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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

Voting machines need to be a lot better than this or not exist at all, but does anyone actually think that IF this machine was altering votes, it would alter it in this fashion with a UI element tied to the alteration? Seems more like a crappy touch screen.

This was my thought exactly. If someone was going through the trouble of altering votes, it would make no sense to make note of this within UI elements, it could just as easily "secretly" change the votes for 1/8 (just my theoretical magical number) voters and alter the results just enough without being noticeable.

Except this just frustrates the voter and maybe he doesn't bother voting for Obama at all. There's no accusation of "altering" the votes because how do you track, "Touchscreen didn't select Obama, voter just gave up?"

Donning my tin foil hat for a minute here -- I think if I were to try and attempt to commit voter fraud through the machines, I'd make it this obvious intentionally so it seemed like a legitimate accident to those who noticed; "It's too obvious to be fraud"

It would probably cause a small dent and shift by people who don't notice or are confused (elderly).

If you had complete control over a voting machine, it wouldn't make any sense to try to lower turnout or confuse anyone- you'd want people to vote and leave without having noticed anything, so you could change their vote.

The result here is that the voting machine was taken out of duty and will be investigated. If the strategy was to make the error so outlandish that nobody would believe it was happening, the strategy has failed.

Since it's pretty obvious that this would be the outcome, it's not a good strategy, and is therefore not likely to have been enacted.

"Cannot reproduce. user error"

I wonder though... maybe the inconvenience would be enough to either change a percentage of votes or make a few people give up.

Looks like a bug, actually swings a close election?

from the article (emphasis mine): > I initially selected Obama but Romney was highlighted. I assumed it was being picky so I deselected Romney and tried Obama again, this time more carefully, and still got Romney. Being a software developer, I immediately went into troubleshoot mode. I first thought the calibration was off and tried selecting Jill Stein to actually highlight Obama. Nope. Jill Stein was selected just fine. Next I deselected her and started at the top of Romney’s name and started tapping very closely together to find the ‘active areas’. From the top of Romney’s button down to the bottom of the black checkbox beside Obama’s name was all active for Romney. From the bottom of that same checkbox to the bottom of the Obama button (basically a small white sliver) is what let me choose Obama. Stein’s button was fine. All other buttons worked fine.

It sure looks exactly that way from the video.

I've used that exact type of machine to vote in North Carolina (but this ballot is not from North Carolina). You have all sorts of people pounding on the screen all day.

Remember the reason we all wanted electronic voting after the year 2000: because it gives absolutely clear answers, not necessarily better answers. (Even the best systems have errors because there are humans involved.) You don't have to debate whether that smudge counts or does not count as a vote.

Electronic voting should be allowed but not unless it prints out a ballot with all your selections on it so you can verify and have a real paper trail; not some bit in a database that can be changed and most likely has been changed in the past based on grand jury testimony from one of the diebold programmers. As a programmer knowing how insecure programs are I want paper for something like this.

> "Electronic voting should be allowed but not unless it prints out a ballot with all your selections on it so you can verify and have a real paper trail"

The lack of a receipt is deliberate and prevents vote-buying. A carbon copy of your vote will open as many avenues to fraud as it will close.

Not what I was meaning. A physical ballot that you can actually put into a box that then gets counted. You don't get to keep it.

With everyone and their dog carrying around a camera in their pocket by means of a cell phone? Hardly. Anyone interested in selling their vote could easily take a photo of their ballot (with some identifying info added to the photo as well to show it wasn't a copy from a friend) to prove they voted the way they were paid.

Even if this theoretically did increase the chance of vote-buying, I think it's still a worthwhile tradeoff for the massive increase in accountability we get from it.

What does it matter what the voter takes a photo of? That has no proven relationship to what bit is stored in the machine's memory.

People could falsify the ballot to the buyer.

I've used this machine in another state, and it absolutely generates a paper trail. There is a rolling receipt going on the left-hand side of the machine behind glass that records every single button press you do, and scrolls out of view when you complete voting so the next guy can't see it.

It's not perfect, and not my preferred system, but it's pretty decent.

That receipt is actually legally iffy.

In a small community you can keep track of who voted in what order, then look at the receipt and know who voted for who.

Seems about the same as having someone watch the order the paper ballots go into the box and then having someone go back through.

Of course, we have ways of securing access to ballot boxes to a reasonable degree, and those ways are also applicable to the paper receipts.

No, since they individual papers you shuffle them.

Probably a receipt without a timestamp, and with a paper cutter would work as well.

I'd prefer to keep a receipt for myself, with a randomly generated serial number on it, so at some point I could verify that the digital record of my vote #158FA134 matches the paper receipt and who I voted for.

As others have said, this is exactly how you can start buying votes. Pull any book about cryptographic voting off the shelf and this is treated as a design flaw.

I think I missed the discussions in the thread; how is verifiability (is that a word?) a design flaw?

Consider some scenarios:

Jim is not a nice man and is very demanding and abusive and goes to vote. He wants his wife to vote for X, but he suspects that she will vote for Y. Today, she can vote for X or Y and tell her husband that she voted for Y. He has no way to prove her wrong. With receipts, he can tell her, on no uncertain terms, that she is to show him her receipt afterwards. If she doesn't produce a receipt showing she votes for X, he'll beat her. With receipts she does not have a free vote, without receipts she has a free vote.

I want to buy your vote, and will pay you €10 to vote for X. Today, you can vote for who ever you want, and tell me you voted for X and demand payment. I have no way to prove you wrong. Hence vote buying is hard to do, because you can't know if you're actually buying votes. With receipts, I can ask to see your receipt, and only pay out if you vote for X. With receipts, vote buying now becomes an actual thing that I can do.

Cell phone video of the whole process would probably be enough to placate the husband and buy a vote though.

Yes, no system is perfect, and the current system does have that flaw. But "record yourself marking the paper and putting it in the box" doesn't scale. If lots of people in an area do that, someone'll figure out what's going on.

Other scenarios that would be possible with "verify you can

Employers could now request that employees tell/prove/check who they voted for.

Unions could now tell/prove/check who their members voted for.

Churchs could now tell/prove/check who their members voted for.

Because if you can prove to a third-party how you voted, you can sell your vote, or coerce someone else to vote a certain way.

It's one of the biggest challenges in crypto-voting systems. And there are some solutions. But we need to hammer down on the "silly people, why not just print a receipt" idea really hard.

If the receipts are anonymous, they can't prove how you voted, only that you were able to obtain a receipt. So what if we increase the supply of receipts enough to destroy the value of an individual receipt? For example, voting machines could drop duplicate receipts in a bucket that voters have access to.

But I still would like to be able to have it proven to me that the way I voted matches what the system records. To me, that seems more important, but I also cannot say that it's more important than your points. Hm.

"We all" never wanted electronic voting. "We" wanted electronically-counted paper voting.

Yep. That's clearly what's happening, and given that there's instant feedback, the user would know there's a problem, and either ask for a different machine or adjust until the system represents their actual intent.

I'm not claiming it is malicious, but would they? If they can swing even 1% of the votes of people who just don't care enough, or would feel embarrassed at failing to use a machine, they can have a significant impact while having an obvious scapegoat.

Assuming it's miscalibration, how many people used this machine before the video? how many afterward?

>I then called over a volunteer to have a look at it. She him hawed for a bit then calmly said “It’s nothing to worry about, everything will be OK.” and went back to what she was doing. I then recorded this video.

That sounds like they were very likely the first person to complain. What did the rest do?

> does anyone actually think that IF this machine was altering votes, it would alter it in this fashion with a UI element tied to the alteration

I think you mean if the machine was intentionally designed to alter votes, it wouldn't do it in this fashion. The article doesn't even hint that this might be done on purpose.

> The article doesn't even hint that this might be done on purpose.

Altering is an action, not something passive. If a machine is altering votes then it must be doing that intentionally. What is happening here is the person interacting with this machine is interacting in such a way that makes the machine believe he is pressing elsewhere on the screen.

The title reads as if the machine is doing something, the reality is the user is doing something in such a way that the machine believes they're doing something else, due to poor calibration.

Except the guy is a programmer, understands calibration and tested other elements on the screen.


> I initially selected Obama but Romney was highlighted. I assumed it was being picky so I deselected Romney and tried Obama again, this time more carefully, and still got Romney. Being a software developer, I immediately went into troubleshoot mode. I first thought the calibration was off and tried selecting Jill Stein to actually highlight Obama. Nope. Jill Stein was selected just fine. Next I deselected her and started at the top of Romney's name and started tapping very closely together to find the 'active areas'. From the top of Romney's button down to the bottom of the black checkbox beside Obama's name was all active for Romney. From the bottom of that same checkbox to the bottom of the Obama button (basically a small white sliver) is what let me choose Obama. Stein's button was fine. All other buttons worked fine.

Then the issue could be the system is damaged. There are these sort of touch screen systems all over England in train stations and every single one I've used has problems with the "next" button because of how much usage they see.

My point is "alter" is something that has to be done on purpose, by using the word alter they are stating the system KNOWS the user is voting for Obama and changes it to Romney.

His test is far from conclusive. Some subsection of the screen working incorrectly while other sections work correctly is entirely consistent with a miscalibrated or faulty touchscreen.

>Altering is an action, not something passive.

I disagree. If this person decided to walk away because of confusion/frustration/etc, then it would've been one less vote cast and would have altered that individuals vote. It wasn't intentional, but a software/hardware bug.

The article doesn't even hint that this might be done on purpose.

Cause it won't be spun like that at all.

But maybe the programmer didn't do this. Maybe it's something under the election worker's control like calibration settings on only part of the screen, or the spacing of the ballot, or something else user-configurable. Just a thought?

Highly doubtful that an election machine would be able to pass any standard tests that would allow it to be specifically rigged like that by an election worker. If it were built to calibrate on only part of a screen, it would be ripe for rigging by both sides.

What I've read[1][2] in regard to this incident is that it is most likely a calibration issue: i.e. the touch screen is improperly calibrated and as a result is not selecting the proper region of the screen. Now this is concerning because it likely means other machines could be or are miscalibrated. However the important takeaway here is that this is not some malicious attempt to rig the vote. If that were the case the likely method would be completely invisible from the UI; why would an attacker bother to actually show a user they were being manipulated? Of course, they wouldn't.

[1] Joseph Hall comments here, also provides a link to further commentary by him: http://gawker.com/5958114/an-expert-weighs-in-on-that-viral-...

[2] http://www.theawl.com/2012/11/the-truth-about-voting-machine...

Unfortunately no, if you read what he wrote in the comments of that submission:

Being a software developer, I immediately went into troubleshoot mode. I first thought the calibration was off and tried selecting Jill Stein to actually highlight Obama. Nope. Jill Stein was selected just fine. Next I deselected her and started at the top of Romney's name and started tapping very closely together to find the 'active areas'. From the top of Romney's button down to the bottom of the black checkbox beside Obama's name was all active for Romney. From the bottom of that same checkbox to the bottom of the Obama button (basically a small white sliver) is what let me choose Obama. Stein's button was fine. All other buttons worked fine.

The video would be truly compelling if he had repeatedly tapped from Romney to Stein. As it is, the video appears to show miscalibration, and only his testimony suggests fraud. If the video showed what he claimed, it would be lawsuit material.

The obvious question to ask: Why is that part not shown in the video?

Edit: Just watched the video again. The video suspiciously freezes from 11s to 18s. Probably, something inconvenient being edited out amateurishly?

It's too bad that the video doesn't provide any evidence supporting that story.

That doesn't actually mean anything. Resistive and infrared touchscreens (especially cheaper ones) can have all sorts of hilarious calibration errors where part of the screen area works perfectly fine, but other parts of the screen are off completely.

I used to work on kiosk software for restaurants. At the start of every day we had to go through all of the touchscreens in the restaurant and calibrate them. Sometimes they would lose their calibration halfway through the day and need to be recalibrated multiple times.

That still doesn't establish malice.

The consumer electronics industry has shipped hundreds of millions of touch screens in the last few years and i've not seen a single article complaining that they opened up their new tablet/phone to find it mis-calibrated and that their touches were off my such a huge margin. Why are voting machines apparently subject to calibration problems that other touch screen devices are not?

Not all touch screens are created equal.

I remember the old Nintendo DS touch screen, which was resistive, required user calibration where you would press on the corners of the screen. If you missed the corners (which, with the relatively thick stylus and the relatively thick bezel on the original DS, wasn't uncommon), the accuracy of your touch positions would be very notably off, to the point that using touch-screen keyboards in some games would be difficult.

Obviously I don't know for sure if this was the exact case with this voting machine, but the point being, some touch screens do require calibration and there is a chance for error. Or, of course, it could simply have been a factory mistake.

Either way, I doubt there's any malice behind this error.

This is an example where technological ignorance is dangerous because it leads to the wrong conclusions.

Multi-touch screens as used in smart phones use capacitive touch sensing technology, they do not require calibration.

Cheaper, older touch screen systems (such as those used with ATMs or voting machines) use resistive touch technology, they absolutely require calibration.

1. Because they probably have to standardize on an older model and can't push out newer models at will.

2. Because these machines are open to the general public who are hitting the screens with their meaty fingers all day.

I have owned a ton of touch screen devices. None of them were miscalibrated, even after years of use.

I have used a ton of touch screen devices in public. I've encountered quite a few that were miscalibrated.

Public devices put up with abuse that your private devices do not.

Honestly curious - what kind of abuse could cause a calibration error?

My kids abuse my iPad pretty heavily but generally smacking on the screen with their hands and fingers a lot but I still have never seen it mis-calculate a touch.

iPads used capacitive touchscreens which aren't prone to the same sorts of calibration issues that resistive touchscreens are.

I don't know much about electronic voting machines but I wouldn't be surprised if they mostly used resistive touchscreens (which are historically much cheaper to produce).

iPad uses a capacitive touch screen. Older technologies are very prone to mis-calibration, even if they are not in heavy use.

I recently had to help my mother recalibrate her sewing machine's touch screen.

If you ever used a Palm Pilot, you've seen this sort of calibration issue. Given the state of government procurement, they're likely using that cheaper, crappier tech in most areas.

Most likely it's the difference between capacitive versus resistive screens. If you purchased your phone based on the lowest bidding vendor, I'd bet there be a lot more problems with it too.

Don't fly much I'm guessing. It's the rare checkin kiosk that is accurately calibrated.

The touchscreens you see in modern consumer electronic devices are capactive touchscreens. I think the iPhone was the first major device to ship with a capactive touchscreen, prior to that, resistive and infrared touchscreens were a lot more common (and cheaper).

If you've ever interacted with a touchscreen at an ATM, mall kiosk, or airport kiosk, it's likely that they were resistive or infrared based, and more susceptible to calibration errors.

Miscalibrated devices shipped to consumers get returned, resulting in extra costs to the retailer or manufacturer. Miscalibrated voting machines don't.

Yes, very likely a calibration issue. There was a similar instance occurring here in Colorado [1], but in the opposite direction (a vote for Romney went in as Obama). The machines definitely need to get better, but it is probably not fraud or a hack of any sort.

[1] http://www.chieftain.com/politics/pueblo-county-voting-machi...

> why would an attacker bother to actually show a user they were being manipulated?

Because the person who wishes to tamper with the outcome of the election only has access to (or, very likely, skillz to modify) the calibration template (which has to be reconfigured each election, hence is modified by more people), not to the entire source code and tool chain of the voting machine. Most attacks are not gigantic conspiracies with unlimited resources.

I am a red-blooded technologist, but I think voting should be done on paper ballots. Call me a luddite, but it's just too easy to manipulate votes--either at the time of voting or in post-processing--with an electronic voting machine.

That being said, the only conceivable way to have a secure electronic voting process is to use a completely open source system. Open source hardware and software, with publicly viewable results.

If your plan to secure the machines is to have the source be open, you have already failed. You need a system that works well even if the source has been altered.

Paper ballots have issues, too. They are different issues, and largely unseen by the general public until you have a really close election and have to use human judgment to decide whether that mark counts as a vote or not.

And here I thought in the Turing year of 2012 people would finally start to understand what it means that any electronical voting machine contains a Turing equivalent machine.

No magic can make the halting problem decidable.

An electronic voting machine doesn't have to be Turing-complete, surely? It would require especially-fabricated non-Turing-complete chips / ICBs, and some very simple interface like an LED bank and good old-fashioned physical buttons (as a touch-screen LCD unit alone is probably turing-complete), but I'm pretty sure it'd be possible to devise a specialised electronic voting system that couldn't have its behaviour altered without physical modification.

[edit PS] Of course, this is purely academic. You might as well fantasise about a voting system made of Babbage-esque clockwork.

In really close elections, the outcome matters much less than the potential for systematic rigging of non-close elections.

What problem do electronic voting machines actually solve? The US didn't seem to have problems counting millions of paper ballots (save for some hanging chads) until the "solution" of electronic voting machines appeared.

As I understand it the intention is to solve:

1. Allowing people with disabilities to vote. For example, headphone voice prompts for blind people, large print/high contrast for the elderly etc.

2. Making sure voters understand the voting procedure - particularly if there are multiple offices and issues on the ballot, multiple ballot papers and so on.

3. Ensuring voters' intent is recorded unambiguously. For example, you can't put marks in multiple boxes (intentionally or accidentally) and you can't leave a dimpled or hanging chad.

4. Perfect counting (assuming the data is entered correctly and the software works right) as opposed to manual counts where papers sometimes end up in the wrong pile.

5. You can offer voting in multiple languages.

6. You can randomise the order of candidates on the ballot, to evenly distribute any impact being at the top might have.

7. Ability to take backups for transit or deliver results electronically, avoiding boxes of ballots going missing.

8. Reduced counting costs and faster results, allowing more polling stations to be operated and allowing the polls to stay open later for the same result delivery deadline.

Whether it succeeds at offering these benefits, and whether they're worth the obvious cost in trust is debatable.

I wouldn't attribute to malice what can be explained by a faulty touch screen. These incidents hurt the trust on the election process, though.

The machines used on Brazillian elections are simpler but much better thought out, since it's impossible to input the wrong candidate. You have to input the number of the candidate, review his information and photo, then press "confirm" button. It doesn't present a list of candidates to choose from, so there are no biases. The US should adopt a similar machine. [1]

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elections_in_Brazil#The_Brazili...

I can't fathom why would you even choose touchscreens for voting machines. It's a simple interface, mechanical buttons are much better. They are more durable, offer tactile feedback and can be used by people with visual impairment.

Looks like a calibration issue. They should have included selecting other candidates in the list. While not good enough (voting machines should be "perfect") calling it "altering votes" is a little much. It shows you that it has registered the wrong candidate, I would call this incorrectly registering input.

Did you read the article?

"I first thought the calibration was off and tried selecting Jill Stein to actually highlight Obama. Nope. Jill Stein was selected just fine. Next I deselected her and started at the top of Romney’s name and started tapping very closely together to find the ‘active areas’. From the top of Romney’s button down to the bottom of the black checkbox beside Obama’s name was all active for Romney. From the bottom of that same checkbox to the bottom of the Obama button (basically a small white sliver) is what let me choose Obama. Stein’s button was fine. All other buttons worked fine."

Why are those not filmed?

FWIW: Using a cell phone to take video in polling places in most states is prohibited, and in general "frowned upon" in others. I would not be surprised if he simply took a video as quickly as he could and then left. I agree it would have been a more believable incident if there was more video.

Based on the reddit story, I think this was Central PA, which definitely falls into the "not allowed to take video" category.


None of that adds up to altering votes. It's misreading your input, which is bad enough. No reason to overstate the case though.

> I first thought the calibration was off and tried selecting Jill Stein to actually highlight Obama. Nope. Jill Stein was selected just fine.

If true, why not include that in the video?

Charitably, because they were sneaking it. Recording devices are not allowed in many (most?) states, precisely because it lets people sell votes.

And although I think this is overblown, in general I think this seems a legit reason to sneak a recording.

If people have been pressing that "Obama" screen region all day, it could well be worn out.

I wonder what the trade-offs are for randomizing each ballot.

Said the republican.

NBC News confirming they've removed this particular machine because of this:


Which is proper. The report that the volunteer said "everything will be okay" is the worst part of this. Systems need to recognize and isolate damage, not assume it will never occur.

Really, intentionally disregarding a broken machine is felony election tampering. We shouldn't have bored old ladies running precincts, we should cough up for paid, trained professionals.

The system here in Minnesota works much better. All ballots are paper ballots that are indelibly marked by voters. My wife and I voted this morning in our busy precinct in Minnesota, where there are some tight statewide contests about constitutional amendments and perhaps the most contested race for our state's House of Representatives of any electoral district in our state. As usual, we voted by marking bubble-shaped spaces on a paper ballot with a black pen. That provides an excellent audit trail for the voting. Machines can count such paper ballots very rapidly, and they are user-friendly for voters, and there is little ambiguity about how to vote. Minnesota has had ballots like this for at least a decade.

But even at that, when a state has a razor-thin margin in an election, it can be maddening to figure out what happened.



The election to the United States Senate from Minnesota in 2008 was too close to call before the election, and even after millions of Minnesotans voted for one of three major party candidates, the margin between the top two candidates, Democrat Al Franken and Republican Norm Coleman, was so close that the margin was only one-hundredth of 1 percent of the votes cast in the election. That election really underscored the slogan "every vote counts."

It's quite indefensible to use a voting system that doesn't leave a literal paper trail. The technology is well proven. But what really gives most election results legitimacy and staying power is a wide enough margin among votes cast by people who show up to vote that the old saying "Vox populi, vox Dei" can apply to the result. The people speak, and even the voters who didn't agree with the plurality have to listen. It's appalling that any state would have a voting system that could obscure what the consensus of the voters is.

AFTER EDIT: Thanks for the several replies to this comment. Reading other replies posted to this thread since I first wrote this comment, I see several mentions of the systems in the Pacific Northwest states of having mail ballots mailed to voters. When I lived in Taiwan, more than a decade ago, I had a post office box there. Sometimes I would receive postal mail from the United States for the previous holders of that post office box, including State of Oregon ballots for two different Oregon voters (who were presumably each other's roommates while living in Taiwan). I always wondered, without giving into the temptation, whether I could have successfully filled out one (or both?) of those ballots and mailed them back from Taiwan to cast votes in an Oregon election. By contrast, I was never able to cast a Minnesota absentee ballot from Taiwan, even the time when I should have been regarded as having a stable permanent residence address here in the United States. So I missed out on voting in both the 1984 election and the ever-so-controversial election of 2000. I have no clear awareness of how mail ballots are authenticated as having been mailed by the voter to whom they belong (a signature on the envelope?) and hope that someone is checking to prevent those ballots from being misused.

The machine in question does produce a paper trail (at least when deployed in my state).

Computer systems are trying to bring forward all the hidden problems that aren't found until we have to fight about the result and put them right in front of the user. By design, they are going to show more errors, instead of hiding them from the voter.

(I shouldn't need to say this, but I'm not saying computer voting systems are better. I tend to prefer pure paper. But each system has trade-offs.)

Computer systems can only produce a paper facsimile of the vote cast – and thus it must be checked, immediately, by the voter to verify that their intentions were recorded and reflected. Further, that paper record must itself be capable of being re-read/re-counted by different hardware easily so that the (invisible) tally of votes can be verified. In the end, you need to essentially produce a paper ballot but you burden the voter with having to check it after already having voted in a different medium. Anything short of that means that electronic votes are ripe for tampering.

Paper ballots as the canonical record can always be: a) recounted on demand while being able to verify original voter intent (to a greater extent than digital or mechanical systems) and b) digitized for redundant storage and securely encrypted.

Therefore, IMHO, if you want to ensure democracy, ballots must: show tampering, be easy to complete, easy to count (and re-count) and quickly deployable/scalable. Scannable paper is the only option that really does all of that well.

From an operations perspective (MBA/Designer here), the bottleneck in the process is the filling out of the ballot, not the scanning/recording (with any electronic/scanning system), so why not make that part scale/parallelize really easily without requiring thousands of dollars of heavy, breakable hardware? Paper is better, all around.

Read the link in tokenadult's post about Minnesota. Paper is hardly easy to count when you get to the dolts who don't know how to mark a ballot. What does it mean when the guy marks a vote for every question but also writes "LIZARD PEOPLE" in every write-in ballot spot?

Lots of people really don't like the fact that the senator is chosen based on how 3 people sit down and decide what that means, or whether this chad was punched out "enough."

Computer touch-screen voting systems, like all other voting, have flaws, but one thing they don't have is any ambiguity how you count each ballot.

(There are, of course, other ways to handle this. For example, you could fill out a paper ballot and have it read by a test machine that is very conservative in what it accepts, and alerts you to errors. I'm sure this has trade-offs, too.)

>Computer touch-screen voting systems, like all other voting, have flaws, but one thing they don't have is any ambiguity how you count each ballot.

As someone who has designed questionnaires and computer interfaces, I think you miss a huge point here – electronic systems make vote counting easy because they constrain choice... but there's a lot less ability to verify that an electronic system actually captured the intention of the voter – just as this story shows.

So, how do you do that? 3 parts:

1) Use paper ballots, as I've argued for, above.

2) Count/scan each ballot immediately, before the voter leaves. Reject ones that do not process properly (i.e. the one you described above would be rejected if there were conflicting indicators). I thought I remembered MN doing that (I lived/voted there ~a decade ago), for example, and I'm pretty sure my poling place here in Illinois did that last time as well (haven't been there yet today). It's not an impossible task to enforce the same constraints on a paper ballot, doing so with the voter present and able to clarify/fix their ballot.

3)You try really, really hard to design easy to understand and use paper ballots (for all the reasons I said above, you need paper for an audit trail). Good communication design (i.e.: how you design/layout the ballot forms) matters a lot and most of them are terrible.

That, however, is no excuse for accepting an electronic system which gives up any ability to audit the count in a reliable way (and, unless the voter verifies a physical printout, no electronic system can be reliable, as discussed above).

There's no ambiguity about a spoiled ballot. It's a legitimate protest with a clear outcome - the vote is not counted. A simple system of slips of paper marked by hand and counted by hand works better than anything involving chads, touch screens or electronic counting.

Paper ballots are really the best solution we have at present and I'd argue the involvement of as many people as possible in counting and supervision is a good thing. With clear evidence like this video of probable fraud and at the very least incompetetence the current touch screen voting machines should be removed at least until they are properly vetted and verified.

I have been a candidate (in Scotland/UK). Here all rejected ballot papers are shown to all the candidates and their agents and if a paper is technically invalid (in the UK that means any mark other than a cross) but where the intent is clear (ie yes in the box against Mrs McGinty) are counted as if they were valid votes.

Very rarely is there disagreement about what is a valid vote - but they can be very ambiguous. The paper is only approved if there is a high level of unambiguity about it - any doubt it goes out.

So what is to stop you making a deal with me, that if somebody writes "ARF" in your box on the ballot paper, that you will pay me £1000? It will obviously be disputed, so it will be shown to you as a candidate, and it is unusual enough that you can identify the vote as mine with >=90% confidence, but you have a good chance that if you show it to your opponents, they will agree that my "intention was clear."

I was under the impression that (in the UK) all ballot papers containing anything other than "X" in one box were always rejected for that reason.

Nothing, but to make that a practical vote buying scheme I would need to purchase 1,000 votes and maintain a list of the secret codes and then go to the count with this list.

Then, in the presence of all the other candidates and agents, I would have go through my list and check off my secret codes.

Guess what? It would kick off big style and suddenly consent to include my magic ballots would be withdrawn by everybody else - the Returning Officer would make a decision and probably have a word with the polis - who are present at, and supervise the ballot boxes.

Protecting the integrity of the ballot is like securing a computer system. Identify the core vectors of attack and lock them down. So it is about "what is the rate of postal votes?" "are the postal vote samples inline with the end-result?" "what is the turnout? relative to last time and other similar constituencies?" "what is the churn in voter registration?" "is the final turnout consistent with the reported turnout?" "is it easy to buy votes?" "is it easy to register fake voters?".

The core point is not to make fraud hard but to make it visible. Of course the basic 'don't make it easy' steps need to be taken - but after that it is all about 'don't let anybody get away with it'.

The problem on HN is that nobody coming up with suggestions on how to improve the ballot is doing any 'customer discovery' - going out to talk to actual people who stand for election and run elections and who are trying to ensure that the vote is fair. The computer pixie dust being scattered around is fixing non-problems.

BTW it isn't an X it is a St Andrew's cross - St Andrew being the patron saint of truth telling - it means 'I swear by St Andrew that this is my true intent'. The 'kiss' on a letter likewise meaning 'I swear by St Andrew that my love is true'. One of the perks of being Scottish is that our flag stands for truth, love and democracy :)

What if the bubble isn't fully filled in? What if it's 50% filled in? What if it there is a stray mark in another bubble?

I'm not trying to play Loki's Wager -- there really have been incredibly close elections where you have puzzle out just what the voter intended and it's just not clear. Nor can you make the boundary be "well if it's not clear throw it away," because you can't tell when it doesn't become clear. This isn't the most worst thing ever, but it's part of a legitimate design to want to limit this[1].

Computer-voting systems do have problems, but they don't have that one. And it at least gives the voter a chance to fix it if they are paying attention.

(Yes, I'm a fan of paper, but it's not strictly better than computer voting.)

[1] http://blog.joeware.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/hangingCh...

To be clear, I was responding to your suggestion that a deliberately spoiled ballot with nonsense candidates written in would be somehow ambiguous - it's not, it will clearly be counted as spoiled (by a human counter at least). For accidentally spoiled ballots, the vote won't be counted if it is not clear - that should be decided by humans, it's more reliable than having machines do it, and frankly it probably only accounts for a very small percentage of votes; it's not a huge problem, and if it becomes statistically significant, the paper ballots can be recounted and verified later.

Your picture of a someone inspecting a punch-card is not relevant to most paper voting systems - punch cards are like touch screen machines, they are unreliable technology, and should not have been introduced when the previous system worked perfectly well but just required manpower for counting (which can be mostly volunteers). Even the counting could be automated on paper ballots, but you need humans involved for the ambiguous cases, and I'm not sure automated counting is necessary if you have enough volunteers.

Simple paper ballots with a mark inside a square or circle are a tested solution which works well, and leaves an indisputable paper trail in case of recounts. Anything else we've tried just doesn't work as well, though no doubt it has made some companies fabulously rich in suppling the necessary machinery and constantly updating it when it proves to be unreliable.

So I'd contend that paper ballots, as used in the UK for example, are better than the computer voting machines available at present. I'm sure one day we'll come up with better machines, but they'd have to be open source, secure, verifiable and incredibly reliable - the antithesis of the machine in the video.

>What if the bubble isn't fully filled in? What if it's 50% filled in? What if it there is a stray mark in another bubble?

Count it before the voter leaves, reject any ambiguous ballots with feedback about what's wrong and have the voter fix it before they leave. Repeat until it's accepted.

Just to be absolutely clear, you are advocating for people to have their votes approved prior to them being allowed to be cast?

No, I believe they are advocating that the ballot be counted/approved or rejected in the presence of the voter. This way people will have an opportunity to fix any mistakes with the ballot itself. This wouldn't have anything to do with the votes, rather it would ensure that the intention of the voter was correctly captured.

This is the way it worked when I lived in Indiana. We had paper/optical ballots that were scanned immediately after we turned them in. We watched them get scanned, and could verify that the counter on the scanner incremented (not vote tallies, just a +1 for total ballots cast).

Exactly. Tally votes with an electronic scanner in real time allowing the voter to fix any issues discovered by the electronic system. This is already done in some municipalities.

One of the core principles of the US system is that no one knows how a specific individual voted. This system (if I understand you correctly) requires the voter to confirm his vote to another human, which breaks the anonymity.

I think you misunderstand. You have a machine that scans ballots, counts votes, and then stores the ballots for later hand-verification. The ballots are fed into this machine in front of the voter. That's how it's done presently in many places (including the polling place I visited today).

The suggestion is that, when the machine is scanning the ballot, if it finds something ambiguous it immediately rejects the ballot, returns it, and doesn't count anything, the voter gets it back, fixes the issue (or returns the ballot as spoiled and gets a fresh one they can mark correctly), and you repeat.

Nowhere in that does anyone else see the person's votes (except potentially on returning a spoiled ballot, but that's no more true under this system than the existing one if someone notices they mis-marked something, and they can always just mark more to obscure their original intent before handing it back).

My polling place does this. The voter stands by as the machine scans their bubble sheet and reports success or failure on a little display.

The downside of all this is that the machine is still free to slant results if its software has been tampered with.

You can tell when it does become unclear. If the machine reading the ballot cannot provide a single valid answer per each question based on what's in the ballot, then it should be thrown away.

How close elections are is orthogonal to this issue.

Paper ballots are a must, I agree, because they can be counted by hand, but they don't have to be, at least not at first. Electronic counting/scanning of paper ballots can be trusted – it's not that difficult to verify the counting for a small (known) set of test ballots and use the machine to count the rest. If there's doubt, then hand-count... but hand-counts are fallible too – mainly because the human is the weak link, of course (we make mistakes, even when we try not to) =)

Yes that's true, machine counting would be just as good if the ballots are kept and can be verified later.

(1) A vote that cannot be understood should be considered informal and not counted.

(2) Electronic voting machines are stupid.

(3) Chads are stupid.

The immediate solution to (2) and (3) is to use a pen and paper.

>> What does it mean when the guy marks a vote for every question but also writes "LIZARD PEOPLE" in every write-in ballot spot?

Spoiled ballot. Vote not counted. What else would it mean?

If they don't check 'other' then it shouldn't matter what they put in the write-in spot. I would have accepted it as a perfectly valid ballot.

Even if there is no checkbox next to the write-in spot you could reasonably argue that it still shouldn't matter what's written there unless none of the candidates have checks.

Bringing up the Coleman/Franken election reminds me of my particular pet peeve. When the margin of victory is less than the margin of error, it's impossible to know the will of the people. One hundredth of one percent is not within any reasonable margin of error.

Sure, and in scenarios like that, perhaps the best thing to do is to flip a coin.

Instead of going to all the expense of flipping a coin, though, you could just take the person who seemed to get the most votes (after you've counted them all really hard to make sure you're within the margin of error). Just an arbitrary rule, no biggie.

perhaps the best thing to do is to flip a coin

Or have a runoff election, or have instant-runoff voting. Having elections determined by real or statistical coin-flips undermines the (important) story of self-rule.

You can't get rid of edge cases by moving the edge.

Yes you can. If there is a tie in the UK the result is chosen on a cut of the cards.


The candidates agree, and the winner and loser both accept the outcome, works for me.

I'm confused by your reply. The grandparent comment was saying "You should never flip a coin", the person you replied to said (roughly) "It's impossible to avoid all situations where you can't measure the winner, you have to either flip a coin or just take the person who happened to come out ahead in the vote count".

Your link to a place where they used a coin flip isn't disagreeing with him (nor really the grandparent, who wasn't claiming that you can't use a coinflip, but rather that you shouldn't use a coinflip).

Maybe not, but you can lessen the real-world impact of edge cases by moving the edge.

And if that is too close as well?

In the end, if one candidate got 100,000 votes and the other got 100,001 then to the extent that we randomly select between the two I'm not sure that it really makes a difference which one wins. In this case the will of the people is that the two candidates are equally good.

"The greatest value of free elections is in all of the out-of-equilibrium outcomes that, because of the regularity of free elections, never come close to happening."

In this case the will of the people is that the two candidates are equally good

That's a very positive way to look at it. The problem of reduced legitimacy persists, though. The disgruntled Coleman supporters will probably always have a sneaking suspicion that the election was stolen from them, which tends to poison actual discourse.

Sneaking suspicion? After the 2000 election you would be looked down on for calling Bush president in many demokratic circles.

Yeah, we aren't willing to admit it, but every voting system has a margin of error. Even 1 in a thousand voters will have problems with completely unambiguous questions.

I applaud your statistical sensibility, but I have a question – you're specifically looking for the margin of victory to be bellow the margin of error – but the margin of error of what, exactly?

Are you expecting the vote to be a proxy for the entire population of the country/state/whatever? Perhaps the entire population of eligible voters? Or, do you view it as simply the preference of those who took the time to vote?

Personally, I see little harm in disregarding the intentions of those who could vote but choose to not vote.

Issues of systemic inequalities in access to voting aside, I have little problem with viewing an election the task of accurately counting the votes of those who actually made it to the poling place. If you accept that concept, then the margin of error is extremely low – especially with electronic voting systems.

You're right. But for 3,000,000 votes cast, the margin of error is about 6 hundredths of one percent. At the 99% confidence level, it's .074% variance.

What are you defining as "the" margin of error?

The margin of error of a poll is the margin of error at the 95% confidence level (two sigma). The standard "margin of error" when you are talking about polls.


In reality, you should apply a finite population correction, which would make the "margin of error" a bit smaller if you get a substantial percentage of the population voting:


The system in Oregon works quite well. In the mail, you get a voter's pamphlet, a ballot to fill out, and two envelopes. You put your name, address, and signature on the outer envelope, put the ballot in the unmarked inner "secrecy" envelope, and put the secrecy envelope in the identifying envelope. The people counting the ballots use the outer envelope to check identity against the list of registered voters (and the list of people who have voted already), then aggregate the secrecy envelopes for validated votes; the latter get counted separately. After election day, you can check an online service to confirm that you voted, just not how you voted.

And to partly answer your question: Oregon makes it a felony to sign someone else's name to the identifying envelope.

Have you observed central count?

I think you'll be less enthusiastic once you understand how it works.

In my jurisdiction, ballots are stuffed into an image scanner (like a high speed fax) as they arrive, the votes are detected, any ambiguous votes are "electronically adjudicated" meaning workers alter the database to correct for voter intent or write ins. There's a nightly summary report, allowing people to peek at early results.

Add the problems with USPS losing 1% of all first class mail, and the lower end demographics being more mobile (changes of address), you get some real disenfranchisement issues.

It's true that vote by mail increases turnout, mostly with primary and special elections.

It's also true that vote by mail silently disenfranchises about the same number of people it enfranchises.

The correct solution is postal ballots for people who need them, poll sites for every one else. Thereby maximizing the number of people enfranchised and minimizing the number disenfranchised.

OR resident here; while your USPS comment might be true, we also have local elections offices where you can walk in, fill out a ballot, and turn it in, just like states without vote-by-mail. You can also call or check online to ensure your vote was counted, so the USPS issue is mitigated somewhat for the people who care enough to check.

[edit] In addition, we have locked dropboxes in many locations so you can avoid the USPS and the elections office entirely.

It's also true that vote by mail silently disenfranchises about the same number of people it enfranchises.

That's a numerical statement. Can you provide the numbers behind it? How much is turnout increased, and where did you get the 1% figure for the USPS losing first class mail from? I would assume that mail going to central locations are more likely to be delivered than to individuals. Same with issues related to change of address.

No election official has ever disputed my 1% statement. They've had plenty of opportunity to refute it (e.g. hearings).

I filed FOIA requests with USPS, which they ignored. The metrics are done by a private third party, claiming the data is propriety (privatization allows govt to hide uncomfortable truths).

I got the numbers client lawsuit against USPS. Bulk mailers do their own metrics / tracking (using test mailings). They claimed USPS's "UAA rate" (undeliverable as addressed) was higher than claimed, so they shouldn't be charged as much.

That's how Washington works. The primary system is mail in, but walk in voting is also available.

I'm pretty sure most Washington counties voted to do away with walk-in voting.

Counties have the option to allow it, but most don't, so most individuals don't have this option.

Not that they seem to mind, though - I haven't heard of any complaints, anecdotally.

Ah, I thought that's the whole state worked. I didn't realize it was up to the county (I'm only familiar with King).

ballots are stuffed into an image scanner (like a high speed fax) as they arrive, the votes are detected, any ambiguous votes are "electronically adjudicated" meaning workers alter the database to correct for voter intent or write ins.

Is this different than how the count works in states whose ballots are delivered via volunteers with ballot boxes?

To the best of my knowledge, there are no USA jurisdictions that manually count ballots for the first count. Manual counting is only triggered by mandatory recounts, and then limited to just the races affected.

Most central counts have been using optical mark sense scanners, which are those multiple choice test reader thingies. Douglas Jones has posted online an excellent survey and explanation of various election equipment used. http://homepage.cs.uiowa.edu/~jones/voting/

My jurisdiction is very liberal about trying to count every vote marked, per voter intent. I understand that other jurisdictions will reject whole ballots if there's any problems scanning it.

With mark sense equipment, if I ballot doesn't read correctly, it's corrected. Ballots can be unreadable for all sorts of reasons, water damage, unfortunate paper fold, ballot printed askew, etc.

Full image scanner are newer. Votes are inferred using image processing (recognition), vs diodes firing off.

"Electronic adjudication" breaks the paper trail. To correct for voter intent, they're changing records in a database. Versus modifying / correcting ballots or ballot duplication (copying votes to a ballot which will then scan correctly).

voting machine switches FROM Romney to Obama (VIDEO)


covered by the Washington Post


Virginia does this as well. I think it's a great system. No need for costly machines, just optical scanners which can be spot checked by pulling a percentage to verify. Plus you can scale it very easily, just add more people for ID checking and more spaces to sit and fill in the boxes.

Virginia has both right now and a lot of people prefer to wait for the machine. I would love for them to switch completely to the paper marked ballots.

We used to only have the optical scanners in Virginia. The machines are a recent addition, and a big step back. I want them gone.

Electronic voting machines are stupid, but I don't believe that's an inherent quality. Seemingly whenever electronic voting machines make the news the underlying problem is one of gross laziness or incompetence on the part of the manufacturer. It took me hours to clean my brain off the walls when I heard about the Diebold / McAfee mashup. [1]

Las Vegas slot machines seem like a perfect archetype (to me, anyway). In trying to look up the security measures I remember from an episode of Modern Marvels I instead ended up with an NY Times opinion piece from 2004 [2] drawing the same conclusion as I. Probably (based on admittedly nothing) the measures cited have become more sophisticated and rigorous in the past 8 years.

Here are some highlights on slot machine security (as of June 2004):

* All machine software past and present are kept on file by the state

* Spot checks, spot checks, spot checks. Random and often.

* State gaming commissions are constantly looking for new ways to manipulate their machines; the article mentions firing a stun gun at a slot machine (best job ever?)

* Six month vetting process for companies and employees wanting produce gambling hardware/software

* User disputing the machine's actions has the right to an immediate investigation

Note: I am absolutely in favor of maintaining a paper trail for decades regardless of the state of digital solutions.



I'm disappointed that the LA Times story doesn't include my favorite anecdote from the Franken/Coleman recount: the person who voted for "lizard people" http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2008/11/23/so_w...

Wow! I can't believe they threw that ballot out! There was only one clearly marked choice!

I often vote for LIZARD PEOPLE as a write-in if there's one race where I don't know anything about the people in it, because of that guy. (I didn't know he had come forward until I searched for that story today.)

Douglas Adams had something to say along these lines: http://wso.williams.edu/~rcarson/lizards.html

Well obviously.

If you don't vote for the Lizard People, the wrong Lizard Person might get in.

Yes, my county in California does this as well. A voter verifiable paper trail should be a requirement for voting systems - either as an optically read input, or a voter verifiable paper output placed into a ballot box as an audit check against the electronic results.

What's wrong with paper ballots again? Serious question.

In my area (northern MA), voters are given a ballot with a bubble next to each of the candidates' names. You use a marker to fill in the bubble next to the candidate you want to vote for, like 6-year-olds manage to do all the time on multiple choice tests in school. Then it gets read in by a machine, leaving a paper trail just in case.

How are these electronic voting machines any better than that? With all the technical/fraud issues surrounding them, wouldn't it make sense to just use paper?

Electronic voting machines allow for easier customization of text for edge cases, like a need for higher contrast, larger print or another language. A good compromise, I think, would be to have the electronic machines print out a human-readable paper ballot, and that would be counted as ballots used to be. The security/checkability of the old system with the convenience of the electronic interface.

Those are good arguments, but are those benefits worth the millions of dollars we spend on these obviously flawed machines? It seems like overkill. Print some ballots with larger print and some in whatever languages are common in your area.

If we do have to use electronic voting machines, I like your idea of it printing a paper ballot rather than tabulating the vote inside the machine.

Millions of dollars is cheap for a properly conducted vote.

How do you count a smudge instead of a complete filling-in of the oval? You have humans go over them, and people hate that.

Just because you never see this issue doesn't mean it doesn't exist. It's just that the ambiguous ballots don't matter in the vast majority of elections so no one cares.

I'm not saying computers are better than paper. They each have trade-offs.

Bubbles seem stupid to me. It's a lot easier and less subjective on review to fill in an arrow than it is to fill in a bubble. Here's an example ballot of what I'm talking about: http://www.town.oregon.wi.us/uploads/ckfiles/images/nov_06_s...

Here's what our ballots look like: http://www.leinfelden-echterdingen.de/servlet/PB/show/141628...

There's never been any real discussion about it being complicated, confusing or needing any other kind of design change. (Which isn't to say that you couldn't make arguments in that vein.)

Similar to our ballots in New Zealand http://www.elections.org.nz/files/sample_ballot_paper_copy.g...

There's not much room for error in this design - it seems to work well for us.

That's much clearer than some of the Scanatron bubble types.

The arrow-thing is also confusing to people. I guarantee you that election officials have had to make a judgment call about them.

EDIT: Out of 1000 people, how many will get confused by this design? http://www.umsl.edu/~kimballd/polk.pdf

SECOND EDIT: misaligned arrows were also a problem in Florida in the 2000 election

It just seems more natural to fill in a line than to fill in a circle. Your wrist is more stable and less shaky to make a couple straight lines with a marker.

I was going to say you're wrong, but I agree that if I had to fill in dozens or hundreds of items, I'd prefer filling in lines. Your wrist is more stable and it seems like a very quick motion.

However, that kind of efficiency isn't required at all in a ballot. Making a couple of crosses instead of lines isn't going to make a big absolute difference in terms of the entire voting process. You want to maximize other things, first and foremost making it easy to understand and easy to recognize clearly for both the voter and the people/entities who count.

Electronic voting machines ar much better than paper because they cost MORE!

I wish they had also taken video of them selecting Jill Stein to see if the entire machine was calibrated incorrectly or just the Romney/Obama section.

I saw this earlier and I noted that news agencies seemed to be reluctant to post it. CNN has been on this from the jump. I think people are afraid of it being revealed as a fake. There is some serious validation that needs to occur if this is the case.

Citing felipeko: 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.

I think a system of repeatability for voting is important. Once a voter has casted a vote, his vote should be able to be repeated without change in different systems at will to verify that his vote has not been tampered.

The system can work like this:

- Voter is assigned a unique ID, on his voting card issued upon verifying his identity. He can pick a security pin for added security.

- Voter is given a device thumb drive, RFID with some RAM, whatever storage device.

- Voter goes to a machine to vote. The machine cryptographically signs the voting result with his id. The machine writes the result to his storage device, emails him a copy, and/or puts the result on a public website. The machine also sends the result to a central server for compilation.

- Voter can go to any other machine on any other sites, plug in his result, his id, and his pin to see the voting result for verification. Voter can confirm by sending the result to central server. Or submit the signed result to third party website to display it for verification.

- If there's any mismatch, voter raises hell and demands to invalidate old vote (after verifying his identity, id, and pin), revote, and burn the tampering machine.

Edit: Id obviously means a public/private key pair.

This happened earlier as well during the early voting period (though Romney votes were being switched for Obama -- funny how one got coverage whilst the other didn't).

It's not some conspiracy, just a calibration error.

Source: http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2012/11/03/Electroni...

Google cache since Breitbart is getting hammered:


oddly, breitbart is perhaps one of the least reputable media sources on the internet these days.

They are great if you are looking for biased, unfounded, or fraudulent "facts" to support an extractive wealth policy that exploits "undesirables"

There have been problems like this in every election with these machines.

More troubling, exit polls and voting results have routinely disagreed with each other since 2000. In most countries that would be taken as proof that the election was not fair. But not in the USA!

http://www.ukprogressive.co.uk/breaking-retired-nsa-analyst-... claims evidence of systemic manipulation of the vote, with the trend strongly being in the GOP's favor. I have not personally verified, but it would not surprise me.

Anyone who has been paying attention this election cycle knows about the attempts by both sides to manipulate rules about who can vote, when, in ways that advantage themselves and disadvantage each other. That happens in a lot of elections but not to the extent of this one. With weird results such as, because of a recent law in Ohio, polling workers have to ASK for ID, but due to a court decision, they can't stop you from voting if you DON'T have that ID. (Confused polling workers are sure to get this wrong.)

The general trend is that Republicans want as many barriers to voting in person as possible, while Democrats want as many to be able to vote as possible. That is because more marginal voters are much more likely to be Democrat than the general population. The stated reason is "to prevent fraud" even though there is very little evidence of such fraud in practice. On mail-in ballots this reverses, since the GOP expects a large portion of mail-in ballots to be from military people who are likely to vote Republican. Fraud has been more of an issue with mail-in ballots, but obviously people are not as worried about that.

Laws get broken as well. For instance the 2000 election was decided in Florida, in part due to a voter purge that the courts decided was illegal. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_Central_Voter_File for verification of that. The lesson learned is that voter purges work, which is why Florida was trying to do a purge this year at the last minute despite being warned that it was illegal. Because flipping the choice for President was easily worth the slap on the wrist they got afterwards.

There already have been laws broken this year (see http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-250_162-57535950/man-charged-aft... and http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/national/fbi-launches-... for example), and everyone expects the lawyers to be gainfully employed as a result.

In short, get out your popcorn. When we exercise our right to vote, the vested interests exercise what they see as their right to manipulate the vote, and this time there is a decent chance of fireworks.

exit polls and voting results have routinely disagreed with each other since 2000. In most countries that would be taken as proof that the election was not fair

It's absolutely not proof. It's, at the least, evidence. Exit polls are statistical -- in my dozens of times voting, I've never hit an exit pollster.

But if you say "the exit polls disagree with the official numbers, so let's go with the exit polls" you have substituted your official election mechanism with the exit polls.

You also will have gotten rid of the idea that a vote is cast in private. A possible explanation for differences between exit polls and election results is that voters may not want to admit voting for extremist parties, or, conversely, may not want to publicly admit not having voted for party X.

That possible explanation has been put out repeatedly.

Given how successful exit polling was until 2000 in the USA, and given how successful it is in elections around the world, I do not believe that this is a plausible explanation of recent discrepancies.

But, as is common in this sort of situation, I have no way to prove it.

Nate Silver wrote a great article in 2010 about why the notion of exit polling itself has a lot of fundamental problems[1]-- among them, the fact that it is extraordinarily difficult to get an truly random sample.


None of which is news.

Still the national media had faced those issues and successfully did it for decades. Then their polls stopped working in 2000. Why?

If you read the article, there are several instances of the same problems causing very large errors in elections prior to 2000, for example, several miscalled states for Clinton in previous elections. To claim that these polls "suddenly" stopped working is demonstrably false.

Good points. A solution would be to give everyone a receipt for their vote, with an anonymous copy that can be put into an exit poll bin. And something equivalent for mail-in voters.

The catch in this is that having proof of voting a particular way makes a voter susceptible to bullying, or gives them the ability to sell their vote. The Wombat Voting system attempts to address this with a public-key approach: http://www.wombat-voting.com/

This is a great idea. Obviously it would have to be implemented properly and would be subject to the some of the same problems exit polls already have (i.e., voters not wanting to participate), but it solves a lot of the other problems neatly.

Statistics tells you the odds that the exit poll would disagree by some degree with the actual result. If the odds show, for example, only a 1 in a 100 million chance of it happening, an investigation should take place. That you've never hit an exit pollster doesn't say much, because the odds can be computed with high confidence by polling only a tiny fraction of the voters.

Statistics is highly valuable despite not being proof. For example, it's a foregone conclusion that Obama will win today, based on earlier polls. It's not certain that he'll win, but the odds of him losing are nil, the stats show.

And who regulates the exit pollsters?

Normally I wouldn't worry about this, but if you want to give them power to invalidate an election (or force an "investigation," whatever that means), then you shouldn't just let them run around doing whatever they think is best.

but the odds of him losing are nil, the stats show.

I don't even know what mindset produces this thought. While Nate Silver doesn't think Romney will win, he gives changes that are a hell of a lot bigger than "nil."

Exit polls are like a canary in a coal mine. They can show evidence of manipulations that might have happened. If an investigation finds that no such manipulation seems to have occurred, then no harm is done.

Unfortunately current US elections are unauditable because voting machines DO NOT produce any kind of verifiable voting trail. Furthermore the apparent conclusion of the US media is that past discrepancies are evidence that their exit polling is flawed rather than that the voting process is being manipulated. (They are biased to decide that way because accusing the winners of manipulating the vote - even if it is true - pushes them away from the appearance of neutrality that they try to keep.)

Furthermore you can't do exit polling on mail-in ballots. So this potential signal of flawed elections is being lost at the same time that manipulation of elections is becoming even easier.

Personally if polls are overwhelming, and elections are in line with polls, I believe the result. But I believe that there are lots of people trying to slip a thumb on the scales, so if polls are close, I am dubious about the results. I personally believe that current evidence is that the Republicans are more successful in getting their thumbs on the scales, so I'm doubly suspicious when Republicans mysteriously do better than polls indicate they should.

I want us to have elections that I trust. I do not want crappy election machines. I want verifiable paper trails. I want random spot checks. We know how to run better elections than we do. We don't because nobody wants to put the work out. I want us to put the work out.

Unfortunately current US elections are unauditable because voting machines DO NOT produce any kind of verifiable voting trail

Please stop.

The machine in the video (at least when deployed in NC) absolutely has a paper receipt that gets printed every time a button is pressed.

Fine for that machine.

According to http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/how-to/computer-s... a quarter of the country in this election will use paperless machines. No paper trail at all.

According to polls, the election will be decided by swing states that are expected to have margins of victory under 4%.

If, hypothetically, the election is decided for Romney in states like Pennsylvania which polls indicated were leaning Democratic on electronic machines where there is no paper trail, will you be inclined to believe that his last minute ads made that a fair win, or would you be inclined to believe that the election was stolen? (Note, the information that Pennsylvania is one of the states without a paper trail is in the article, published today, that I linked to.)

I, personally, would be inclined towards the theory that the election was stolen, and the purpose of his last minute ad buys was to create plausible deniability for the manipulation. If, on the other hand, there was a paper trail and audits verified the count, I would be much more comfortable with that election outcome.

Whether or not this machine is auditable, unauditable voting machines are a real problem.

According to http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/how-to/computer-s.... a quarter of the country in this election will use paperless machines. No paper trail at all.

You aren't reading your source correctly.

From the source, And so electronic voting machines fell from favor. Just 25 percent of the country will use paperless systems this year—down from 40 percent in 2006.

I read that as a quarter of the country will be using paperless systems in this election. If that is wrong, please explain the correction.

Grabbing another source, http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9233058/Election_watc... lists specific states where paperless systems are likely to be a big issue. Two of them, Virginia and Pennsylvania, are significant swing states that currently lean towards Obama in polls. If both have an unexpected swing to Romney, his chances of legitimately winning enough other states to carry the election are significantly increased. (According to what I see on http://www.electoral-vote.com/ he'd need to carry North Carolina and Florida - both of which he's at least tied in, and then any other swing state.)

Hopefully unaccountable election machines won't prove to be the margin of victory in this election. However anyone who thinks it is impossible is either uninformed, or unwilling to consider the evidence.

NY also has a paper trail. I voted this morning. I filled out a form, using a pen to fill in the circles for my votes, much like standardized tests. I then fed that form into a machine. The polling station kept the form, which is the paper trail for the electronic record.

Is the political will actually there to check the paper trail? Hasn't happened anywhere so far...

Exit pollsters should be regulated, I agree, if only to avoid an expensive unnecessary investigation.

The media says that Obama and Romney are neck & neck, because that gets more viewers, which sells the advertisements they depend on. (Every presidential election in your lifetime is guaranteed to be declared a "virtual tie" by the media--you'll hear those exact words every 4 years.) Those who understand stats know (with almost certainty) that it'll be a landslide for Obama in the electoral college.

How old are you? Within my lifetime there have been at least six presidential elections that were absolutely not reported as "virtual ties", including the last one.

Found in 5 seconds: "Gallup Daily: Obama-McCain Race Reverts to Virtual Tie"

Found in another 5 seconds: "National Poll Shows Bush, Kerry in Virtual Tie"

I could go on.

That Gallup poll is from June. The race was a virtual tie then. November reporting is a different story.

And Bush/Kerry was also pretty damned close. Not one of the races I was referring to.

That's just the one I found in 5 seconds. This one's from mid-August 2008: "New [LA Times/Bloomberg] poll shows McCain - Obama in virtual tie". And from Sept: "[NBC News/Wall Street Journal] Poll shows Obama and McCain in virtual tie". 3 months later, still a virtual tie! I'm sure I could find a closer one. I didn't say the media would always report that in November.

I went back to 1992 and still found "virtual tie" reports. That's 5 elections in a row.

"It's a foregone conclusion".. ?? Because of Nate Silver's statistical analysis of polls? The polls which themselves are flawed. The "statistics" are based on nothing but polls, all with margins of errors and varied methodology. A sample of 1000 people can hardly predict an entire state, because there are many factors that influence turnout that aren't captured in polls. Being the subject of a poll is generally a passive activity -- they come to you, while going to vote is an active activity. "Likely voters" is a very subjective term and thus a difficult thing to quantify.

> The "statistics" are based on nothing but polls, all with margins of errors and varied methodology.

Sure, but if the methodology is standard and the poll shows 60%/40% with a 3% margin of error, you can safely bet money on the outcome. Statistics works just as well for casinos; they may lose in the long run, but they almost certainly won't.

> "Likely voters" is a very subjective term and thus a difficult thing to quantify.

Stats can be used to determine the likelihood that those being polled will actually vote.

"Anyone who has been paying attention this election cycle knows about the attempts by both sides to manipulate rules about who can vote, when, in ways that advantage themselves and disadvantage each other."

Since when have Democrats been passing laws to prevent old white people from voting?

Democrats have tried to increase the length of time early voting happens, increase the hours, and increase the number of voting locations. All of these changes make it easier for people who were on the fence about voting to vote.

They do this because they know that people who might or might not vote are much more likely than not to vote Democratic. Thus adding these people to the vote advantages themselves and disadvantages Republicans.

It is not as nasty as voter suppression, but it is no less a form of vote manipulation.

Increasing access to voting isn't a form of voting manipulation, because the whole point of voting is to provide voting opportunities to every person who is eligible to vote.

Democrats are trying to change the voting rules because they believe that doing so will make the vote come out the way that they want it to.

If you don't call this voting manipulation, what do you call it?

I agree that it is nicer than trying to disenfranchise people, but the intent is the same. And I believe that the people pushing the rule would be doing the opposite if that's what their poll data suggested would be effective. As evidence see the story I linked to above of somebody trying to disenfranchise Florida Republicans by calling them up and telling them that they were ineligible to vote.

News flash: every candidate in every election attempts to manipulate the way people vote. It's kinda basic to the entire process.


Increasing voter access is NOT ANTI-DEMOCRATIC.

Restricting voter access IS ANTI-DEMOCRATIC.

Which one are you accusing the Democrats of pursuing? Thus is the crux of this entire thread.

Give me a break, 'the intent is the same'.

Trying to disenfranchise people is wrong and should be outside the bounds of political activity, it's not 'the same' as trying to get your people to vote.

If they were taking up weapons and shooting up precincts likely to vote for the other guy, would 'the intent be the same'? I mean, they're just trying to win the election.

It's hardly manipulative when it gives the opposition just as equal an opportunity to garner votes they wouldn't have otherwise attained as well.

It's no more "voting manipulation" than get-out-the-vote campaigns, sending out advertisements, or political campaigns in general.

I don't think this is anywhere close to being as nefarious as voter suppression attempts.

If the increase in early voting schedules (even assuming that there is an intent to manipulate on the part of one side) are favoring one side, it is easily neutralized by the other side by participating in the early voting with equal, if not more, enthusiasm.

On the other hand, the victims of voter suppression tactics have no easy recourse to counter these attempts.

I agree that elected officials and candidates are always looking to influence voters minds and the process itself to win. However, pursing better access to voting isn't unethical, even if people pursing those policies and systems themselves are attempting to use that access to bolster their own support. In fact, I would say that pursuing actions with positive externalities and outcomes that bolster your position is what we want politicians to do: being so successful at fixing and addressing our problems as a society that we want them in office again and again.

Granted, I don't think that the US gov't is an example of a system in which we are achieving wild successes and are therefore wanting to keep certain people in office :-)

What an aggravating, ignorant, and ahistorical comment.

Besides the responses nearby taking you to task for the sophistry of your last sentence, I feel like it's worth highlighting the very real history of vote suppression in the South under Jim Crow. That's decades of violence, physical intimidation, bogus literacy tests, and a host of other tactics, directed at suppressing the vote of blacks and the poor. At every step of the way, these shameful tactics were justified as some kind of proxy for "intelligence" (and some other "wise" comments here repeat that justification).

Working to increase access to the vote is, in a very real sense, a continuing rejection of these disgusting tactics.

This is why I used the term "ignorant" above. It is as if you do not understand and appreciate the significance of this history. This is not a simple Democrat/Republican issue. Increasing access to the vote is an attempt to remedy, in an imperfect way, the biggest failing of American democracy.

Ah yes, the fun of politics. As soon as someone says something that you disagree with, just flip your emotional switch and let the rant flow.

I actually am quite aware of that history. I am also aware that of dozens of efforts in the last several years to change voting rules, every Republican effort has been to make it harder in the name of reducing fraud, while every Democratic effort has been to make it easier in the name of improving access.

It may not be a simple Democrat/Republican issue, but at this point it is definitely a highly partisan Democrat/Republican issue.

Not a rant. Not a partisan issue unless you make it one. Just the right thing to do.

You can't be serious.

More people voting == voter manipulation??!??

I would call that a MORE REPRESENTATIVE democracy.

The extreme form would be to ensure that every person who favors your position gets a vote cast and counted, without changing the votes of others.

It's the difference between persuasion and "get out the vote". Persuading voters to your point of view is more honorable, but "get out the vote" is often more cost effective.

Dead people voting is manipulation. Just because more votes are cast doesn't mean they are legitimate.

However, since the post to which you're replying specified more people voting, not more votes, your vacuous statement is not on point. Stop fear mongering and being a pointless pedant.

sounds like a fox news argument

Vote manipulation? Yes.

Just what we need? Definitely.

I cannot think of a scenario where having more people in a representative sample would be worse than having less.

I can. If you can't be bothered to vote your vote isn't needed. You have no clue what you are voting for and you can not, in any conceivable way, make a reasonable judgment of who to vote. I cannot think of a scenario where having more people, who have no clue about why or who they are voting on (and this is sadly the vast majority of people), will be better than having less.

It looks good if have there are a lot of people participating but you have not gained anything if those that voted did not have the slightest of interest in it.

I agree that people without a clue have no business voting. But be careful making the assumption that someone who "can't be bothered to vote" is less informed.

Even the well-informed can end up thinking "my vote doesn't matter anyway, so why bother." And rationally, they are not exactly wrong. Yet, the system would break down if everyone took that view. People need to be encouraged to vote, even though they may see it as a waste of time, because in aggregate their votes are important.

What is this "representative sample" that you're talking about?

It is well-known that the subset of the population that goes to the polls is NOT representative of the country as a whole. That is why pollsters are so careful to get polls of "likely voters". Because Republicans tend to be more motivated to vote than Democrats, so if they just took a poll of everyone they called, the results would always be strongly skewed Democrat.

(Getting this right is very tricky, and different methodologies around it is one reason that different pollsters often have a consistent difference in the polls that they produce.)

Whether the voting public is a "representative sample" or not, it does not change the main point of the GP.

> It is not as nasty as voter suppression, but it is no less a form of vote manipulation.

"As" nasty? Nice wording. There isn't a shred of nastiness in it at all.

There is no nastiness in preventing voter fraud either. Unless you call it voter suppression.

As for making voting easier, Republicans see it as cynically making fraud easier in the name of getting uninformed people who don't pay attention to vote for you. If you see it as Republicans see it, what the Democrats are doing is not exactly nice behavior.

Sounds like increasing access to voting, while yes, done with the intent to increase your share, has the added advantage of increasing access to voting, and hence should be encouraged.

Complaining that it's dishonest and wrong is like the joke about "reality having a well known liberal bias"

However, Democrats have worked to make it more difficult for the military to vote when deployed.


I think you meant to say Democrats have been accused of working to make it more difficult for the military to vote when deployed

Clearly, allowing easier access to voting is evil. No, definitely we should make it harder for those least able to afford it....working class people... to take time off from work and stand in line to vote.


Polls are generally open 12 hours, plus there's early voting and absentee voting. "Working class" people have no less opportunity to vote than anyone else.

Stop with the class-warfare nonsense.

Here's a polling place, which happens to be in a luxury hotel, that offers free valet parking and continental breakfast to anyone voting:


Did I mention you need to be voting in Bel-Air to take advantage of this offer?

Yep, it's all pretty much the same everywhere. Let's drop that class-warfare nonsense.


I don’t get US voting. Why don’t you do it on a Sunday, like much of Europe? 12 hours, fine, but on a day when most people have to work. When you add in commute times and all that there has to be little time for many people to vote and you basically have to plan your day around it. If voting is on a Sunday you might even spontaneously decide to take a lazy Sunday stroll to the voting booth. (But then again, you have to register beforehand in many states, which also seems pretty crazy to me.)

Add the long lines (Seriously, what‘s even going on with that? Germany has a much higher voter turnout than the US – 74% vs 49% during the last federal election – and I have never seen any lines. The most I ever had to wait were two or three minutes, and I also haven’t ever seen media reports about long lines.

It seems to me that trying to make voting easier is very much the right thing to do in the US while making it harder is not.

However, I do not believe in any grand or small conspiracy theories and I don’t think there is any kind of large scale manipulation going on. It just all seems dysfunctional, not manipulated. When comparing it to German elections, why does it seem that politicians have so much control over it? They don’t seem to be shy to make politics with how voting is implemented – which is a total taboo in Germany†, no politician would ever dare to give off the impression that they are trying to change how the election is run in order to favor their party. Much of the organization is handed off to independent experts who take most of the decisions.

It’s not that hard. There are many Europeans countries where voting is just not a big deal and where there are never big issues like in the US. You are the oldest democracy in the World, shouldn’t you have figured out that stuff by now?

† There is one recent exception to this. The federal voting law was declared unconstitutional two times in a row from the constitutional court during the last years.

The way federal elections work is that it’s basically proportional representation – i.e. people vote for parties, any party with more than five percent gets the percentage of seats they won – but there are also direct candidates in every district, insuring that everyone has her or his candidate they can write to. Those direct candidates are elected using first past the post, but they are at least supposed to be inconsequential to the percentage of seats a party gets. If there aren’t enough direct candidates to fill the seats a party got, those seats are filled from a per-state party list of candidates.

However, what happens when a party has more direct candidates than they have seats? Before the constitutional court struck that down those “overhang mandates” were just added without changing anything else, basically skewing with the percentages. A party which got 50 seats might suddenly get 60 seats without other parties (without overhang mandates) also getting more seats.

In the last election this has favored conservatives, but taking this to the constitutional court was successful. The court gave the parliament time to change the law. What was unique and unprecedented, however (and a rare case of German politicians making politics with how voting works) was that the current conservative government decided unilaterally on a solution – instead of by working together, as had been tradition. However, that solution was also struck down (with constitutional judges showing pretty open dismay that the parliament was seemingly unable to solve this problem in the long time allotet and worried about the fact that an election is coming up in 2013) – leading the conservative government to this time around try and find a consensus solution. So it all was back to the tradition of not just changing election laws unilaterally without at least talking to the biggest opposition party and trying to find a solution both can agree on.

What will happen now is that parties without overhang mandates will get more seats to balance those overhang mandates of other parties, thus not skewing the percentages. I’m personally still not a fan of this solution – the parliament is already to big and now it will grow further – but it should be constitutional.

> Stop with the class-warfare nonsense.

Stop with the naive "we're all in this boat together" bullshit.

Democrats have routinely fought efforts to cleanse voter registrations that for people that have died, moved or never existed in the first place. When votes are cast under these names, they disenfranchise legitimate voters. This is the very scam for which ACORN was driven underground.

Since when have Republicans passed laws to prevent anyone from voting?

The most recent example was this year in Florida, when the time frame for early voting was shortened to ensure that only one Sunday fell in it rather than the usual two. They did this with the knowledge that Sundays during early voting swing extremely liberal, thanks to primarily black churches encouraging their communities to vote and providing transportation.

Even if this is just accidental or some weird calibration issue (weird, because it only seems to affect one button according to the report), it just goes to show how little confidence one can have in these machines. Does anyone think if they can't get the touchscreen right, the remaining parts of the system can be expected to work correctly?

The only positive thing is that such an easy to demonstrate failure might open the eyes of the less technically educated parts of the public to how bad an idea it is to use electronic voting machines.

Any suggested replacement of paper ballots comes with such a huge bag of problems (sometimes inherent in the method, and not merely problems of the implementation), and so few advantages that it puzzles me why anyone would want to introduce them.

The fact that the current implementation is not reliable doesn't make the whole idea of electronic voting bad. We've had electronic voting for general elections in Brazil since 2000, with very few accusations of fraud.

But there are very significant issues with the principle of electronic voting:

Ideally, every voter would be able to verify their own vote after the fact via some cryptographic mechanism. But on the other hand, this mechanism should be such that the government (or another individual trying to coerce our voter) would not be able to verify the vote -- an almost contradictory, difficult requirement. I am not aware of such a method being employed in any large-scale election.

In the absence of such a method, you have a heap of problems:

1) How do you make it verifiable for the general public? Even if you accept that the general public will not be able to verify it (bad!), how would you make it verifiable even for experts? It's almost impossible to ensure that the code being run is the one you verified beforehand, especially on such a large scale, so this way is out of the question. (Remember, this is a high-stakes game, so you'd better know that your CPU in fact executes your opcodes correctly...)

2) Electronic voting & tallying opens the door for large-scale manipulation without leaving traces. If you want to remove 10000 paper ballots, you have to somehow get rid of them (with people watching). 10000 votes vanishing in a computer? No problem, just a memory operation, a bystander would never notice it.

Some of this can be dealt with by having the machine print out a paper ballot immediately after voting, and keeping those ballots. Then you're in fact using the relative safety of paper ballot voting to double check the electronic record.

Of course the existing systems take these into consideration. There are a dozen security measures in place here:

1) The software is exactly the same for the whole country (138m voters). All software that runs on it is encrypted and signed, and the box is physically sealed to detect intrusion.

2) You verify your vote before it's committed to disk on the voting machine. See next point.

3) Every ballot box records votes to a flash card that is physically taken to the nearest court house, where a judge is responsible for the equipment that can decrypt, compile and transfer results to the federal system, using a private network. At no point a ballot box is connected to any network or external devices.

4) The equipment is programmed to only function during official voting times, and only after running a test suite and integrity verification

5) At the end of the day each ballot box prints it own vote report, archived locally, and keeps a copy of the results in it's internal flash memory

If you remove 10k votes from one machine, the numbers won't match: every voter is registered, and you have to sign a small declaration if you don't vote - the number of voters is always known beforehand. Voluntary elections like in the US pose an interesting problem, maybe you could require pre-registration?

I think bypassing all the security measures undetected would be one hell of an achievement.

This engineer raises some interesting points regarding our voting system (portuguese): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Op9N2EyoZHo

In our country (Brazil), the electronic voting machine is strongly marketed by the government and big media as a model for the entire world to copy.

Can someone explain me like a five year old (european) how it is that...

You put a man on the moon, flew the space shuttle, have a rover sending holiday pics from mars, not to mention, your entire computer industrie....

But you can not make or agree a voting machine that actually works beyond reasonable doubt?!

The issue is that we have several voting machines that DO work.

They're just not what certain states bought. Were these bought for nefarious reasons? Perhaps. Are they bad even if they were just purchased due to incompetence/graft? Yes.

How to Rig an Election: The G.O.P. aims to paint the country red http://harpers.org/archive/2012/11/how-to-rig-an-election/?s...

Seems like the obvious solution would be to close off the broken voting machine.

I got really into playing pinball a few years ago, and I got into the habit of turning of a pinball machine whenever it wasn't working correctly (mis-aligned flippers, whatever) so that other people didn't waste their quarters. Yes, it was kind of obnoxious. Sorry.

Anyway, a similar mechanism to say "hey, this voting machine might be screwed up, somebody check it out ASAP!" would make a lot of sense.

Jeez, I thought HN people were sharper than this about modern technology. I'm not a Romney supporter but these voting machines are basic single touch interfaces with standard fat-finger algorithms. Lets have him pull back on the camera and show the rest of the screen. Specifically, where his other finger is at the time it selects Romney. His video is highly suspect to me.

Potential voter purging in Pennsylvania: http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2012/11/watchdog-evidence-un...

Oregon worker altering ballots in the GOP's favor: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/11/06/oregon-election-worker...

At least one worker taking votes and putting them under the voting box: https://twitter.com/danicamckellar/status/265907196372594688 https://twitter.com/danicamckellar/status/26590774867435110

... What the hell is going on over there?

In the Netherlands they got rid of voting machines all together in 2008.

A group set out to ensure that the election process in the Netherlands would become as fraud resistant as it was before the advent of paperless voting computers. They demonstrated that the voting machines could be hacked. It wass also a risk because of the small group involved in getting the results out of these computers, with no real possibility to check if they are real (because the source code is not open). Committing fraud would only have to involve a few people.

On May 16, 2008 the Dutch government decided that elections in the Netherlands will be held using paper ballots and red pencil only. A proposal to develop a new generation of voting computers was rejected.

More info at http://wijvertrouwenstemcomputersniet.nl/English

Who manufactures these machines? I'm curious whether or not they may be vulnerable to Van Eck Phreaking[1]. Brazil discovered taht the machines they were going to use were vulnerable to it.


All this talk of electronic voting and one-way hash, etc confuses me. I know of no aspect of the US Constitution or federal law nor the constitution of any state in which I have resided which mandates a secret ballot. It might be a tradition or something but it certainly isn't a civil right.

I'm sure there is probably mountains of state law on the issue but I would have to wager any guarantee of secrecy would be just that, provided for on a state-by-state basis. I would appreciate it if anybody could correct my misunderstanding with citations.

I think its much more important for an election result to be trusted than for it to be secret. Having both is optimal but not necessary for a valid result under the law with which I am familiar.

Everyone's been spoiled by iPads etc., I guess. Old touch screens used to do this all the time. My Palm Pilot had a calibration app I'd have to run every few days/weeks.

If he'd hit Mitt Romney, it probably wouldn't have selected Romney but the blank region above his name.

> If he'd hit Mitt Romney, it probably wouldn't have selected Romney but the blank region above his name.


> Being a software developer, I immediately went into troubleshoot mode. I first thought the calibration was off and tried selecting Jill Stein to actually highlight Obama. Nope. Jill Stein was selected just fine. Next I deselected her and started at the top of Romney's name and started tapping very closely together to find the 'active areas'. From the top of Romney's button down to the bottom of the black checkbox beside Obama's name was all active for Romney. From the bottom of that same checkbox to the bottom of the Obama button (basically a small white sliver) is what let me choose Obama. Stein's button was fine. All other buttons worked fine.

It's so funny to see that hardly anyone actually did anything more than just watch the video. The same "oh it must have been miscalibrated" is repeated up and down the comment page.

Let's hope whomever gets elected spends money on education so that people start reading again and not just consuming the 5 second Reader's Digest version.

Uh, it's pretty clear that you didn't watch the video and didn't read the article.

Don't troll. You are bad at it.

Actually AmVess, that was my point, that most people didn't read the article, they just jumped right to the miscalibration explanation that was already eliminated by the guy making the video.

It's pretty clear that you didn't read (or understand) my comment. Don't comment, you're bad at it. Dumbass!

Miscalibration is supported by the video. We have to take the person's' word on the other buttons, which they for some reason didn't bother to take a video of.

Miscalibrations can also happen in these sorts of resistive touch screens that fit the described behaviour.

> I first thought the calibration was off and tried selecting Jill Stein to actually highlight Obama. Nope. Jill Stein was selected just fine.

He describes in his comments how he touched numerous points down each of the candidates and all points registered for the correct candidate except for Obama.

That makes it not sound like a calibration error to me.

He mentions in the description for the video hitting Jill Stein selects Jill Stein. He was eventually able to vote by hitting a very small area between Obama and Jill Stein.

Is it too much to ask to just completely open-source these voting machine? These machines decide the future of our country and affect the entire world. The least we could do is allow everyone to verify for themselves whether the machines are secure.

Make sure you open-source the compiler, the firmware, the hardware manufacturing process, the assembly, the drivers, the software that built the compiler, and the software that built the compiler that built the compiler.

Or just operate under the assumption that some of the machines are compromised and make sure you have ways of recognizing faults after-the-fact.

You say this in a way that implies that it's not feasible to do such a thing. I'm pretty sure that all of those components have been open sourced in various projects, just maybe not all in the same system.

Calibration!! Really?? Any software/hardware developer here worth his/her salt would agree that can't be it. Let's see what could have happened: 1) The Y axis of the screen was maladjusted 2) Touch Sensitivity of the screen was reduced due to incorrect settings 3) Touch area had hair/dust/oil on it. But if you read the voter's story it happened only for Obama's field. Don't they have independent watchdogs looking after this thing in United States? If shit like this went down in India, the Election Commission would have simply closed the whole damn polling booth(for the day) and arrange separate polling on a later day with extra scrutiny and security.

Disagree. I've worked with resistive/infrared touchscreens for many years and this behavior is entirely consistent with touchscreen calibration errors, especially with cheap/crappy touchscreens. See my other comments here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4752605

> But if you read the voter's story it happened only for Obama's field.

Easy explanation- the voter was lying.

Oh, how sad the vigilante cannot film the pesky RAM-inhabiting daemon, that summate counting and distributes electronic votes according to the AdSense spending of every candidate. Even the iPhone is not capable of doing that surveillance.

Why does an otherwise fairly extraordinary country (space missions, amazing inventions, lots of creativity) manage to get basic stuff so completely wrong (bad toilet plumbing, units of measurement, paper currency, health care, dodgy voting). You need a proportional system. On paper. With hand counting by volunteers overseen by party reps. Stop with all the private enterprise technology stuff. Democracy is too precious to contract out to some lowest bidder. The Australian Electoral Commission runs all our ballots here and I have absolute confidence in them. Have a look at how other places run elections.

For those who are able to understand german and are not from the US, i highly recommend the newest alternativlos podcast for perspective:


Lower house - http://aec.gov.au/Voting/How_to_Vote/Voting_HOR.htm#papers

Senate - http://aec.gov.au/Voting/How_to_Vote/Voting_Senate.htm#paper...

This is how we vote in Australia. I have real trouble seeing any system of computerized voting or punch-card voting as superior having followed the United States' experiences.

What do you guys think? We use preferential-voting, so it's a little different but the idea is solid.

Obligatory reference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aBaX9GPSaQ#t=18s

I was surprised to see how similar it was.

Looks like a touch screen that isn't calibrated correctly.

It's 2012. You can buy touch screens that don't need constant "calibration". These machines are using 1980s caliber technology when this was a constant problem. The last touch screen I've worked with that had this issue was CRT-based.

All these machines should do, presuming you need machines at all, is print out a receipt with the vote clearly indicated so that it can be deposited in a traditional ballot box. Leaving the tabulation a "trade secret" is really not a good idea.

This seems like a fairly poor way to implement voter fraud. The screen gives instant feedback. No Obama voter is going to say "Oh well, I guess I'll just cast my vote for Romney then."

If you were reprogramming the machine, wouldn't you be better off changing it to show Obama had been selected on the screen, but then print Romney onto the paper ballot? There's a better chance a voter won't bother scrutinizing the printout.

This is serious, but I'm getting a lot of amusing out of news reporters asking questions on Reddit, and have dozens of Reddit users pipe in with jokes.

In my opinion, this is very obviously a touchscreen calibration issue, probably caused by the use of a crappy (read: cheap) touchscreen in the voting machine.

A lot of people are dismissing the calibration issue because of the "calibration test" the user described performing:

"Being a software developer, I immediately went into troubleshoot mode. I first thought the calibration was off and tried selecting Jill Stein to actually highlight Obama. Nope. Jill Stein was selected just fine. Next I deselected her and started at the top of Romney's name and started tapping very closely together to find the 'active areas'. From the top of Romney's button down to the bottom of the black checkbox beside Obama's name was all active for Romney. From the bottom of that same checkbox to the bottom of the Obama button (basically a small white sliver) is what let me choose Obama. Stein's button was fine. All other buttons worked fine."

However, this test does does not actually demonstrate anything. With resistive and infrared touchscreens, which are commonly used in kiosks, it is entirely possible to have some subsections of the screen work incorrectly, while the rest works correctly. Therefore the fact that some buttons work fine does not prove that the touchscreen is, in fact, correctly calibrated.

I've done a lot of work with kiosk touchscreens, and the first culprit I thought of when seeing that video was that the touchscreen was miscalibrated. The second culprit I thought of was that the touchscreen itself was faulty.

Resistive and infrared touchscreens are very prone to these types of problems, and I've seen many scenarios similar to this across hundreds of different touchscreens. (Often, just one corner of the screen will go out of wack, while the rest of it works perfectly. I've seen this happen many times.)

The only way to know if the screen was actually correctly calibrated is to re-calibrate the screen and see if the issue persists, and if it does, to replace the touchscreen itself (as it could be faulty, not uncommon among cheap touchscreens either). Neither of these steps was performed by the user, therefore he has no way of concluding that the screen was correctly calibrated. I suspect that once these tests are performed, it will be obvious that the touchscreen is to blame.

There's a lot of outrage here at the idea of the voting machine altering votes, but I think the following quote applies: never attribute to malice that which can be explained by incompetence.

The real outrage should be that these voting machines were deployed with such crappy touchscreens built into them (probably to cut costs for the manufacturer).

I'm not taking a stand on whether this is some weird edge case bug or whether it's a conspiracy, but I would like to point out that if it is fraud, it's an incredibly inept attempt. Using a checkbox for visual confirmation of a vote means the fraud was easily detectable. It would have been much better to mark the box for Obama but count the vote for Romney, if fraud is your goal.

I never understood why we would go for electronic voting. I couldn't care less about the discussion here about touch screens or GUIs. Computer should have no buisnes for important, secret elections!

In my opinion the risks and downsides of moving away from pen and paper clearly outweigh any of the laughable advantages - unless of course you profit from a system that is in-transparent and manipulatable.

Why doesn't the US just buy the system Brazil uses? In Brazil 1) everyone must vote and 2) they have strong reasons for wanting to make sure that no vote can ever be tied directly to the person who cast it.

They have such a system in place for over a decade, it works perfectly. Just buy that and use it instead of reinventing the wheel poorly.

I'm not trying to be snarky: could someone explain to me why this is HN-worthy (or at least worth 609 points)? In an election with thousands of voting machines, the probability is high enough that at least a few of them will be defective in some way; it should be expected as far as I can tell.

Unsubstantiated rumors of vote tampering via technological means on election night is the ultimate link-bait? Seems pretty clear why it is worth so many points :)

If only the specifications of the hardware and source for the software for the machine in question were available for us to analyze....

What show was it that discussed what would happen with a large number of very smart engineers and voting? I recall a TV show back in the day that basically said "We don't use electronic voting because it's too easy to game". I think it was one of the episodes of Sliders.

It looks like the touch screen might need to be calibrated. This used to happen on a POS system I worked with.

I think the title is link bait. The voting machine isn't altering the vote. It's just off kilter. Besides, it's not like the user didn't know what box was being checked!

It seems to me a way to mitigate this risk of part of the screen not working is to randomize the order with which the candidates are displayed. The error would presumably average itself out. Either way this is unacceptable.

I would be more outraged if the video actually showed him tapping the other candidates to prove that they worked correctly. He says that tapping the others worked fine but there is no proof of this in the video.

Exactly what I thought, I have been going through the comments and seems to be something that most people don't think about, without video evidence to support what the voter says I call it lying.

"It's not the voting that's democracy; it's the counting." - Jumpers (1972)

Canadian here but I'm curious wouldn't it make sense for voting machines to have independent dual screens instead of a single screen where the possibility of a calibration error could exist?

Wouldn't it be a good idea to have some sort of automated remote monitoring system which would randomly ping each machine for diagnostics data and shutdown machines if any issues discovered?

If someone had enough access to tamper with the regions of the screen and their linking to voting options, what makes you think a remote monitoring system would be trivial?

If you don't want to have your vote altered. You can go on https://poutsch.com The cool thing is that the whole planet can vote there!

I asked for paper ballot this morning. Many volunteers are cheerful and apathetic, for them its just another gig. Lost on them is the fact this is something fundamental. Scary !!

What do you expect? Opaque source-code, machines produced by companies linked to the Republicans, and all that in a failing state. Stuff like that was obviously going to happen.

What exactly are supposed to be the benefits of electronic voting machines over sliping a piece of paper in an enveloppe and putting it in an urn?

This exact scenario also happened on video in 2008:


This seriously pisses me the fuck off. Just how the hell do we not have the technology yet for accurate touch-screen technology in voting machines?

The US uses a federal agency to collect income taxes, so why won't it do the obvious thing and create one to run federal elections?

US does not have federal elections. US has state elections for Senate, Congress, and the Electoral College.

Is it real, and Republicans are fraudsters? Or is it a fake, and Democrats are fraudsters? Or is a Republican plant of a fake so that I believe I hate Democrats?!? Or maybe even Democrats planted an obvious fake, to make me think Republicans posted the fake, so that I'd know it's fake and end up disrespecting Republicans for the poor attempt at influencing me?!?!?!

Too confusing. I'm staying home.

confirmed by NBC http://on.msnbc.com/TIyxAl

This is nothing. I was texting on my phone and it changed "Romny" to "Ronny."

Microsoft must be behind it.

Why does this matter? The majority of votes is not the decider in this 'democracy'.

Is there any evidence that what it records actually matches the screen anyway?

There is a user-visible printed receipt that is not shown in the video.

A bit off-topic, but how do recounts work with electronic voting machines?

It varies.

Some systems have a "recount" button that returns the same result as before. Others have an actual paper trail that can be recounted by hand.

Much worse would be altering your vote without showing you that it did so

A $300 iPad does a better job than this $3,500 voting machine.

I hope this is a hoax.

I hope it is a hoax or a miscalculation issue. If it is actual fraud, I hope the people behind it are found, tried and if convicted punished to a degree warranted by what this would be -- treason.

While I emotionally agree with you, I think overcharging is a bane on the existence of the legal system.

Yeah, all it will take is a few more users taking videos from their phones of a similar thing happening, and then this things goes ballistic... especially if some people can't select Obama and Obama loses.

What about the other reports that mention votes for Romney being changed to Obama? It's just that "votes get switched to Romney" will make the Internet go ballistic--it's still a problem either way.

voting cannot be computerized ever without risk of manipulation. voting will always have to be on paper in the interest of democracy.

LOL probably just needs to touch a little bit lower on the screen. If you're not smart enough to figure that out, you should NOT be allowed to vote.

that's nonsense, it was just a screen screwup and there's a paper trail on those machines, thank god.

He who casts a vote decides nothing. He who counts the votes decides everything

Obviously staged, obviously edited, obviously fake.

Evidence, citations? Not at all obvious. On the surface, looks quite real. And I've had enough touch-screen devices to know that mis-calibration is common, so it's plausible.

I'll give you obviously edited, but why so sure about the other two?

I can't even give obviously edited. Ever used a lower-end Android phone? I have, and this looks like a video directly from one. Jittery, frame skipping mess.

Edit: Also, it's been verified and taken offline. http://tv.msnbc.com/2012/11/06/machine-turns-vote-for-obama-...

Obviously edited b/c of the distinct scene cut between the candidate selection that takes up the first half of the video, and the cast vote button which takes up the second half.

All the commenter was saying was that whoever shot the video didn't share it before first splicing two different shots together.

"All the commenter was saying was that whoever shot the video didn't share it before first splicing two different shots together."

That's not all the commenter was saying. OP was claiming the original video was staged and fake. He was accusing the Redditor if deception.

I agree. It looks absolutely fake to me. But according to other sources it was confirmed =\

MSNBC confirmed the machine was defective in the article.

Bias is one thing (I'm a liberal and I fully admit that MSNBC is biased towards the left), making facts up whole cloth is another.

Call me when they verifiably lie, ala Fox, and then we'll talk.

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