being the downtown of the capitol city, too.

Virginia is similar, with optional machine voting.

>Outside of each location will be people holding signs of all candidates

isn't it illegal to campaign within a certain radius of a polling place?

In my experience the campaigners are instructed by the officials running the voting site what that radius is and stay outside of it.

That would be a state-by-state law. There is no such law in Maryland as far as I know.

I voted in Maryland this morning, and there was a sign about 25 feet from the door marking the spot where electioneering becomes illegal.

Actually it's quite the opposite: People get so worked up about these things because they don't tolerate it.

If you never hear about these things in your own country that means that apparently no one there cares.

If OP comes from a democracy, I highly doubt they do things like:

- Voter ID to discourage minorities, students, elderly [1]

- "True the Vote", invoking a problem that doesn't exist [2]

- Another article on "True the Vote" [3]

- Blocking voting on the weekend before election [4]

- You don't see lines like this in other developed countries. It's not that they're not reported on because "no one cares", they're not reported on because there aren't any lines. [5]

- Again, you don't see stuff like this on election day outside of the US: [6]

- Thankfully, there are honorable republicans who also call this out, like Conor Friedersdorf: [7]

- And this, it's just... Baffling to people in the rest of the world. [8]

Again, this is unheard of where I live, not because people don't care but because we're not (completely) bamboozled!

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuOT1bRYdK8

[2] http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/10/the-ball...

[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/17/us/politics/groups-like-tr...

[4] http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2012/sep/21/voting-wron...

[5] http://news.yahoo.com/voting-already-mess-florida-041641182....

[6] http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/11/no-one-i...

[7] http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/11/shame-on...

[8] http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/doral-florida-early-vo...

> Voter ID to discourage minorities, students, elderly

Why would that discourage anyone? In slovenia, you are required by law to carry an ID when you turn 18/get voting rights. So there's really no excuse for anyone to not have an id (or driver's licence).

An example: In Texas, a student ID is not good enough to count as a voter ID -- but an NRA member card is. I kid you not. The Simpsons could not have come up with something more absurd.

Minorities in the US are way less likely to carry photo ID. I could go on and on. In short, the situation is different than in Slovenia.

Also, there's a loaded history, too. Blacks were disenfranchised post-Civil War through a whole host of measures, of which IDs was just one of them. Requiring IDs or literacy for voters brings back thoughts of Jim Crow laws. These issues are steeped in history that Slovenia just doesn't have.

It's the same here. Well, similar, you're not legally required to carry it with you; most people do so anyway for convenience. But some countries don't have a national id, including but not limited to the US.

The UK briefly introduced and then scrapped a national ID system, bowing to public pressure. Read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Identity_Cards_Act_2006 -- a key phrase being "Many of the concerns focused on the databases underlying the identity cards rather than the cards themselves."

It's not something you can easily compare across borders and it's extremely loaded with all sorts of issues in the US, as far as I understand.

If you live in a place that requires you to carry identification papers at all times, I can understand your shock.

The US does not have national ID, and doesn't even require you to show identification to the police when asked.

Though it does require an ID to buy alcohol.

So I guess we're talking about people under 21 who (a) don't drive, (b) have never needed an ID for any other purpose, and (c) can vote but for whatever reason, are too poor/disadvantaged/etc. to get an ID.

And those people get a provisional ballot anyway.

I guess I don't see the problem with requiring ID; we require for far less important things already.

Don't forget people over 21 who don't drink, e.g. muslims. I can well imagine that poor muslims who don't own a car constitute a significant constituency, and with a significant Democratic preference; it seems plausible that keeping them from voting would lead to a noticeable shift in the overall result.

In a lot of countries, ID is not mandatory, and government-endorsed photo IDs are expensive and time-consuming to acquire. As such, people with a high income will be more likely to have them.

That applies doubly so for a passport or driving license -- people with more money are more likely to have a car or travel overseas, so more likely to have those types of ID.

So very much this. Voting systems and elections in the US are heavily gamed, mostly legally but always unethically. The reason why the US does not have smooth voting is because the incentive for elected officials isn't in getting people voting, but enabling voting for those with interests aligned with their own. When it comes to actual voters, some of them see nothing wrong with policies that are highly discriminatory, and that includes how elections and voting is conducted.

The "gamed" bit is the essence of the problem. The USA has a winner-take-all two party system and not a parliamentary setup. This simultaneously makes the victory margins razor thin (because the two parties naturally align at about 50% support) and the stakes of the outcome very high.

Where in most of Europe people can just go vote their favorite party and let the legislators figure out the details later, everything in the US is determined on one day.

So the incentives to game the system are immense, which is exactly why you see this kind of "Voter ID" laws to target unwanted demographics, and elaborate GoTV efforts with buses shuttling people around town, etc...

But even in the US, it doesn't have to be that way. Several states (mine among them) have moved to a 100% mail-in ballot system and eliminated in-person polling places.

> You don't see lines like this in other developed countries. It's not that they're not reported on because "no one cares", they're not reported on because there aren't any lines.

Well, that's not strictly true. I recall waiting about half an hour on the election day for one of the elections I voted in in Ontario.

Several hours' wait during early voting seems a little bush league though.

> If you never hear about these things in your own country that means that apparently no one there cares.

Or that they don't happen...

> Or that they don't happen...

Yah, somehow I doubt that, unless you managed to hire god to run your elections. Humans make mistakes, and machines and systems that humans build mess up.

If you never hear about problems that's quite worrying - that means no one is even checking.

Other countries rely less on machines where this sort of thing is even possible. The fact that human-built systems are likely to contain errors is an argument for making these system as simple as possible. The fact that we use touchscreen voting machines in the U.S., with all the hidden errors (honest or malicious) they can introduce into the canvass, is insane.

Yes! People are surprised when I hear that I, as a software developer, am utterly opposed to touch-screen voting and internet voting.

California's system strikes me as ideal. Ballots are on paper but are machine-countable. Voters feed the ballots into the counting machines themselves, which verify that the ballot is valid (e.g., voted for exactly one person per race). If your ballot gets counted properly, the machine makes a happy little noise.

I like this because it has the fast results of electronic voting, but it has a proper paper trail and minimum mystery about the counting process.

Because having groups of random, untrained people squinting at dangling chads is less error-prone?

What system, in your opinion, would minimize error?

> Because having groups of random, untrained people squinting at dangling chads is less error-prone?

What on earth? I marked the candidate I wanted to vote for with an X in a circle on a paper ballot. Marking circles for more than one candidate is a spoiled ballot you can replace instead of depositing if you wish. This isn't rocket science.

Computer-based systems that print out a machine-readable paper ballot that can be hand-counted as well. You vote (perhaps with a touch screen, perhaps not) by making your selections, printing out your ballot, examining it, and inserting it into the tabulator once printed.

There's still plenty of margin for error (for instance, the printer could run misprint or run out of ink, the tabulator could be buggy), and corruption ("here, let me file that for you...") but I think it maximizes the benefits of touchscreen voting for disabled voters while minimizing the downsides.

Normal(paper) vote with one reviewer per political party.

We don't have voting machines exactly for that reason (Germany). There have been cases with voter fraud, but they got solved with recounts.

Oh, they get reported on (Netherlands). Usually there are four, five polling places in the country where there are problems with voting boxes or ballots. Yes, we have problems, but a) there doesn't seem to be intentional interference, and b) the scale is a few orders of magnitude smaller than in the US.

Must not be a programmer if you actually believe bugs don't exist.

Are there problems ("bugs")? Sure. Are there problems similar in magnitude to the 'shenanigans' in the United States of America being discussed by morsch? Quite possibly not.

what is this fantastic place?

Denmark? I've never heard of these sort of things happening around here.

There's also the possibility that other countries have more robust voting systems so there is less to complain about. Do you think voters wait in line for five hours in Germany, or get turned away from booths in Scotland? Voter turn out is slightly larger in both countries compared to the US, so apathy probably won't explain fewer complaints. It's more likely that the lack of a US national standard system permits more screw-ups and maybe occasional outright abuse.

*(Scotland 64%, Germany 68%, US 55%)

If they didn't tolerate it, they wouldn't have voting machines in the first place.

In many other countries these things are banned because people care.

(1) We have > 300 M people. That's a huge population.

(2) We are OK publicizing it.

(3) Probability would indicate that we'll have a certain error, and it'll be shouted about.


But it's very strange that it was "miscalibrated" to not select one particular candidate, no? :)

> But it's very strange that it was "miscalibrated" to not select one particular candidate, no? :)

The internet loves Obama. There are many stories of people that support Obama cheating the system (right now there's a popular story of someone admitting on Facebook to voting for Obama 4 times...) and that isn't on the front page of HN, when that is absolutely confirmed to be a misuse of the system.

Everything that is a disadvantage for Obama is naturally going to get more attention, because most of the internet age that use sites like reddit and HN are the sort that want progress.

I'll bet there are machines that have this problem (assuming this is not an isolated incident and his a software/hardware issue) that vote for Obama when Romney is clicked, but that won't be big news in this circle of news because who cares about Romney here?

Edit: here you go, same problem that affects Romney votes on another machine http://www.cbs42.com/content/localnews/story/Voting-machines...

>here you go, same problem that affects Romney votes on another machine

To be fair it is a claim of a problem affecting Romney by some person which is then refuted by another person (some sort of voting official?). The problem affecting Obama was captured first hand and confirmed as voting machine problem by second source per the Gawker article.

[ Note : I have no dog in this hunt - just pointing out something that I noticed. ]

>Edit: here you go, same problem that affects Romney votes on another machine http://www.cbs42.com/content/localnews/story/Voting-machines....

I think the difference here is that there is absolute proof that it wasn't end user error whereas with the story you linked to there were no videos or any other demonstrations.

The video you linked to has no video evidence what you say is 'the same problem' is actually happening. Furthermore, republicans have been public and outspoken about false outrage regarding voter fraud which statistically almost doesn't exist. Then behind closed doors reveal their false outrage is to cover their actual motive, 'to make it harder for minorities to vote'. This is happening all over the country. People care about both sides cheating. The internet loves both candidates, however, we all know it 'reality' that has a liberal bais.

The CEO's of the companies making these voting machines are all die hard Republican supporters, especially Diebold.

Being that none of these machines are open-source, that's really the important factor, the political persuasion of the companies manufacturing the machines.

The essence of democracy is an essential distrust of power, so yes, I'm concerned.

If you are going to rig an election machine you'd do it on the backend, not on the front end where people can see an incorrect choice.

The machine in the video was made by iVotronic, not Diebold.

none of these machines are open-source, that's really the important factor

This is the least important factor.

iVotronic has had problems like this for a long time. For instance see http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/letter_to_secr....

If they made the machine, it is probably incompetence. iVontronic looks like it is owned by Printelect, which is owned by Owen Andrews, who seems to be affiliated with the Democrats.

iVotronic is the name of the voting Machine, not the company.

In fact, the iVotronic Machines were indeed created by and originally manufactured by Diebold, though it was sold to another company in 2009.

The republicans are the party of liars. Who is more likely to actually commit these crimes? Republicans. Even the 4 votes thing you came up with is probably republicans spreading lies.

Look, we get it that you have strong political opinions. That's great. Have fun expressing them as well or as poorly as you like. But for many, many reasons-- for example, that this is a technology site, or that this is a site that tries to cultivate a community of thoughtful commentary-- it isn't a good idea to post this kind of thing here.

I'm not really being political. The OP said democrat fraud isn't getting attention on here, I simply pointed out it's more likely republicans would be committing fraud. That is all. I get it that republicans would "feel" offended, but that doesn't counter the likelihood of which party would harbor the unsavoury characters.

That assumption is political, and if you don't understand that then you're not a good match for this community.

Chill out, I'm half-trolling. It's election day. I knew I'd get a downvote-kicking.

I've been on here for 3 years, I'm a hugely valuable but underrated member of this community.

If you knew you'd get a downvoting-kicking, what exactly motivated you to engage in a behavior that so clearly violates the culture here? I'm not accusing, I'm genuinely curious.

Sacrifice karma to hack undecideds

Now I'm genuinely curious - in which direction are you trying to hack undecideds?

Hack them into Democratism. Voting's closed now, so there's no use hacking right now, have to wait 4 years.

The party lost its mind in general, but there are many decent Republicans who don't associate with the party's more ridiculous ideas. I don't know which party/movement you associate with, but you're doing a poor job of representing it.

Seriously? Why are you even here (HN)? This place does not suffer trolls lightly.

HN loves trolls as long as they aren't lazy about it.

What? Are you denying Romnesia, or the lies that led to the Iraq war. Or Nixon's party. Or that the military-industrial xomplex and big oil is allied with republicans. Or Peter Norvig's analysis of who you should vote for http://norvig.com/election-faq-2012.html

It's easy to call "troll" and try to sneakily shout out the other person. You should try some self-reflection if you're a republican. If you've got enough inquisitiveness to be on HN, apply that to deciphering what the republican party actually stands for.

Yeah - politicians who happen to agree with you must obviously not be lying.

We can use data, like factcheck, to figure it out http://www.factcheck.org/

I'm 100% in favor of that on specific issues, and I wouldn't dispute a claim that Republicans lie more. But calling the Republic Party the "party of liars" and using that argument during a discussion of voter fraud? Not classy. Especially not in this community.

Be careful, your intelligence is showing.

Yeah, statistically, democrats are smarter than republicans. I must be smarter than average!

Are you confused enough to think that my comment was a compliment?

> Yeah, statistically, democrats are smarter than republicans. I must be smarter than average!

If it makes you feel good, so be it. Please be sure to keep that cork on the fork.

Quick. Since you are so smart: How many years will it take to pay off 16 trillion dollars in debt while paying interest and continuing to over-spend at a rate of over 1 trillion per year?

In your answer consider the continued erosion of our manufacturing base, increased costs of a welfare society, erosion of human capital due to crappy union-driven education, the effects of tax increases and Obamacare.

Now, I expect an answer. Real numbers. No bullshit. Fire-up Excel and give us some numbers. See, there's the problem with self-appointed "smart ones": Talk is easy and cheap. Show me the facts, numerically, and we can start to have an intelligent discussion about how to move this country forward.

I'll bet you a cookie you don't move a finger to show HN readers a single proposal on how to deal with our national debt. Not one.

I am an independent thinker who appreciates portions of both platforms. I can't be swayed by pretty speeches, posters, ads, t-shirts, debate "gotcha's", etc. I cringe to think that there are Americans who vote "for the team" rather than through careful analysis and consideration of the issues in the context of the times we live in. The bigoted dismissal of millions of citizens by attaching a political label to them is sad and despicable.

Here's your chance to show us you are not just a troll. What's your answer to my question. Any reader should be able to plug your numbers into a spreadsheet and verify them.


i wonder if anyone can do a historical trace on when "the debt" started becoming a political issue

Specialist interests will destroy the purity of both parties so it's no use arguing over numbers like that. It's a matter of choosing the lesser evil.

Peter Norvig, who is a god among the mere mortals here, makes a better case than I could http://norvig.com/election-faq-2012.html

Precisely what I predicted. Even worst: You don't seem to be willing to (or capable of?) distilling through data on your own and have to resort to being supported by others.

If you even took a few minutes to play with the numbers you'd be horrified to realize where we are and, more importantly, where we are going.

Creating an economic model with a spreadsheet is a really scary and sobering exercise. I've done a couple. The aim was to see what needed to change in order to achieve what most would recognize as solid economic recovery over a period of time. I played with periods in the range of 25 to 50 years. And, while the numbers can never be 100% accurate, the reality painted by the model is nothing less than scary. Even if my numbers where 100%, nah, 200%, off the reality they paint is horrible.

No, you can't fix it by taxing the rich. Not even close. You can't even fix it by taxing everyone. You just can't. You have to cut spending with a vengeance and, yes, adjust taxes --for everyone-- slightly. Let's not get facts get in the way of a good bullshit discussion.

Do a model, discuss it with a few people and then go read the likes of Peter Norvig and see what you think of them.

Here's my answer to Norvig's "Why do you support Obama?" segment on the page you linked:

"End of war in Iraq". Who the hell cares. The war is a rounding error compared to what we've been doing to this country under Obama. What? Five, maybe six trillion dollars in additional debt? Please.

"Focus on al Qaeda and Taliban" Who the fuck cares? What happened in Libya demonstrates full-well that terrorism wasn't challenged in any way by getting this guy. Old history.

"Universal Health Care" Disaster. Talk to a few business people to get real data. They are scared to death. If Obamacare is so good, why did he have to grant exceptions en-masse to unions?

"Increase US Manufacturing" I used to own a manufacturing business. I saw, first hand, what was going on and have the scars to prove it. The economic dump was so deep that some kind of a pull-back was inevitable. I love it when people take credit for things they had nothing to do with. I use to do a lot of day-trading. There were days when stocks would over sell to such a degree that you absolutely KNEW --if you were conscious enough to remove yourself from the fray-- that they were going to come back up. Some of the easiest money I ever made, both on the long and short side.

"Save Detroit" Detroit has been an ugly mess for decades. The coddling of the unions made us less competitive and allowed abominations to creep into contracts. GM had, at one point, thousands workers actually reporting to work and getting paid a full salary to do absolutely nothing. Detroit needed a good hard reset. They didn't get it. We'll see where the story ends. I don't see any option for a happy ending because the culture and rules are the same, thanks to Obama. He needed those people to vote for him in future elections and swiftly bought their votes via the rescue plan. I wonder, how would Norvig feel if the Federal Government threw billions of dollars at a failing competitor. Ford did not need any money. The government artificially altered the market. And this is good?

"Bring back jobs" Government can only create government jobs. Obama did not create a single private sector job. The private sector created these jobs. Again, I refer you to my explanation when a market is over-sold.

"Cut taxes on middle class" Really, we are diluted and stupid enough to be happy with an extra $400 a year in our pockets? Wait, then they take it back out through other taxes. I get it if you want to believe in His Excellence Obama no-matter-what, but this is silly.

"Support green energy" I am still waiting to get a number from someone, anyone, on how many of the over five million jobs his holiness created were "green energy" jobs. Crickets. And Norvig is quoting a comedian for his facts? Whew!

"Avoid another banking crisis" So, our politicians create the mess that causes the economic downturn by allowing, no, demanding, that Freddie Mac, etc. create an environment where a McDonalds cook can buy a $750,000 home. And then we praise them for avoiding a banking crisis? Are we insane?

"Monitor and contain loose nuclear material" OK, I'll give him that one. Only because I have no way to refute any of it. I am tempted to say "who cares, any president would have continued to move in that direction", but I just don't know enough.

There's more, but I'm done. Thankfully the election will be over today. I hope I don't have to live with your decision. What's worst, I hope my kids don't have to live with your decision. I'll accept it if it happens to go that way, but it will be sad to see. We can compare notes in four years.


Do the numbers.


Pretty much all your points come down to "ignore the past, where republicans always screw over the public, trust us this time". That approach is unscientific. It completely ignores data. And the numbers you're fuming about are a trick. The republican proposal is to cut 5 trillion in taxes. How does that help the debt problem. And the debt isn't a problem at all. The entire professional economist community is against you, just like the entire professional climatologist community is against you on climate change.

I don't know if you're purposefully being a caricature of republican voters or if you genuinely believe what you're saying, but when you mess with Norvig, you mess with the best. You cannot win against Norvig, he is a tech super-ninja. Those super-ninja skills can equally be applied to deciding who to vote for, and his opinion on this case is signed and sealed. There is no question that today's Republican Party is anti-public, anti-world, anti-science.

Well, you got your wish. We'll have to compare notes in four years. Or maybe sooner.

Condolences on your loss

Depends on what you mean by smarter. Someone who votes Democrat is equally likely to have a college education as a Republican.

Source? I have never heard this.


The best educational demographic for Democrats is "No High School". The best for Republicans is "College Graduate".

You have presented what is nearly the most asinine counter-intellectual analysis I have ever read.

The linked facts do not support you. Only 4% of the population is in that category and of that category 63% voted D, 35% voted R. In no world does this equate to D are represented in the majority by those without High School educations.

Further-more, (from your own source) of the 28% of the population who are college graduates 50% voted D 48% voted R. This explicitly indicates more College Graduates voted D than R.

In no world does this equate to D are represented in the majority by those without High School educations.

I never said that. If you want to criticize my post like an asshole, at least read it first.

Are you by any chance a Democrat without a high school degree? If so, I forgive your lack of reading comprehension skills. In that case, let me give you an example:

If I said, "The best racial demographic for Democrats is blacks" (which is just as true as my statement about education), that would not imply that I think most Democrats are black.

Your statement directly states a comparison between R and D percentages and uses the ambiguous term 'best'. The idea that you can state with any credulity that 2% of the population is 'better' than 15-16% of the population, or that that comment has any value to anyone else is the height of vapid punditry.

That's some cute pedantry, requires some very creative reading to come to that self-righteous interpretation. I find semantic pedantry more vapid than data, though.

So check the 2012 results: http://www.cnn.com/election/2012/results/race/president?hpt=...

Yet again, the Republican candidate scores his highest vote share among college graduates, and the Democratic candidate scores his highest vote share among people without high school degrees.

You have yet to inform us as to how or why this pedantry is useful, relevant, or rewarding. If my interpretation of your connotation or intent is somehow incorrect, your arguments have not materialized.

Re-iterating your mouth noises does not show for the depth of the thought that originated them.

While I critiqued your lack-of-thought construct, you immediately countered with both an ad hominem and appeal to authority.

Good luck out there, you're going to need it.

The guy I replied to asked for a source for the statement,

Someone who votes Democrat is equally likely to have a college education as a Republican.

I provided a source showing that this is at least close to true, and possibly it tilts a bit towards the Republicans rather than being equally likely. I also provided an interesting tidbit that, while the college educated demographic is best for Republicans, the no high school degree demographic is best for Democrats.

Are you offended that I answered the guy's question by linking to some data, or that I added a sentence about an interesting tidbit of information from that data? Because immediately after I posted, you replied with unnecessary insults and ridiculous straw men. I hope you can understand why your post elicited a facetious response from me, which you self-righteously deem "ad hominem".

I never understand the population argument. Counting votes is perfectly scalable, if one in a thousand people volunteers to count votes it doesn't matter if your population is 1000 or one billion.

In Germany voting machines have been banned completely with good reasons, because they're unsafe and easy to to hack. And still we can pull off a purely paper-based votes with 82 million people completely without any lines in front of the voting booths and results within two hours after the election.

You are correct good Sir. Your error is to assume the US is a single country the way Germany is a single country. The US has some characteristics that best resemble Europe and some characteristics that resemble a single country. You'll get into trouble every time you try and put it into one bucket or the other.

Note that Germany is a federal republic with multiple states just like the USA, where each state has different voting laws. It just happened that our constitutional court declared that all current voting machines are inherently unsafe. This judgement applies to all states of the republic.

I just looked it up on wikipedia and they are not banned completely. Still, effectively they are, since the court said that

> "verification of the result must be possible by the citizen reliably and without any specialist knowledge of the subject."

> Counting votes is perfectly scalable, if one in a thousand people volunteers to count votes it doesn't matter if your population is 1000 or one billion.

Unless you're trying to bribe the counters/interfere with the counting ;).

> (1) We have > 300 M people. That's a huge population.

It's hilarious when Americans use that as an excuse for things being sub-par in their country. I see it all the time for health care, roads, schools etc.

Yes, your country has lots of people in it, but it also takes in an enormous amount of tax, and has enormous government agencies to organize this kind of thing. Everything should scale up appropriately, but you guys have no figured that out yet.

> It's hilarious when Americans use that as an excuse for things being sub-par in their country. I see it all the time for health care, roads, schools etc.

I am simply providing an explanation that statistics indicates that there will be an absolute greater # of issues.

I would also suggest that governing at scale is hard and doesn't seem to scale linearly; much worse, as far as I can guess, based upon my news reading. Things like population density, diversity of industry, diversity of cultures start to play out in a very loud and complicated way. The only person I've met (who I talked about this with) who appreciated the scale of the US immediately was from Russia, which has similar scale issues.

And yet, Germany with ~80M seems to do just as well (if not better) than Australia with ~22M, or even New Zealand with ~4.5M.

I didn't say it was easy, but I said it's something that should be in hand

i think geography (namely, distance) is actually the fundamental issue here

on top of geography, there is the issue that different states (in the U.S.) can have very different logistical/structural systems, different laws, different economic conditions, different budgets, etc

The 20th Century German model for unifying political dissent is not one to be emulated.

In the particular case of roads, the issue is actually that America does not have enough people for it's size. The population density in many states is too poor to support, at tax rates that americans are willing to tolerate, the amount of road that is necessary.

See: the disparity between road quality in Maryland (good density) and Pennsylvania (poor density). (or, to correct for climate, compare Pennsylvania with New York).

Your comment caught my eye, because I usually hear population density being used to explain why Australia's internet isn't as good as elsewhere.

I'm certainly no expert on the topic, but I haven't heard any news about any major problems with Australia's roads. I'm curious to know how they compare with roads in the US.

USA density: 33.7/km2 87.4/sq mi population: ~ 314 mil

AUS density: 2.8/km2 7.3/sq mi population: ~ 22 mil

I'm an Australian that's lived and worked all over the US for 3 years, and have been in Canada for 7 now.

The roads in America are horrible by Australian standards. When I bring friends to the US they are shocked and say things like "it just doesn't look finished". This is more-or-less true for the majority of social services in America.

Of course, the climate in Australia lends itself to much better roads, but in comparison to Canada's roads, America's still suck, so there is no excuse.

The reasons I have usually heard for poor internet in Australia are usually along the lines of "little/poor fiber to the continent" or "momentum from previously little/poor fiber to the continent". I don't know how much truth there is to either of those.

The population density of Sweden is lower than the US and it has excellent roads.

Yes, that is true. The amount that the population is willing to be taxed is also an important factor however.

I'm not saying that states with bad roads don't have themselves to blame, just that density is a factor.

I said it's funny how Americans always use the big population excuse for having sub-par services.

You're saying that it's got more to do with how much the population is willing to be taxed, which I believe is the real reason.

Yes, I agree with that.

I guess what I'm saying is that while dodging the real cause of this issue, Americans are going to point to large geography rather than large population as the 'root cause'. In this case that isn't entirely without merit, since for a lot of Americans (those in Maryland for example) the '(tax rate * population) / area' equation works out alright.

It has less to do with population density and more to do with population clusters. The people in Sweden aren't even distributed across the entire country.

Neither is the US population. Let's compare apples to apples for a minute. WA + OR ~= Sweden: WA+OR population: 10.6 m, size: 170,000 sq mi Sweden population: 9.5 m, size: 173,860 sq mi

Now, I think that's a pretty fair comparison. The roads can be pretty terrible in Washington and Oregon from my experience. That may be because federal money for roads goes to other less dense states, but these proportions hold up fairly well nationwide too. I think it's just a matter of less public funding, it's that simple.

Ehh, maybe. Philadelphia's roads are legendarily bad though.

One summer when I was living in Philadelphia they removed the surface of the road in front of my apartment. Two months later they put it back. And if it's not that, it's crews filling in holes from road-work with about half as much asphalt as the hole needed, or the random patches of cobblestone street still left in the city, seemingly with little rhyme or reason.

A great example is Canada. 35 million people, but 80% of them live within 200 miles of the US border. The population density stat would be very misleading in that case.

Hmm. Good counter-example.

You are right. Countries scale up linearly just like websites do. How stupid of us to think otherwise.

If Canada and the US merged, would it be twice as hard to vote? Of course not. Voting is the most trivial govt activity to scale up! It is the equivalent of an embarrassingly parallel pb.

The "300M citizens" excuse is even less valid in the context of presidential elections, because each state plans it independently from the others. So it is more like 52 tiny countries voting together!

It is parallel, but not all jobs are run on the same hardware/software and you can't re-run jobs which error out. In fact, some jobs don't error out but should be invalid and if discovered as such might cast doubt on the authenticity of other jobs, etc. etc. So it's really not as trivial as you make it out to be, and neither is anything else which involves coordinating 100M+ people doing a particular task.

I did not use the word linear.

Obviously scaling is hard, but I would expect that's one of the things a well functioning, well funded government should take care of, much like how Facebook and Google manage to scale well.

Your mistake is in thinking that Americans want a well-functioning, well-funded government. Some do, but a substantial swathe of America is currently, for one reason or another, opposed to that.

Right. So it has nothing to do with the size of the population, and everything to do with people not wanting to pay tax.

So to summarize, it's hilarious when Americans use the large population excuse for having sub-par services.

@daneilrhodes: you took the words right out of my mouth. I had no idea scaling was so simple.

OP: When has this been used as an excuse for anything that you are apparently deeming as 'sub-standard' here in America? Cite a source please? Gotta be honest, I've never heard that excuse once.

I also had no idea the rest of the world had solved the problem of civics and effective government. Why are you guys keeping it a secret? Care to share?

> Why are you guys keeping it a secret? Care to share?

Who's keeping it a secret? Elections Canada policies aren't exactly classified information.

It's being used as an excuse right now for the voting...

> We have > 300 M people. That's a huge population

Um, unless you're talking to India which manages to pull off votes with 1.2 Billion People. You are like 25% their population.

Dear Sir, As an Indian I can testify that we actually have far more election abuse - people being blocked from entering a voting booth, vote boxes(still vote on paper) being stolen, voting booths set on fire...

Of course, again, there is media acting as a watchdog, and a hope that the manipulation is statistically insignificant.

> vote boxes(still vote on paper)

FWIW, most of the world votes on paper, and if history's anything to go by paper ballot is way more reliable than electronic, at least when it comes to auditability. I'm sure it's possible to design a secure and tamper-proof electronic voting system[0] with a great, useable interface... but nobody seems interested in doing that.

[0] system, not machine, because you most likely want the machine recording votes and the machine tallying them to be fully separate.

I would like to disagree with Mr.Param who is either being a cynic or trying to be "me-too". India is aggressively moving away from paper-ballot voting to EVM's. In our last general elections, a million electronic voting machines (EVM's) were used which reduces vote-rigging, ballot capture etc. In maybe 5 years, we will be completely rid of paper-ballots.

For further read: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_voting_machines

India also has option called "None of the Above" as a voting option, which is extremely democratic.

All right, I have been living in the US for a while, and didn't know about the move to electronic voting. However, my point about there being FAR more abuse in India stands. Here are some references: Fatal attacks near polling booth - 2009 - http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123985213176424031.html

Booth capturing "found primarily in India" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Booth_capturing

intimidation on racial lines: http://uk.oneworld.net/article/view/162808/1/5847

You are plain kidding if you feel elections in India are anywhere close to being as good as US.

If you vote with paper, you don't worry at all if it's counted right.

Note that this doesn't mean it's counted right: it just means you have no way to worry about it. Maybe election officials are debating whether that line for Joe is a mistake or not. Now the problems are seen immediately instead of unseen, which was one of the driving forces for people who didn't want to ever go through the hanging chad issue again.

I'm certainly not saying computer voting is better than paper voting -- they each have their trade-offs. (I'd prefer paper ballots that voters can "self-scan" by a machine that is very conservative in what it accepts, but that's a whole separate discussion.)

An electronic voting machine may present an obvious error in the UI and ALSO may present a hidden error in pubishing the vote. So it's worse.

> http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=countries%20by%20popula...

this is a lot of people. I am sure that if we investigate the details of elections in India, Indonesia, and Brazil, we will find an array of fudged votes and issues.

In other words, I am pretty sure that the error rate for the mix of remote/paper/electronic voting will hold pretty constant regardless of population size.

Brazil actually has a very organized election. Aside from bad politicians we have to chose from, the election does not have many problems. We have a judicial system just for election (with judges and clear laws) ready to take actions (and they do take) when something goes wrong. All election occurs in one day, a sunday so everyone can vote, and the results usually come in less than 4 hours, because all vote is electronic.

Somehow, given the context of this thread, I suspect you're realize this wasn't really a very productive counter ;-)

Note the video didn't show him trying to select other candidates.

This. There have been similar reports of those trying to select Obama.

Selection bias, perhaps. Sure, there will be a small amount of miscalibrated machines. And a smaller amount will happen to be miscalibrated to select the wrong candidate. But you'll only ever hear about those latter cases. The others will be caught and corrected without internet vitriol.

300m people is a complete red herring. That also means you have many more people available to process ballots / provide infrastructure.

If you use "number of issues that come up" as a measure of how bad things are, size is absolutely an issue. One-in-a-million errors will occur 300 times if everyone votes.

It's possible that I'm getting a bleaker picture than reality, I suppose, since I only read about the broken stuff and not the instances where everything just works.

You only hear about the ballots that crash, not the millions that land safely every election.

In the state of Washington (not to be confused with the city of Washington; our largest city is Seattle), everyone gets the chance to vote in the privacy of their own home even weeks before the election and mail in their ballot, or drop it in a drop box. There is an outer envelope one signs and an inner privacy envelope which is left unopened until the count starts. It's possible that there are hidden shenanigans, but if there are observers for the vote-counting process I can't imagine any problems.

I have no idea why other states don't do this.

It's incomprehensible to me as an American how so many citizens of the country I live in are so fundamentally ignorant, but that doesn't change anything. I voted, but I honestly doubt my vote even gets counted. I wouldn't even be surprised if eventually it becomes public knowledge that the entire election process has been a complete sham and the totals mostly made up for the past few decades at least.

In any case, what am I supposed to do besides vote (at the polls - I'm all but convinced this is pointless), spend my money wisely (this is the best method I've come up with to enact some kind of change, but it's hardly effective since I'm not a billionaire), and write my "representatives" (who invariably respond with some boilerplate bullshit and go on doing whatever the folks paying for them (global business) want)?

I had a similar reaction. The regulations on what is required to vote differ between states?! Cities run polling stations?!

David Frum weighing in: http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/05/opinion/frum-election-chaos/in...

Did you miss the States part of "United States of America"? Ever since Madison's brilliant compromise at the founding of our current government http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connecticut_Compromise the USA has tried to be mindful of the sovereignty of the states. (America's previous government, under the Articles of Confederation, was a loose agreement among the states http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State%27s_rights#Controversy_to...) The balance got out of hand in the mid-1800's and a civil war broke out over the issues of states' rights vs. the federal government. Generally, states have the freedom to run elections in any way they want without interference from the federal government.

In fact there was a case in my home state of New Hampshire a few years ago, where a state worker was investigated for not using funds that had been made available by the federal government for each state to use for elections. The state worker's defense was that the money had strings attached; basically there were some restrictions on how the federal money could be used during the election. The investigation was dropped immediately, in favor of the worker. Basically my state would rather spend millions of extra dollars to run the elections than allow the federal government to put restrictions on the way they run elections.

Yes, I have a bit of a grasp on the setup, I just think it's completely insane and not worth the tradeoffs :)

Do you feel it's beneficial for New Hampshire to be in a federal union where it doesn't control its economic policy, central bank issues, or foreign policy, but can ensure it has its way on such issues on who can get married and how you vote in the federal elections, where your votes are ultimately largely meaningless? That seems a bit neither here nor there to me.

It's not so much about making each vote count for something (although people pay a huge amount of attention to NH's early primaries), it's about making sure the larger states don't steamroll the smaller ones.

The USA experimented with decentralized banks (each state printed its own currency for a while) and it was a mess, so centralized banking is more of a practical solution than an ideal one. Other issues including who gets married etc, are idiosyncratic to particular cultural and even subcultural groups, and seems best handled by responsive, representative legislation than blanket national policy.

That's a side effect of the way we've suborned the electoral college. When an individual in the U.S. "votes for a Presidential candidate", they are actually voting in a state-wide election (to determine who the state's electors vote for). The election isn't national, so there's usually no need for the Federal government to be involved.

That's also one reason we're so hesitant to get rid of the thing: at the same time, we'd need to nationalize election administration. If we didn't, it would be much easier for states to "cheat" and exaggerate their voting power by claiming higher voter turnout than what actually happened.

Think of it like a badly-designed old dataflow that you would love fix, but there are so many dependencies now that it's become a major project.

The US is schizophrenic about whether it wants to be one country or not.


Opinions on whether something should be handled at state vs federal seems to ebb and flow in great proportions in the US.

For the most part, things aren't as bad as they seem. It's a huge country and any oddities gain a great deal of traction. Most votes go simply and smoothly.

That being said, I'm taking a two hour drive later today to vote because my vote-by-mail ballot never arrived, so...

Americans tend to have this unbelievably naive idea that there's no high-level organized or institutional crime in their country.

How many Americans do you know?

Lots. I am one.

What I've found is that it roughly correlates with education, and not in the inverse sense. More educated and accomplished Americans usually scoff at any and all hint of real not-an-isolated-incident systemic corruption as "conspiracy theory," grouping it in the same category as David Icke's tales of shape-shifting reptiles. There is no organized crime in America, no systemic corruption. Everyone is just doing their job.

I don't understand why isn't there a national council responsible for maintaining consistent and well run elections.

To me it would seem like an easy win to push for it and push it through. "We need to preserve our democracy!" "Any one who doesn't vote for this bill, is unamerican!" "We cannot let our ability to vote be assaulted!" etc.

In the US, the power to manage elections is still very much held at the state level. There have been federal inroads (Voting Rights Act) but historically the states have held full control over voting procedures. Most positions being voted on are state-level or lower (the only federal ones are President/VP, Senate, House) and all initiatives being voted on are state-level or lower. Also, the Constitution specifically gives power over choosing of Electors to the states. (Article II Section 1 "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors") so each state does things differently.

There's an interesting line of thought that a fragmented and diverse set of technologies and policies is more robust than a consolidated 'council'. You might be able to mess up any given district - but if you corrupt the council then you straight up win.

This makes a bit less sense when you look at how it ends up that a very few districts end up deciding the race - but I think the idea itself is sound. Those battlegrounds will shift, likely more rapidly than endemic corruption can take hold.

Our government is structured in such a way that elections are run at the local level, which can be seen as a strength. Imagine how dangerous it could be if one company manufactured every single voting machine used in every single polling place.

How many companies does it take to cover 90% of the electronic vote? Five companies are more difficult, but hardly impossible to manipulate. One company may be easier to audit, on the other hand.

In some ways, one company would be more difficult to audit than multiple companies, as the auditor wouldn't have any frame of reference.

If we are looking at a future with pervasive electronic voting machines from multiple manufacturers, I would insist on having multiple different kinds of machines in each polling place. That way, any meaningful differences between machines would stand out.

you are correct it is ridiculous http://www.youtube.com/mhfm1?v=OynCgwmD-HM


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