Schwarzenegger Gets First Hand Lesson In E-Voting Problems

from the well-that-was-useful dept

It's been a while since we've had any e-voting stories, but with Tuesday's special election in California, you had to know something would turn up. While the state of California had talked about banning all e-voting machines until they were proven to be secure and possessed a verifiable paper trail, it appears they're still in use. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger learned a bit about the issue directly when he went to vote, and the machine told him he'd already voted. Turns out that in "testing" the machine last month, a voting official put in the Governor's name as a test, and so the machine assumed he had voted. Of course, given his position, he was able to get it sorted out, but you have to imagine that others might not have been so lucky. It also makes you wonder if the machines were still counting the same tallies from whatever this "test" was last month.

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  1. identicon
    Newob, 10 Nov 2005 @ 3:04am


    Human beings are strange animals. They can electronically reproduce sound and transfer it across the planet, but they can't figure out how to electronically count votes. How many megabytes are in a sound file, and how many votes could be counted if they were notes in a song? In a presidential election, the highest number of people possible of voting in the US is not 200 milllion, but a small collection of mp3s (say about 50 4-minute songs encoded at 128 kbps) will carry that many bytes easily. 200 megabyes is a drop in the bucket of peer-to-peer file sharing, and the same song can be copied over and over without any loss of information. In fact, the more copies of a song, the less possible that an incomplete or fake version of the song will be mistaken for it. We take for granted that robust decentralized information-sharing systems can indefinitely preseve information, but we store all our votes on single centralized computers, where simple errors can infect the whole count. We report the whole voting process from start to finish on TV like a sporting event, but leave the counting to official bodies that cannot be trusted to follow campaign finance laws; when it would be simple to allow anybody to download the votes and count them on their personal computers, or even their cell phones, where it would be easy to compare tallies with everybody else, and no play-by-play by the talking heads and pundits on TV would be necessary. Stupid humans.

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