by Joseph Weisenthal

Botched Election Result Highlights Importance Of Paper Trail

from the democracy-is-a-big-one dept

The results of a recent school district election were overturned in Keene, N.H., when it was discovered that misprogrammed ballot-counting machines improperly threw out several votes. The problem stemmed from the fact that voters could vote for more than one candidate, but the machine was programmed to throw out any multiple votes. This highlights the importance of having a paper trail, either ballots or a printed out vote record, which e-Voting machines, like those from Diebold, don't have. Computers are generally great for producing quick and accurate results, but in the event of a glitch, humans should be able to do a recount. Unfortunately, the e-voting machine makers seems more interested in battling the states and ignoring criticism, than in learning from instances like these, and making their products better.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Luci Fox, Mar 24th, 2006 @ 7:07pm

    Diebold machines

    While it is true that most Diebold machines do not have a paper trail, it is not true that NONE of them have such. The machines used in my area of Ohio printed out a ballot card that was then fed into a counter that stored them after inputting your choices. The problem being that these are the exception, not the rule. Diebold needs to get in line, here, and make that a standard feature, or we need to stop using their machines. Then comes the problem of the 'lowest bidder.' Munincipal contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder, disregarding completely any additional safety features that are incorporated. This is also why a lot of our roads break down long before they really should.

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

  2. identicon
    dan, Mar 24th, 2006 @ 8:19pm

    You should check out the Fiasco in Cook County, IL. I don't know
    if it is Diabold machines here because I didn't bother voting for
    either one of the two corrupt jerks running, but it felt like bush
    vs gore all over again -except with an electronic mess.

    There is a good open source voting system out there. I don't see
    why they don't just use that, afterall it is free... ahh, one must
    love politics. Diabold has some very good friends =x

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

  3. identicon
    eskayp, Mar 24th, 2006 @ 11:16pm

    Re: Diebold machines

    Depending on what level of government, and in which state,
    lowball (below cost) bids can be tossed out by the governing agency.
    This thwarts bidders who try to 'buy' their way in, figuring to make a big profit later in the project with 'change orders' and 'cost plus' items.
    Our city government has rejected bids that came in unrealistically below costs estimated by our in-house engineers, or below current competetive market rates.
    If the bidder is willing to supply goods or services at a loss, something stinks or he/she is estimating costs erroneously.
    The trick is to write specifications that prevent buying a pig in a poke.
    There may be jurisdictions that are locked into blindly accepting the 'lowest bidder', but here in northern Idaho the catchphrase is 'lowest and best'.

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

  4. identicon
    bill, Mar 25th, 2006 @ 5:04am

    they wanna CHEAT

    Diebold is very strongly tied to the republican party, and the republicans can't win without cheating (see the last two elections, please) so that's why there's no paper trail.

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

  5. identicon
    Elbert, Mar 25th, 2006 @ 7:00am

    Re: they wanna CHEAT

    Everyone knows that Democrats are professionals when it comes to fixing elections, whether it's a electronic or paper ballot. Their just weren't enough dead people that would cast their votes for Democrats this time around.

    This thread should be dropped because it is a bit off topic.

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

  6. identicon
    eric, Mar 25th, 2006 @ 7:00am


    There were actually quite a few races that were very close, and between a party-stooge, and a fairly untainted one.

    Anyway, back OT, the Cook / Chicago voting issues were partially resolved because we have a paper trail. It took longer, but votes could be manually recounted from the touch screens (which they were). It was their primary counts that had issues though, delaying everything.

    The really corrupt part w/ this one wasn’t these machines so much as the questionability of the voters themselves. There were abnormally high voter turn-out (80%+) in areas considered the stronghold for one candidate. When I voted, they never even asked for ID. As much as I dislike Diebold, this election was screwed by classic Chicago-voting (Vote early, Vote often).

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

  7. identicon
    JR Browning, Mar 25th, 2006 @ 8:08am


    The trick is to write specifications that prevent buying a pig in a poke.

    Therein lies a bit of the problem IMHO . . .
    The ability of a 'ruling party' (all parties are corrupt at times) to write specs often allow them to circumvent specific requirements like a paper trail, then exploit the situation.

    An example is a local govt employee heading a team of workers was asked to submit specs for their replacement utility trucks. He wanted a particular brand because of their trim level, seating, cab ergonomics etc. He was told he couldn't specify a brand. So he dug into the info of the brand he wanted, and wrote the specifications based on criteria only that model could satisfy like front axle carrying capacity, rotor dimensions, HP and torque thresholds, etc. He got the exact trucks he wanted . . .

    The same actions can be used to exploit any advantage.

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

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 25th, 2006 @ 8:15am

    Re: Re: they wanna CHEAT

    Take a good look at the republicans, and then tell me it`s the democrats that cheat. I was a republican for 42 years, but not anymore. I might not be well educated, but i`m not totally ignorant either.

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

  9. identicon
    The Truth Beacon, Mar 25th, 2006 @ 9:39am

    RE: they wanna CHEAT

    For those of you who think that Diebold or the Republicans are specifically and especially tied to each other, or are specifically susceptible to cheating, you have no place spouting your rhetoric in a place such as TechDirt. The other person who said that the Democrats are more prone to cheat is also very wrong. Regardless of your skewed views, the decision to cheat for a certain slant relies on the person. This last presidential election I was very surprised when I went to vote and found that my votes had already been cast; and after nearly 6 months dealing with the DA, I finally found that my votes had been cast Democratic. During my battle though, I had met up with a programming (now friend) whose vote had been cast Republican against his will. The only difference that we could come up with is that the area I am in is predominately radical liberal, and his area is predominately party Republican.

    As to the person who mentioned the Diebold machine which prints your ballot for a paper trail, you are quite right. At that, every Diebold machine has the ability to print ballots, but (according to my brother-in-law who happens to be in charge of the voting division of a large and important city’s government) the districts will often disable this feature so they can save on space used for archiving and so they can save on volunteer labor.

    Additional information which might be helpful for you all to know, is that Diebold did not create, nor do they maintain the back-end communications protocols that the voting system uses. That was actually handled by the city of San Franicsco so that there would be direct governmental control over the security of the system. However, having been involved with the QC on that code, I can tell you that not only is that more likely to be skewed (one of the comment lines read “’Hope this helps ditch the ignorant republitools, LOL” followed by another line reading “’too bad we can’t make this system cast the right votes”) than the Diebold code. I can tell you that what I monitored didn’t affect the votes, but I only got to see the packeting module.

    The bottom line is that no matter how you prefer the election to turn out, there will always be too many variables involved with the process to make any form of vote have the amount of credibility we expect. It is not humanly possible, because there are extremists on all sides – Republican, Democrat, Conservative and even Libertarian. As a side note, for those of you who will read this and think that the last four divisions are only two, you are dead wrong. I know Libertarians who are far different from Demo’s and as a hard Conservative, I can assure you that party loving Republicans irk me almost as much as we right-side thinkers irritate the lefties of this country.

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

  10. identicon
    Paul, Mar 25th, 2006 @ 12:30pm

    It is important to note that this error occured in a conventional paper ballot counting machine, for all those who oppose diebold and say the current system is flawless

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

  11. identicon
    Steve, Mar 25th, 2006 @ 3:25pm

    Electronic Voting and paper backups

    Enough with partisan finger pointing!
    There are crooks in both parties, and as citizens, we need to protect ourselves from vote fraud from all quarters.
    Elections are so important to democracy that all measures to assure honesty and security need to be implemented.
    That means a paper backup which can prove whether or not an election has been compromised.

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

  12. identicon
    dopedan, Mar 25th, 2006 @ 8:52pm

    amateur programming

    Rather than completely erasing those "invalid" votes from the database, a flag should have been added to it indicating that the particular entry should not be counted towards the toatal... that way, the original votes are preserved and bush doesn't win ;)

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

  13. identicon
    Jim, Mar 26th, 2006 @ 8:38am

    Re: Re:

    As an election judge in cook county I was glad to see we were using a machine that produces a paper trail. While not all the machines were working 100% most were or were fixed fast. One of the machines was down in my polling place and we reverted to paper ballots while we waited for the repairman. Paper ballots are an option for everyone. You have a choice in cook county of using the electronic touch screen or a paper ballot that is then scanned.
    What I disagree with is that an id is required. Your signature is your id if you are registered. You have to sign the voters application. You signature is then compared to one on file. The election judge at any time can ask for ID to double check who you are. In fact if you are not an active voter the application will tell the judge that 2 ID's are required.
    Also I can remember most of the 100 or so people who voted. While it is sad that in an area with 500 voters only 100 voted. If someone came back with a different name they would be arrested.

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

  14. identicon
    Righteous Indignation, Mar 26th, 2006 @ 9:23am

    Mike should be in marketing

    While I'm sure there are very real problems with e-voting machines and many of the "facts" that we are reading about in these commentary inflammatory posts are true, they are also that, inflammatory.

    The numerous of Diabold posts that Mike has made regarding Diabolds "evil ways" (most of which he wrote himself with nary a link to a real outside reputable source) just goes to show how the Internet can be used as a marketing campaign to fuel your own personal vendettas, views or political asperations.

    Mike, it's not necessary to create your own reality and try to hide the fact in linked posts. As an example, you say (and link "Threatening extoritionate prices" in the Diabold accused of skirting election law again" (nice title there) to another post that explains (yours as well, no external links?) that some unnamed employee suggesting (omg a suggestion, does that = threatening?) that they charge ridiculously high fees to do so"... which is linked to another blog (woa external) that is linked to these supposed internal emails... that frankly don't show jack shit about anyone trying to do anything extortionate. If I was Diabold I'd do the same thing if someone ordered voting machines with x set of capabilities and then after delivery tried to demand a set of changes that would require extensive software redesign, hardware modification and aquisition and purchasing of a "commercial grade, tamper resistant" external printer...which would have to be Diabold branded and pass through testing before delivery.

    Long and short of it is no one is perfect and Diabold might have been a bit vehement in protecting their interests, and they might even have executives who have certain political bents, I'd be shocked if they didn't. But that hardly makes them into the satan you try to paint with your web of mostly Mike posts.

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

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 26th, 2006 @ 9:43am

    Re: RE: they wanna CHEAT

    Thank you for pointing out something I was about to point out. Diebold's machines can print paper trails if the feature is enabled and it is the people who purchase them who make that decision, not Diebold.

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

  16. identicon
    The Truth Beacon, Mar 26th, 2006 @ 10:00am

    RE: ID Requirements

    I disagree completely with your challange to ID requirements. Where the frauds that I mentioned against myself and a collegue occured, there were no ID checks, and to my knowledge and research there has been no fraud in those counties which require ID. Sure it is a cumbersome process, but when your vote is cast contradictory to your will then you may validly complain about them requiring your ID.

    I believe that it should be a law to provide two or so forms of ID to help prevent fraud.

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

  17. identicon
    Michael Pate, Mar 26th, 2006 @ 12:51pm

    Punch Cards

    Here in Florida we used to use a voting method that involved punching holes in cards that were then counted by a mechanical machine. It always seemed to work very well to me, but for some reason, they made it illegal. Perhaps we could go back to that.

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

  18. identicon
    tvnetdude, Mar 26th, 2006 @ 5:56pm


    Why do people think that because a company makes a pretty good lock they should be trusted with voting machines?

    How is a computer based voting machine the equivalent to a pad lock?


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

  19. identicon
    Pete, Mar 26th, 2006 @ 10:52pm

    Re: Mike should be in marketing

    ok i know you dont agree w/ mikes portrayal of diebold and i really dont care one way or the other (it is after all a free country) of what you believe but you do realize that joe put this one out not mike? just wondering

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

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