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Author Topic: Paper v Plastic: My voting experience
flydye45
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So, a guy goes into a voting booth and stop me if you heard this one.

Recently there have been a surfeit of rhetoric and hand wringing about how Karl Rove has the Diebold Master Voter Control in his office, or how a mad hacker can suddenly determine that, in fact, Pedro won the election. [Roll Eyes]

Now, I can only discuss my experience. I can only speak for my machines, an Ivotechnic or some such. Other machines may differ radically.

Ohio finally got it's act together and required photo i.d. (there was some question earlier this week if it would occur).

I entered the polling place, showed my i.d. and was told to sign a voters roll. Next to my signature, a sequential number (#74) was written, identifying me as one of however many voters would vote today.

I was then lead to the machine, a slim little unit and was given another bonus of electronic machines which I hadn't considered. These machines are handicap enabled. There is an audio unit which blind people can use to vote with the same privacy as anyone else. A minor point, but needed mentioning.

The unit recorded every single vote as I recorded it, not as a grand total at the end. This is important because it recorded it electronically AND printed ink on paper as I put my svelte little fingers against the touch screen in plain english listing the position and the candidate I just touched in a window I could see. I didn't change my mind, but I would guess that changes would also be recorded likewise.

At the end, before the votes were tabulated, I was given a list of all the positions to vote for. Those not selected were marked as "no selection made". I could then touch these empty sections of the ballot and add a vote. Again, I didn't change any selection made, but the machine indicated I could if I wanted to.

After I "finished", it told my that there were several positions which I had not voted for, voiding the problem of W Palm Beach. Then I pressed the confirmation button.


With the i.d.'s, signatures, numerical trail, and the instant paper backup, I cannot see exactly what the rhetoric is all about. Perhaps someone can explain how this system if rife with fraud, but they better have a very good argument.

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javelin
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So, that's why no one can say why a paper audit trail isn't a good idea? Because these machines make one?

How odd.

Anyone else voting on machines this year?

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DaveS
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Fly, good to know that you had a positive experience. I voted by paper absentee ballot and had a positive experience, too. Most people will, but not all. This morning there were reports that 70 voting machines in Indiana wouldn't tally votes correctly. The other day in Florida, the power cut out and apparently all of the votes collected up to that time were lost. Those aren't examples of fraud, just reasons why electronic machines aren't necessarily an improvement.

As for whether fraud has been committed, it will be an open question until somebody is caught redhanded, buth here are some links about the potential for it to happen.

Here's a 2004 article from Newsmax.com, a staunchly conservative site:
http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2004/2/5/164440.shtml

Also from 2004, from the non-partisan Florida League of Conservation Voters:
http://www.flcv.com/fraudpat.html

More recently, Princeton researchers did a study in September of this year using the latest model Diebold machine:
http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S15/81/65O23/index.xml?section=topstories

I've been a software developer for over 30 years and have worked on low-level to high-level research and commercial projects. In my professional opinion, there is virtually no way to guarantee that fraud won't take place and no guarantee that it will be detectable if it happens.

[ November 07, 2006, 10:13 AM: Message edited by: DaveS ]

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flydye45
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If there is a visible paper print-out made concurrently with the vote, fraud is very visible. If Washington has more printouts of votes but Arnold has more "electronic" votes, isn't that a clue?

Additionally, if we can compare the rolls vs the tabulation, there will be no "extra" votes.

Fraud is always possible, but we need to make it visible. My machine seemed to make that possible. I can't speak for the Diebold ones.

Edited to add: Accurate voting rolls and photo i.d. requirements will void most egregious election fraud. Let's start with getting the dead and incarcerated off the rolls and ensure one man, ONE vote.

[ November 07, 2006, 10:26 AM: Message edited by: flydye45 ]

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javelin
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As a software developer, and a realist, I'd say under any scheme I've heard of, electronic or otherwise, there is virtually no way to guarantee that fraud won't take place and no guarantee that it will be detectable if it happens.

My goal is to make it minimal, offsetting, and difficult.

[ November 07, 2006, 10:26 AM: Message edited by: javelin ]

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DaveS
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I agree with Jav, the goal is to make it hard. That's the best we can do.

Fly, so your machine gave you a paper receipt. So what? That just echoes back to you what you put in. You have no way to know that the machine "recorded" it correctly. The summary totals that the machine spits out aren't tied to the individuals who cast the votes, so a little tweaking here or there would be undetectable.

But, let's say that they can correlate the summaries to the individual votes stored inside the machine. That still doesn't mean that they haven't been altered so that they disagree with the paper receipt.

At every step along the way, some intervention can modify its inputs and produce a skewed output. It's not paranoia to point this out, this is how complex software works. Coincidentally, at work I've been puzzling over why my software begins to miscount when the records I'm aggregating on a diskless machine consume more than 4MB of buffer space in RAM. It's not fraud, it's software!

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Ron Lambert
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If a name were tied to a vote, then it would no longer be a secret ballot, exposing the voter to the possibility of intimidation. But even besides that, you could not be sure that a voter voted the way his vote was recorded, because some people might later lie about the way they had voted, or else tell you the way they intended to vote but may not have because they were confused (à la West Palm Beach).
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Pyrtolin
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The good thing about the paper recipts is that, if the electronic results are challeneged, they can be counted and compared to the electronic count to check for tampering.

It's still possible to mess with the system, but at least they make it that much harder to completely falsify the results.

The thing to keep in mind is that there are several different companies making voting machines, I'll see this afternoon whether my neghborhood got good ones that have a paper trail or not.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
If there is a visible paper print-out made concurrently with the vote, fraud is very visible.
This isn't entirely true, as what is printed on the paper does NOT have to be the vote that is stored. (It's also possible for someone to edit the vote database after the fact.)

The utility of readable paper receipts is that they can be checked against the electronic vote for accuracy. This means you still need to count ballots by hand -- which eliminates some of the savings -- but means you still get the benefits of an electronic voting system without many of the risks.

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kenmeer livermaile
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It can be done. My email does what it's supposed to everytime, and when it doesn't, it lets me know about it.

What's needed, I believe, is an effective governing body. Sort of an electoral FBI/Trade Commission/FDA.

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flydye45
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"Fly, so your machine gave you a paper receipt. So what? That just echoes back to you what you put in. You have no way to know that the machine "recorded" it correctly. The summary totals that the machine spits out aren't tied to the individuals who cast the votes, so a little tweaking here or there would be undetectable. "

You didn't understand what I said, therefore I miscommunicated. I did not get a paper reciept. It was kept inside the machine, but was displayed for my eyes to cross check. So when Tedd Strickland is shattered to discover that he lost and challenges, the polling person can examine the machines tabulation AND pull out the paper reciepts. If X does not match Y, that nefarious Karl Rove is shown to once again be manipulating elections. If X does match Y, perhaps Democrats may get the feeling that the product they are offering isn't exactly selling.

Jav, for the record, I am not against a simultaneous paper record being made. In fact, I would insist on it for all machines. As you said, fraud is human nature, and as a Conservative, I know you can't change that.

I don't understand how someone rigging a machine is any more fraudulent then (was it Washington?) polling places constantly "discovering" new votes weeks later until the "right" (or should I say left) candidate won.

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javelin
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quote:
Jav, for the record, I am not against a simultaneous paper record being made. In fact, I would insist on it for all machines. As you said, fraud is human nature, and as a Conservative, I know you can't change that.
I was pretty sure that was your position. [Big Grin]
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LinuxFreakus
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Personally, I think we should just have computers (touch screen or otherwise, doesn't matter) which do nothing other than automatically fill out a paper ballot so that all the marks will be perfect, and then have those ballots counted by computers with optical scanning.

I don't know why so many of the new machines are so needlessly complicated. You don't need an entire windows xp operating system with millions of lines of code just waiting to be exploited when you can simply use a dedicated single purpose open source program with very minimal code that just fills out paper ballots to make it harder to tamper with and easier to monitor what happens to the ballots.

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DaveS
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Fly, you're right that I misread what you wrote. I think your machine is probably hard to hack (though still possible).

FWIW, I think the best possible system is a paper ballot system where:

1. You fill in a circle for each vote you make.
2. Members of the two leading parties independently read each ballot and mark each vote in a unique color. They keep a running tally.
3. Disputed votes are arbitrated by a non-partisan election official.
4. The election authorities count the votes. Discrepancies with the partisan ballot readers are reviewed.
5. All paper ballots are kept for the duration of the office holders elected through the ballot, in case later questions arise.

This doesn't address how you know that the rolls are valid or that individual voters are legitimate, but those are problems for another day. Also for another day is how to prevent vote prevention.

[Oops, edited the following into the middle of my post by mistake: LF, that's a good use of technology, to let the machine facilitate, but not be the database of record.]

[ November 07, 2006, 11:46 AM: Message edited by: DaveS ]

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javelin
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Hey DaveS - why not also tally with the machine?

Basically, we got three counts:

1. Machine
2. Party 1
3. Party 2

Any disputes, between ANY of the three, can be reviewed by a three man (or five, or whatever) panel.

How's that sound?

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DaveS
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Sure, if it's coupled with LF's suggestion so that the paper ballot is the ballot of record. My second choice is to bring back the old mechanical voting booths, which are definitely hard to hack (especially by computer geeks, who don't get levers and such [Smile] ).
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javelin
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I agree - keep the paper as the ballot of record - absolutely. Only way it would work.
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Kent
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I voted, and the paper receipt was printed and in view to me after I clicked "finished", underneath a plastic see through window. I had the opportunity to cancel out my vote and redo it (based, I presume, on the accuracy of the paper receipt) or to accept it. I'm more worried about somebody hacking my bank account than voting software.
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flydye45
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"My second choice is to bring back the old mechanical voting booths, which are definitely hard to hack "

I don't know. Daley never had a problem...

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FiredrakeRAGE
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Flydye -

I think that some states require that the machines have paper trails. Some do not. The major question that always comes to my mind is why -not- include a paper trail?

In your case, it appears that the machines did have a paper trail and were significantly easier to use than a standard voting machine. Good for your State (Florida?)

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javelin
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This MAY be an accurate portrayal of which require paper trails, and which don't.

Look for the map (scroll down)

EDIT TO ADD: More Info (same site)

[ November 07, 2006, 04:42 PM: Message edited by: javelin ]

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philnotfil
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quote:
Originally posted by kenmeer livermaile:
It can be done. My email does what it's supposed to everytime, and when it doesn't, it lets me know about it.

Hey, I need me some of that. My email has been clipping off incoming attachments without telling me.

To get us on topic, um, electronic voting still has enough issues to get worked out that we shouldn't be using it yet?

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javelin
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quote:
To get us on topic, um, electronic voting still has enough issues to get worked out that we shouldn't be using it yet?
That might be able to be said about "voting" and/or "democracy"...
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Dave at Work
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quote:
My second choice is to bring back the old mechanical voting booths, which are definitely hard to hack
I voted on one of those in my first election (1988) in Ames Iowa. I honestly don't think it would be all that difficult for a mechanically inclined individual to mess with the guts in order to record votes on a particular machine differently from how the voter intended them to be recorded. From the users perspective he only sees a series of levers along with candidates names, everything else is behind the scenes, and unless the voter could decipher which hole was for which candidate on the card he wouldn't know from looking at it that the vote was not what what he intended. I also recall that there was a master lever that a voter could use that would vote for all candidates of a particular party.

Good ridence to bad voting technology in this case.

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velcro
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On the mechanical voting machine, I am sure it could be hacked, but it would take disassembling the machine and changing a significant number of parts, which would leave evidence of tampering.

Technology review shows how to hack an electronic voting machine in a matter of minutes, with no trace.

Paper receipts are great, if you go back and check them. If a hack makes the vote just uneven enough that no recount is called for (maybe 2% margin), you may never know. A candidate would have to get permission to recount outside of the election process, which could be tough. By that time the election results will have been certified, and I am not sure what recourse there would be for the loser.

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The Drake
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Utah had mixed results with voting machines. On the one hand, I was very happy with the printed tally (viewable through a window) and something like 10% of precincts will be audited at random. Also, these receipts are definitive for recount purposes.

On the other had, all of Utah county could not vote this AM because of botched preparation or training.

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Ben
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Washington County in southwest Utah, didn't have any problems with voting personally with pretty much same experience as fly, though there was that gotcha party name I posted on previously going by the name Personal Choice Party... (see other thread I put on that) I think there was only one candidate for that party here though out of all the offices available to vote on here. I did at first choose the Personal Choice Party straight ticket but figured it out and changed the selection. Just my personal experience
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Colin JM0397
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I'll try this again:
1hr 20min HBO (ie not from wacky conspiracy.com) video: Hacking Democracy

Most interesting is the final 10 min where they use the actual voting machines and tabulation scanners to log a little vote. They insert some code into the vote-tally removable drive thing - which Diebold claims carry no code, but these folks claim it does, and get a completely rigged vote total. The only way to verify would be a physical recount of the ballots that were scanned. However, they also show how that can be rigged also by selecting a "sample count" that matches the fraudulent results. As long as the full recount trigger isn’t tripped, there’s no justification to call for one.

It thoroughly explains how Gore received a negative total in one area in FL in 2000.

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flydye45
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If algore got a negative vote in a district, do you not think the NYT, the LAT, the WaPo etc would be all over it?

MoveON.

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Ivan
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I was a poll worker this year in my home town of Gainesville, FL. I was the "TSX Operator", the person in charge of the one Diebold machine (reserved for handicapped voters who needed to vote aurally or with large-type for individuals with poor eyesight). While no one used the machine in my precinct, anyone could have. The way the machine we had worked was it would record the vote electronically and store it in its memory. At the close of the polls, a recepit would be printed out (an electronic version of the results was also sent in via modem) showing the number of votes for each candidate and on each issue, as well as the total number of individuals who voted. So there was no "paper trail" per se for each individual, although there was a printout for each machine. I would rather see each individual recieve a printout which could then be scanned and stored in a different machine.

Anyhow, things largely went off without a hitch, except at the end of the day, there were 3 more ballots voted than "should" have been issued. I am completely confident that this was an issue of bookkeeping errors rather than people voting who should not have. With all the people who come in without having registered, etc., I don't think it's unreasonable to think that someone was given a ballot and someone forgot to have them sign something.

With that said, those three ballots are nearly .5% of the total cast, which could theoretically be a problem if any of the elections had been very close.

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kenmeer livermaile
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"If algore got a negative vote in a district, do you not think the NYT, the LAT, the WaPo etc would be all over it? MoveON."

Those unreliable rags? I despise the 'if that happened, the press would be all over it' argument. It is too often followed the next day by the same person with an argument based on how unreliable and biased (either way, take your pick, Fox or CNN) the press is. The latter argument can be easily supported with recent, verifiable, historical examples. The former is just a convenient canard.

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canadian
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quote:
The former is just a convenient canard.
I resemble that remark...
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kenmeer livermaile
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YOur last name wouldn't be 'Ian', eh?
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Colin JM0397
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On the paper print outs, if you watch the special you'll see them going to a precinct in FL in Nov 2004 and getting those receipts through freedom of info act requests.

The election folks print out fresh new receipts, which are not the print outs they asked for - they are supposed to get the actual certified on the election day print outs. Low and behold they find several of them in the trash - a violation of federal law - and those "official" receipts don't match the fresh printouts they were given.

Now is this just simple negligence from low paid county election board workers? Highly likely. However, there are tally printouts from election day that appear to not match the final results reported up... And there's no way to verify the actual electronic votes, so what are we supposed to think?

While it's just as easy, it seems, to rig the scanning machines, at least there's a paper ballot that can be recounted.

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velcro
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fly wrote

quote:
If algore got a negative vote in a district, do you not think the NYT, the LAT, the WaPo etc would be all over it?
Well, the Washington Post was.

Washington Post

They caught the error, which is why there was no huge uproar. But if it had been in a district with more than 600 people, say a few thousand, and the error was only 700, nobody would have caught it. How much did Bush win by, about 600? [Smile]

Edited to take out snide remark.

[ November 12, 2006, 05:51 PM: Message edited by: velcro ]

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kenmeer livermaile
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Shoulda kept it in. I like snide remarks when they appear to stand on solid footing.
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