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Texas E-Voting Machines Switching Votes For Non-Nefarious But Still Stupid Reasons

from the almost-competent-handling-of-the-democratic-process dept

For all the talk about election interference from nation-states, there’s been not nearly as much concern about devices themselves threatening the integrity of the voting system. E-voting machines have long been an insecure mess. On top of that, they’re prone to introducing errors — either through flaws in the devices themselves or by users who aren’t familiar with how they work.

The latter seems to be the issue in Texas, where voters have been complaining about their votes being switched. What sounds like just another crazy conspiracy theory may be nothing more than software not behaving the way people think it should behave.

Some Texas voters are complaining that machines flipped their straight-ticket selections to the other party in key races during early voting, especially the much-watched Senate battle between Republican Ted Cruz and Democrat Beto O’Rourke.

[…]

“The Hart eSlate machines are not malfunctioning, the problems being reported are a result of user error — usually voters hitting a button or using the selection wheel before the screen is finished rendering,” said Sam Taylor, spokesman for the office of Secretary of State Rolando Pablos, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

This appears to be happening only to voters voting straight-ticket. (Gross. — Ed.) The software apparently populates tickets slower than voters are expecting. Hitting “submit” before it’s ready to move forward causes problems with candidate selection. The Texas Republican Party is warning voters to be patient and double-check that all candidates have been selected before moving on. The same thing is happening to Democratic straight-ticket voters, causing them to “vote” for Ted Cruz if they aren’t careful.

This would be somewhat comical if there was any way for voters or election officials to track which votes may have been flipped. But there isn’t. The move to paperless voting has eliminated the backup system everyone looks to when things go wrong: the paper trail. The Hart eSlate machines produce no receipts, leaving it up to voters to catch errors before submitting their votes.

The Democratic Party is blaming the government for not doing more, which is a very Democratic Party thing to do. In this case, the Republicans are in control of the state and the Democratic Party has chosen to claim the Republicans don’t care enough about the problem. The state’s government has pointed out e-voting machines only need to comply with state laws, not actually be accurate and/or idiot-proof. It points to the voting machines’ certification — which last happened nearly a decade ago — as evidence that the bare minimum requirements have been met.

It’s a mess and it’s probably not going to be fixed anytime soon. The state says it’s up to the counties to replace voting machines they don’t like. Counties likely don’t have the funding to do so immediately and there’s no way any county is going to hotswap e-voting machines with an election already in progress. The problems of the 2018 election will be kicked down the road to 2020 where it’s likely the same fears of voting interference will be stoked while the faulty machines causing the problems remain in place.

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Comments on “Texas E-Voting Machines Switching Votes For Non-Nefarious But Still Stupid Reasons”

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94 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

'Eh, accurate voting isn't that important really.'

The Democratic Party is blaming the government for not doing more, which is a very Democratic Party thing to do. In this case, the Republicans are in control of the state and the Democratic Party has chosen to claim the Republicans don’t care enough about the problem.

Come now, that’s a bit hyperbolic isn’t it? I mean I’m sure they are taking the matter seriously and are deeply concerned that votes might end up going to the wrong people. It’s not like they’re going to just handwave something as large as bogus votes during an election or anything…

The state’s government has pointed out e-voting machines only need to comply with state laws, not actually be accurate and/or idiot-proof. It points to the voting machines’ certification — which last happened nearly a decade ago — as evidence that the bare minimum requirements have been met.

… huh. You know, they may be on to something in this case after all.

One does have to wonder if they’ll be singing the same tune should the democrat candidate win, or if suddenly potential ‘bogus’ votes will be of huge concern, leading to calls to redo the election.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 'Eh, accurate voting isn't that important really.'

I find Cushing allows his personal opinions to adversely affect the reporting of the information.

Opinion site. We’re an opinion site. The reason he writes for us is because we think his opinions are thoughtful and get people thinking. But if your complaint is that there are opinions in our writing… well, that’s going to remain the way Techdirt operates.

Ombudsman much?

Again, this is an opinion site. You are free to disagree with opinions. And you can present an argument about why you disagree with Tim’s opinions. You can do so in the comments or literally nearly anywhere else on the web. But merely complaining that you don’t like the articles doesn’t allow us to view your argument and understand what could be improved.

So… yeah.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: 'Eh, accurate voting isn't that important really.'

I like TD quite a bit. If I like a restaurant and one of my meals comes out and doesn’t taste good I will let them know. Maybe that is the way dish is supposed to taste and it is just a matter of preference or maybe the chef and messed up my order and multiple other orders but the manager thinks all the food tastes fine because no one complains and then wonders why no one eats at the restaurant any more.
(See detailed critique above).

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 'Eh, accurate voting isn't that important really.'

If I like a restaurant and one of my meals comes out and doesn’t taste good I will let them know.

And if you do so in the manner you’ve done here, odds are they and other diners are just going to ignore you as an overly picky eater.

‘It’s a bit too salty.’

‘It’s a bit too spicy.’

‘The flavors are kinda bland.’

All of those would be valid criticism in the restaurant example. ‘It’s bad’ would not be, as it’s utterly without any detail beyond that you in particular didn’t like it for whatever reason, and provides no avenue for rectifying the situation beyond blind guesses on their part if they feel like wasting time/food.

Similarly if you’re going to criticize the article and expect to be taken seriously you’ll need to list what you have a problem with specifically, not just make vague generalities like ‘He lets his feelings get in the way of proper reporting of the facts.’

If you’re going to say/imply that he got something wrong then it’s on you to list what specifically he got wrong and provide evidence that it is wrong, so that it can be corrected or at least so that other readers can know that it is wrong.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 'Eh, accurate voting isn't that important really.'

That is a valid criticism but since I posted as a reply to your reply I was assuming it would be understood that I was supporting your criticisms without being too wordy. Apparently not.
You want specifics? I don’t like this sentence without references. “The Democratic Party is blaming the government for not doing more, which is a very Democratic Party thing to do.”
How does this opinion relate uniquely to the story. As you said, if the tables were turned, I am sure the Republicans would complain, which is a very Republican thing to do, based on my viewing of Fox news anyway.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 'Eh, accurate voting isn't that important really.'

That is a valid criticism but since I posted as a reply to your reply I was assuming it would be understood that I was supporting your criticisms without being too wordy. Apparently not.

Yeah, afraid you completely lost me there. Support of which criticism of mine?

You want specifics? I don’t like this sentence without references. "The Democratic Party is blaming the government for not doing more, which is a very Democratic Party thing to do."

How does this opinion relate uniquely to the story. As you said, if the tables were turned, I am sure the Republicans would complain, which is a very Republican thing to do, based on my viewing of Fox news anyway.

I’d chalk that one up to a dig/opinion regarding the democratic party by the author, but at the same time because it isn’t really relevant to the story I don’t see any problem with it not being sourced, as a minor throwaway line like that isn’t really worth the effort and could distract from the main story. Were it important to the story I could see objections to it being unsourced, or if it was more than a throwaway, but as it is I’m not really seeing a problem with it, though I suppose I can see why you might have.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 'Eh, accurate voting isn't that important really.'

That is a valid criticism but since I posted as a reply to your reply I was assuming it would be understood that I was supporting your criticisms without being too wordy. Apparently not.

Hahahaha. Oh, I see. You totally misread That One Guy’s comment, which was obviously sarcastic, as being in earnest. That’s hilarious.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 'Eh, accurate voting isn't that important really.'

Well in my defense he didn’t use the /sarc tag.
so…yeah.
^^^^ I was being sarcastic, it is meant to be funny in case it was not very clear to everyone.

Maybe I misread the reply. I felt it was being critical of the Republicans (by sarcastically saying “I’m sure they are taking the matter seriously and are deeply concerned that votes might end up going to the wrong people”). Was I wrong to get this impression? I was annoyed by the unnecessary condescending remark critical of Democrats which I felt matched the tone of the reply.

Mike, I have been a non-financial supporter of TD for many many years. I understand that you receive a great deal of criticism from anons and trolls and your gut reaction is to return the attack.
I have contributed multiple comments that have been labeled as both insightful and funny. I have shared your site with multiple professionals including lawyers a c-suite occupants.
Your site’s information has helped shape my opinions on multiple topics and I appreciate that.
If I have future criticisms I will be attempt to be more articulate, but a more likely scenario is I will not share any feedback and not engage in conversations.
I realize I am just one irrelevant voice and this whole exercise is meaningless and a waste of time. Good night.

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: Re: Re:4 'Eh, accurate voting isn't that important really.'

Except local Republicans are telling people to take matters into their own hands and be careful about using these machines. They’re putting it on the individual and that’s a pretty stereotypical approach. Both reported approaches conform to usual stereotypes here.

All government activity is mired in red tape and tends to move at a slow crawl. So are highly regulated private companies.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 tl;dr

I like TD quite a bit. If I like a restaurant and one of my meals comes out and doesn’t taste good I will let them know.

And then what happens? You get a refund? I’m sure Techdirt would be happy to give you one.

Maybe that is the way dish is supposed to taste and it is just a matter of preference

In which case, maybe stop ordering that dish.

or maybe the chef and messed up my order and multiple other orders but the manager thinks all the food tastes fine because no one complains and then wonders why no one eats at the restaurant any more.

This article has 60 comments. I’d say the other diners are perfectly happy with their meals.

(See detailed critique above).

What detailed critique?

You wrote a post that read, in its entirety:

Why do I even bothering reading Cushing articles anymore.

That is not a detailed critique. It is not constructive. It does not explain what your objection to Cushing’s article was. It makes no argument. It’s merely a statement that you don’t like articles by Cushing. It does not explain why you don’t like articles by Cushing, or what conceivable reason anyone else might have to give a fuck what you think.

Constructive criticism is fine. It can lead to interesting discussions.

Just saying "I don’t like the guy who wrote this article!" is not constructive. Nobody cares whether or not some random anon liked the article or its author. If you’ve got something relevant to say, then say it; if you don’t have anything relevant to say, then be quiet and let the grownups talk.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 tl;dr

Thanks for your brilliant insights (which was a copy of what That One Guy said but with profanity. Way to have original thoughts. Try not to get too excited about the internet and anons that you don’t give a fuck about. I left a response while you were responding. Enjoy the reply above which I won’t repeat. But feel free to wait for That One Guy to post so you can have something intelligent to copy.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 'Eh, accurate voting isn't that important really.'

If I like a restaurant and one of my meals comes out and doesn’t taste good I will let them know.

You didn’t do that here. Instead, you came into our restaurant sighed super loudly about how awful it was and walked out. Can you see why people might not take that criticism/feedback as seriously as an actual explanation?

Bruce C. says:

Re: Re: 'Eh, accurate voting isn't that important really.'

Funny how voter fraud is a really big problem when it can be used to suppress the vote of certain groups, but not such a big problem when it’s the actual voting machines committing the fraud.

If the machines “respond slower than users expect”, that’s a machine defect, not a user error. If they can’t improve the performance, they need a “Loading..” screen that actually hides the sheet until it’s ready to display.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

We have devices in our pockets that can get us a 4 hour funny cat video in seconds…
Yet we can’t build a voting machine that finishes rendering before allowing the submit button to appear?

Each side is going to use this to cast blame on the other side & we’re still going to waste millions on the dumpster fire of e-voting while the ‘quirks’ of the system give rise to larger conspiracy theories.

Is it really that impossible to build a single voting device, using a common platform, subject to code & output auditing??

The market has no interest in building a better mousetrap, their shit machines have a nifty habit of being replaced every couple of scandals and they profit.

Perhaps allowing people to control a market with no downsides to bad behavior is a bad thing the government shoudl address… (See also: Skyrocketing price of insulin resulting in dead citizens not due to hardship in making… but because we allow them to literally tell diabetics your money your insurance money and anything you can borrow… or your life)

Ann Furiated says:

Re: Re:

It’s the same with electronic travel card topup machines. The displays are so slow that, because it appears they haven’t responded, you press the “button” again. Except the stupid freakin’ machine changes the menu option and responds to the “new” button press instead. Naturally it responds to this new completely unwanted selection instantly. And now you have to wait 30 seconds for the stupid thing to scroll up the other options, whereupon you stab at the display yet again, and the whole charade begins again.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Here’s your article: “Gab is neither guaranteed or owed access to financial services such as PayPal or the use of hosting companies’ servers. That they got kicked off is well within the rights of those companies to do. Whether you agree with the morals and ethics of what those companies did is your own gotdamn business.”

Bamboo Harvester (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Yet we can’t build a voting machine that finishes rendering before allowing the submit button to appear?”

The problem is deeper than that – it’s accepting multiple commands with each new command taking precedence over any previous command that hasn’t been finalized.

Simple to fix in the software – ignore commands while processing current command.

Hell, DOS did it – it’s why Ctrl-C was enabled. The machine was locked until the running command ended.

But not something that should have been “missed”. It’s shoddy work, no excuses should be accepted.

Whoever says:

Re: Re: Defaults to (R)?

The problem is deeper than that – it’s accepting multiple commands with each new command taking precedence over any previous command that hasn’t been finalized.

Why does it end up with the Republican candidate selected? Is this the default before the voter starts to select anything? If so, this is incredibly bad. There should be no default votes, no default selection, so waiting for rendering should not affect anything.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Defaults to (R)?

It doesn’t.

According to multiple articles I’ve read about this subject (including this one), when you choose to vote a straight ticket and manage to trigger this problem, it somehow checks the box for the Senate candidate from the other straight-ticket option – no matter which straight-ticket option you chose.

That is, triggering the problem while voting a straight Democratic ticket votes for Cruz rather than O’Rourke, and triggering it while voting a straight Republican ticket votes for O’Rourke rather than for Cruz.

How exactly the system might be managing to produce that result, I haven’t managed to develop a clue yet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yet we can’t build a voting machine that finishes rendering before allowing the submit button to appear?

To be fair, my iphone can load a funny cat video in seconds, but also can’t finish rendering prior to accepting new commands. Though in Apple’s case, it’s a deliberate design choice rather than apathy.

SirWired (profile) says:

Re: Better yet, skip the e-voting entirely

E-Voting is a solution in search of a problem. Paper ballots, while not completely idiot-proof, (the myriad ways in which people screw them up is astounding) DO have the advantage of being easily auditable.

A machine that fills out a scannable paper ballot would seem to be the best of both worlds. It gives both a way to check to see if your vote is recorded accurately, has an auditable paper record, while removing all the various ways people manage to fail to follow instructions with paper-only ballots. (And if the machine breaks down, or the voter is feeling paranoid, the old-fashioned way is still an option.)

Bamboo Harvester (profile) says:

It's not all that simple...

…Voting machines are paid for by each County. They aren’t cheap, and most Counties don’t put money aside for future upgrades.

Most of the towns around me still use the “booth” mechanicals bought back in the sixties.

The township I’m in used electronic voting machines a couple of cycles back. Which returned on the order of twice the number of votes actually cast. Thankfully, those machines did print a paper trail.

There was enough of an uproar over that to consign those machines to the dumpster. Punch cards for the ’16 election.

The more complicated the device the more points of probable (NOT “possible”) failure. It’s basic engineering.

Punch or checkmark cards are about as simple as you can get. Add in even an antique Scantron to count them, and you’ve created dozens of potential failure points.

Vote from a cellphone? With the number of middlemen between your phone and the final data collection point, plus the software to tally, software to verify ID, etc.? That’s asking for trouble.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: It's not all that simple...

Santa clara has a really simple paper system that is less prone to voting error as a punch card, that is intuitive to use, and requires no equipment other then bic pens and a privacy screen.

There are arrows pointing to your option, with the middle removed. fill the correct gap, and that is your vote.

I agree with your assessment of voting concerns. I have advocated for a e-voting system that just fills out a paper ballot for you. It would save space on the ballot (a lot of information could be presented simpler on the ballot), the actual vote is cast by turning in a paper ballot with a paper trail (so failure/hacking of the voting machine would be mitigated by checking your ballot), allow voter guide information to be displayed to the voter, and eliminate the ‘did they vote’ question that comes up with punch cards or check mark ballots occasionally, as it would create a clean ballot readable by both machines and humans.

Bamboo Harvester (profile) says:

Re: Re: It's not all that simple...

I’m all for paper ballots, no machines involved.

While your e-vote solution sounds good, there’s no way to tell if the machine is actually “counting” what the paper it spit out says it does.

What if the machine is set to “reverse” every prime-numbered (D) vote for Governor, resetting on every X total votes? But shows it on your printout AND on screen as (D), but advances the (R) counter instead?

Keep the machines out of it. Voting is IMPORTANT.

Paper ballots and each site telephones in their final counts, right up the ladder.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: It's not all that simple...

Bamboo, you mis my entire point – the machine you use to fill out your ballot does not count your vote.

Most paper ballot systems, punch card, check box, ect, still use a machine to count the vote. That is part of the issues behind the 2000 election issues – the machines needed a proper punch for the vote to count, and during the manual count people had to determine at what point does the punch count given ambiguities in the law. With proper auditing before and after there is no reason why machine counted ballots should be a concern. It has the same potentials for manipulation as a person counting the vote.

Also, you shouldn’t count votes on site – it allows poll workers to associate your vote and invites reprisals. You take the lock box with the vote off site, where they are tallied, and then use the phone to report in.

Bamboo Harvester (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It's not all that simple...

I was referring to the machine used to “count” your paper ballot.

Once the machines get involved, the probability for skullduggery skyrockets.

The 60’s era booths, all mechanical, are a lot harder to hack – unless someone swaps the paper ID strips over the levers around.

If you use a machine to print a paper ballot that will be machine read, the simplest way to do so is to barcode the printed slip instead of optically reading either the printed candidate names or the “checkmarks” next to them.

Now you’ve got to trust that the voting machine printed the correct barcode for your selections, AND that the counting machine is not only reading them correctly, but hasn’t been “fixed” to discard or swap selections.

As to shipping the tally boxes offsite for counting, Chicago proved decades ago how easy it is to swap those boxes with others containing the “correct” votes.

There’s no simple solution. But any method involving software should be suspect from the get-go.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 It's not all that simple...

Since you seam to continue to fail to understand how I expect this to be done, its more like the machine counted punch card systems developed in the 1960s to what you describe. I just note that those same systems failed in the 2000 election in Florida due to inconsistent use by the voters and punched cards being not easy for human eyes to read when recounting millions of votes – leading to the system being difficult for both humans and machines to read.

I remind you, I vote in a county with no machines the public accesses. My vote is done with nothing more than a paper and pen, a fully paper ballot. But I have physical limitations that make filling out that ballot difficult on presidential election years, when the list of offices tends to skyrocket both federally and locally.

A machine which generates my ballot in a human readable manner, much like the current designations, while also machine readable ala scantrons or hole punched ballots, with minimal if any software needed and auditability, would be incredibly beneficial.

Your instance that my stance is to just “trust” machines are doing correctly is completely inaccurate. I don’t want what the machine reads to be anything other than what I read. I want the machine to read that information the same way I do. Any other design is contrary to the whole point of the system. And that you assume I didn’t think about that, as well as insisting that we use a system that is proven to have major flaws in a close election, makes me wonder what you are advocating for.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 It's not all that simple...

I think you’re the one who’s not getting Bamboo’s point. You’re saying to use machines and software to read and count paper ballots. He’s saying even that is a bad idea, and there should be no software whatsoever in the counting process. Once election officials have a paper ballot, whether printed by a computer or filled out by hand, a human should read it and tally the vote. Once all votes at that location are tallied, a human should then phone another human to report the tally. That human adds the tally to all the other tallies reported to arrive at a final vote count without any help from computers.

You said “machine counted”, “machine readable”, and “what the machine reads” so unless I’ve badly misunderstood you, the above is contrary to your suggestion.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Actually, ATMs have a number of vulnerabilities. However, the financial losses are incurred by the bank, not the consumer. Its one of the reasons there used to be an ATM fee even if you used your own bank’s ATM. Thats why you don’t hear about them most of the time – the bank is taking the loss. And at this point the savings to the bank overcome the financial losses, so most banks are willing to waive ATM fees at your own bank, or even at any ATM.

ANY vulnerabilities are bad in voting machines, so you hear about them a lot. A hard to exploit ATM vulnerability is just something to factor into risk calculations.

Bamboo Harvester (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Probably not – ATM’s get hacked daily. They save the banks so much money that the losses are just absorbed and never mentioned, other than an obscure line item on the quarterly reports to the stockholders.

Ever get “surprised” with a new ATM card in the mail that you didn’t ask for? Or if you bank online, a sudden request to change your password?

Those aren’t because your card was hacked. It’s because the bank was hacked, and lost a ton of user info, including the “security codes” from the back of the cards.

John Roddy (profile) says:

Life-long Texas resident here, and an eligible active voter for over a decade. I’m quite familiar with these machines, and the punchline really is that they’re just slow.

And in Texas, under our reconstruction-era constitution that was passed in response to decades of corruption and paranoia, just about every government position you can think of is elected. Every single ballot has at least a few dozen different positions on it, and it gets so overcrowded that you can easily expect a few hundred different names to choose from in their respective positions. It’s a ginormic freaking mess in about every way imaginable.

Anon says:

Not a problem

I voted in TX last weekend… after you make your selections, a summary page is presented showing all your choices, you can go back and change any which are incorrect before hitting the final “submit vote” button.

this is not a problem if the voter has half an ounce of common sense and actually reviews their choices before submitting.

Just a case of people trying to make a story out of nothing; trying to find non-issues to be angry about.

David (profile) says:

A straight party ticket shouldn’t be allowed. You should have to vote for each candidate separately. Party affiliation and incumbent should not be shown either. If you don’t know enough about the candidates to know who you are going to vote for before you enter then you shouldn’t be voting. The only thing worse than a non voter is an uneducated voter.

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Little known fact, in a number of areas it’s actually illegal for straight party ticket buttons to auto-select local candidates. The machines force you to manually select all local candidates.

It’s a desperate way for local government officials to try and protect themselves in wave election years by hoping that voters for the other party won’t check to make sure that they selected candidates in local offices.

ShadowNinja (profile) says:

The state’s government has pointed out e-voting machines only need to comply with state laws, not actually be accurate and/or idiot-proof.

The state’s laws are seriously fucked up if voting machines don’t need to be accurate.

The move to paperless voting has eliminated the backup system everyone looks to when things go wrong: the paper trail. The Hart eSlate machines produce no receipts, leaving it up to voters to catch errors before submitting their votes.

This brings up another issue with electronic voting machines that’s often ignored. Electronic voting machines with no paper record are actually illegal in a number of states that they’re used in. They’re illegal because they don’t comply with the state’s recount laws for close elections (which typically happen automatically if the margin of victory is below 0.5%).

Yet those laws are not being enforced in many states.

David says:

A straight party ticket shouldn’t be allowed. You should have to vote for each candidate separately. Party affiliation and incumbent should not be shown either. If you don’t know enough about the candidates to know who you are going to vote for before you enter then you shouldn’t be voting. The only thing worse than a non voter is an uneducated voter.

JEDIDIAH says:

Re: Odd

Both positions can be handled the the rationale: If you can’t be bothered, then you don’t really care.

This goes both for standing in line at the DMV and proofreading your ballot before you submit it.

If you care enough about what’s going on beyond just bitching and moaning and playing victim, then the problem goes away.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: This most important

It’s a spambot, which tries to shield itself from automated spam filtering by reposting (parts of) other comments, and putting its spam link in the comment’s URL field.

If you see a comment whose name is a hyperlink – particularly if the hyperlink points to a URL which doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the contents of the comment and/or the topic of the article – and it’s not visibly from a commenter whose name you recognize, try searching the thread for a distinctive line from that comment. If you find that it appears at least twice, one of the two comments is almost certainly spam, and thus flag-worthy.

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