Whatever Kind Of Computers The Maryland Elections Board Has, We Want Them

from the fantasy-land dept

Following the story that came out last night over the battle in Maryland on whether or not to scrap Diebold e-voting machines in the state, a columnist for the Washington Post decided to dig into the issue a bit. He noted that computers don't always work right, and perhaps the state rushed into using e-voting machines. So, he asked the state's elections administrator (who wants to keep the machines) that question and had one of the more amusing (or depressing) exchanges on this topic that we've seen:
Doesn't the computer at your desk ever freeze up on you?

"No," she replied.

Never?

"No."

But surely people in your office have had that experience?

"No."

(Maybe we've found the solution to Maryland's voting problem: Everybody head on down to Linda Lamone's office, where the machines work 100 percent of the time.)
There are plenty of reasons someone could bring up why it might make sense to keep these machines (going back to paper ballots could be just as bad, there's not enough time, it'll create a mess that makes things worse at this point, etc., etc., etc.). However, to complain that computers simply never have problems, so there's nothing to worry about doesn't seem to be helping anyone. Unfortunately, this is becoming a political issue, rather than an issue about coming up with the best possible solution for fair and accurate elections. If people can't even be honest about the little things, how are we ever going to decide the big things?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Chris Maresca, Sep 21st, 2006 @ 6:17pm

    That's because...

    ... she doesn't use a computer....

    ;-)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Sean, Sep 21st, 2006 @ 6:35pm

    She is obviously incompetent

    like most of these people in charge of decision making, management, oversight, auditing, accountability, etc. etc.

    The fact is, since it's not a 'right' to vote, they can basically do whatever they choose, whether the people agree or not.

    Why don't we allow citizens to vote on whether or not our government should use these machines?

    Why don't we allow our citizens to vote on laws that pass in the senate?

    Why do we allow lobbyism to control our politicians/government?

    Are we going to wait for China to rise and overthrow our government and turn America into a communist paradise?

    Is that what it will take before people stand-up and reform (err, re-allign) this system so that it actually is a democracy that represents the interest of the people (instead of the lobbyists who control it all)?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Sanguine Dream, Sep 21st, 2006 @ 6:48pm

    I'm scared!

    I work in IT and if these computers get out into the open myself and countless others will be out of jobs. Think of the children!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Lonny Paul, Sep 21st, 2006 @ 7:11pm

    They need competency tests....

    How about people get a voting card that works on the ATM network and people just go and vote.

    They always work.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    john, Sep 21st, 2006 @ 7:18pm

    well now

    Never crashes? Ever? I think they are all using etch-a-sketches. Or Speak and Spells.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    joyce, Sep 21st, 2006 @ 7:33pm

    Maryland elections run by Temps hired off Monster

    My hair is on fire - pay attention - the "technical support" for Maryland elections does not consist of factory trained Diebold employees -to assist with Diebold machines.

    Maryland Election Rovers, in many cases, were hired off the streets with a minimum of "Some High School Coursework".

    They are hired by a temp agency off of www.Monster.com

    Someone should ask
    Why didn't the job require computer experience?
    How much was each county charged for these "Rovers".
    Was it $1,000 per day? Less, or More? (Often Diebold charges huge prices for election support).
    Did these folks pass a background check?

    Here are the job openings (in MD) I found when I went to www.monster.com and typed in "election" in the job search box:

    Aug 23 EXTRA $$ working on elections!
    PDS Technical Services US-MD-Columbia Save to job file
    Aug 23 EXTRA $$ working on elections!
    PDS Technical Services US-MD-Prince George's County Save to job file
    Aug 23 EXTRA $$ working on elections!
    PDS Technical Services US-MD-Salisbury Save to job file

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    The Penguin, Sep 21st, 2006 @ 7:51pm

    Even I have my bad days . . .

    Wait a minute. I really think Ms. Lamone's observations must be accurate. If the screen appears as it always does, it must be working as well as it ever did!

    Now, if she just turned the on/off switch to the "on" position . . .

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2006 @ 8:32pm

    Re: She is obviously incompetent

    When I need to link someone to an example of the word 'hyperbole' and 'ignorance of representative government', then I'll send them to your post. Thanks for the post!

    To truly refute your ignorance though...

    1) If you are a citizen, then you have every right to vote. If not, then you haven't tried hard enough or broke the law and have had it removed. In either event, though luck.

    2) Citizens time is spent far more efficiently specializing on what ever societal function they perform: quality control in manufacturing, accounting, food preparation, sales, etc. Taking time to educate themselves on every tiny issue in which governments must make decisions upon,well, first of all, would never happen, and second of all, would consume their every waking minute.

    3) Relating to the above, its more efficient to elect people to specialize in government and represent our views so that they instead can go forth, learn the issues at hand, weigh them, and make decisions in accordance with the peoples values whom elected him. The problem currently is, their loyalties are split between radicals and lobbyists.

    4) Solutions to get people to care would fill a library; impossible, I think, to guess what would motivate our current culture, but instilling civic duty at an early age would create future generations that'd participate.

    5) The concept of a flat tax, or a 'fair tax' as Neil Boortz calls it, would effectively eliminate lobbyists to a large degree. At least, they'd no longer be looking for tax breaks as there would be none to be had! Campaign finance reform where politicians receive no donations but instead get government-paid for debate time on TV and several columns in local papers would entirely eliminate the power of the lobbyists.

    6) China will never overthrow anybody, you ignorant war-hawk. They're becoming every bit as capitalist as we are and war, especially regime change, is extremely bad for business. Possible exception: Taiwan, but I'd bet the ranch it never escalates beyond screaming. They'd move to attack, we'd move to defend, they'd arm their nukes, we'd remind them we have a thousand for every one of theirs, and everybody would be on edge for a few years.

    Try again after studying history, a touch of economics, and getting a small measure of common sense and independent thought. You draw the same conclusions I'd expect from a 12 year old who fails tests like my state (Florida) FCAT test because they can't think critically, synthesize information or deduce anything not explicitly written out or something beyond what the author *wanted* them to think.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    ?, Sep 21st, 2006 @ 8:42pm

    Re: That's because...

    Maybe she thinks that "freezing" is getting cold. Maybe she thinks that her computer never gets cold.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    BeerNutz, Sep 21st, 2006 @ 9:50pm

    Properly set up,office computers do NOT have to fr

    Since windows 2000 and XP I have seen desktop machines run without a crash ever. I am serious here. I have boxes that I develop on that have uptimes of 2 or 3 months, and only reboot for patches. I have not had a box crash on me while developing in years.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Valhalla Rising, Sep 21st, 2006 @ 9:53pm

    Would`nt it be nice

    It would be nice if we had a more reliable way of dealing with politicians who refuse to do as the people of their jurisdiction want. If they choose lobbyists or fanatics over the people boot them and promote the next in line. With actual enforcible consequenses these politicians may remember the part about "By the People, For the People" rather than by the powerful for the powerful. Most politicians seem to know what the outcome will be before the machines are warmed up, heck some even made acurate predictions days before the voting started.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    BeerNutz, Sep 21st, 2006 @ 10:03pm

    Re: Re: She is obviously incompetent

    I mostly agree with you except for point 6. The problem with war is that it IS good for business. Just look at all the money that the government is spending during wartime. Reconstruction contracts always seem to find their way to the same fat cat bloody Haliburton's of the world. We come in, bomb everyone to death, take what we want, (oil, land, wehtever you have) then charge you to "rebuild" your country. And all this happens AFTER the military "LOOSES" over 1 TRILLION dollars.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 21st, 2006 @ 11:02pm

    deny everything

    she didn't have a clue, and even if she was more computer literate than Torvalds or any other big name in computing, being a politician, she would deny it either way.

    saying yes would indicate a weakness or deficiancy in their local govt, so as most politicians would do - deny it all. the bad thing here is, whether its true or not, when a govt official denies things like that with like 5 consecutive "no's" right away combined with that we all have come to expect for politicians to lie, says that yes, their computers crash all the time, and most likely every half hour or so...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Festerius, Sep 21st, 2006 @ 11:08pm

    Computer that never freezes

    I had a compaq deskpro with windows 3.11 that operated with out error, freeze, blue screen, or any other issues for 10 years before the onboard video card went out.

    If you don't install a bunch of software or additional hardware on a machine you will be amazed on its stability. Most problems with computers is conflicts between device drivers or bad memory chips. I've run many machines for years that never had any errors or freezes.

    PS: My current computer crashes daily, if not hourly. It seems the more 'advanced' our computers get, the more issues come up.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Sohrab, Sep 22nd, 2006 @ 1:01am

    Maybe she uses a Mac. Hay0!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Jesse McNelis, Sep 22nd, 2006 @ 2:04am

    are they using linux?

    Are they using GNULinux?
    Maybe she hasn't been working there for very long?
    My system was running without issue for 132 days until I reset it yesterday for a kernel update.

    Ruling out hardware failing, a desktop office computer should run fairly indefinitly as long as the user doesn't have root prilivledges and changes aren't made.

    - Jesse McNelis

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Dosquatch, Sep 22nd, 2006 @ 5:02am

    rethinking the issue

    OK, it was stupid statement, and normally I'd be as inclined to rip on her as anyone else, but instead what I really want to do is rethink the whole eVoting issue.

    In light of all of the issues with the machines on the market, has anyone stopped to think that, maybe, we're making things more complicated than they need to be? Not about evoting, but about how the machines themselves are designed?

    I have a PC on my desk running MS Windows XP. Compared to other computers & versions of windows, it is remarkably stable... but it does still crash from time to time. Even if it doesn't crash completely, it gets flakey from time to time. It gets me through the day, but it certainly is not suitable for use in a zero-failure situation like voting.

    Right next to that computer, I have a calculator. It has a keypad, a display, a printed circuit board and a processor. It is a small, single purpose computer. It has never crashed. It has never flaked out. It "Just Works", the holy grail of testaments. I have a digital watch. Same thing.

    Why? Because they are simple devices. They are meant to do one thing, and do it well.

    My question, then, is why aren't evoting machines designed more like simple comodity devices? I'm not suggesting that we run the next election on a pocket calculator... or maybe I am. In a sense, anyway. If all of the eye candy and extra BS were done away with, how difficult is it, really, to maintain a half dozen increment variables?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Philip Shropshire, Sep 22nd, 2006 @ 8:01am

    On the mess of paper ballots...

    Actually, Germany uses a paper ballot system. It works great and no one complains that the vote has been hacked. I guess the secret is that everybody watches the count and sees the evidence. As opposed to the proprietary black box system we're using now...

    Philip Shropshire
    www.threeriversonline.com

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    chris (profile), Sep 22nd, 2006 @ 8:06am

    Re: She is obviously incompetent

    someone else already said a bunch about this, but here is a simpler response:

    Why don't we allow citizens to vote on whether or not our government should use these machines?
    cuz no resonable person would vote to allow these machines.

    Why don't we allow our citizens to vote on laws that pass in the senate?
    cuz it would cost the lobbyists way too much to buy all of our votes. congress is a much smaller wishingwell to throw money into.

    Why do we allow lobbyism to control our politicians/government?
    cuz money makes the US run. unless you can afford to get elected, without taking contributions from interested parties, you're going have to sell out quite a bit to get into office.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Robert Wilson, Sep 22nd, 2006 @ 9:29am

    Properly Set Up Computers

    This sounds like a case of restrictions on the use of the computers being severe that no one can get the program they need or do any actual computing on the machines, consequently no operational crashes. I have experienced networks like this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Reed, Sep 22nd, 2006 @ 9:36am

    Nice textbook examples, but we need more

    1) If you are a citizen, then you have every right to vote. If not, then you haven't tried hard enough or broke the law and have had it removed. In either event, though luck.

    True enough, but after the 2002 elections in Florida we see huge amounts of legal voters' votes ignored (Well over 100,000 people if I remember correctly). Simply put, it isn't that black and white. Wether or not you believe in voter fraud, it takes place all the time. Kind of hard to vote when your vote really doesn't count...

    4) Solutions to get people to care would fill a library; impossible, I think, to guess what would motivate our current culture, but instilling civic duty at an early age would create future generations that'd participate.

    Sounds like we need to bring back the Nazi! They knew how to indoctrinate their young and make them fight! Seriously though, how would you propose to do this?

    "The concept of a flat tax, or a 'fair tax' as Neil Boortz calls it, would effectively eliminate lobbyists to a large degree. At least, they'd no longer be looking for tax breaks as there would be none to be had! Campaign finance reform where politicians receive no donations but instead get government-paid for debate time on TV and several columns in local papers would entirely eliminate the power of the lobbyists."

    Sounds like some good ideas here, but as long as money talks and bull$hit walks I thinking your legs are going to get sore. Campaign reform along with elimination of the party system would go a long ways in my opinion, trouble is even if you could get a movement started by the end it would be just as bad as our current system. The problem in my opinion has always been concentration of power, take that away and then changes could start happening. I doubt though the Judicial Branch of our government (The only part that could actually make these changes) will be doing anything that outrageous anytime soon .

    "You draw the same conclusions I'd expect from a 12 year old who fails tests like my state (Florida) FCAT test because they can't think critically, synthesize information or deduce anything not explicitly written out or something beyond what the author *wanted* them to think."

    I think your hitting the nail with the hammer here. I have yet to see a school system in the US actually get people to think critically. Sure they talk about it all the time, but there still is only ONE right answer on the test. If we really taught people how to think perhaps we could evetually examine politics for what they really are, a bunch of rich shepards herding the flock.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    identicon
    Ken, Sep 22nd, 2006 @ 10:52am

    Re: She is obviously incompetent

    Our system of government is a republic, not a democracy. That is why the people don't vote on any of the laws that pass the senate. If you don't like the way your guy is voting, make enough noise about it so he doesn't get re-elected.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    aReader(), Sep 22nd, 2006 @ 1:08pm

    Re: That's because...

    may be they use Linux.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This