(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Mike Masnick

Why You Need Backup Systems For Voting: Something Will Go Wrong

from the again-and-again-and-again dept

The e-voting saga continues. One of the problems is that there are so many different ways things can go wrong with e-voting systems, that it's impossible to think of them all beforehand. That's why it's particularly ridiculous when the e-voting firms try to limit the type of testing that can be done on the machines. Yet, it seems like hardly an election goes by where some problems with the machines aren't reported. The latest is in Montgomery County, Maryland, where apparently someone forgot that the various e-voting machines in use require special voting cards. Without them, you can't vote... and many polling places opened up this morning without them. Now, obviously, this is a human error, not a technical one -- but it just highlights how many possible things can go wrong -- and the importance of a ready and available system for backups, no matter what happens when you're dealing with something like an election. The idea that nothing (on either the human or technical side) would go wrong is ridiculous -- but it's a view championed by the e-voting companies who don't like to admit that errors are possible, if not likely. Update: Avi Rubin, who has written about security issues with e-voting machines, and who also has volunteered in the past as an election judge did so again today. He's written up his account, and it lists many, many, many more problems with the e-voting equipment. Not only that, but he notes that the Diebold rep on site in case things went wrong was really just a contractor who had been hired the day before and knew nothing about the machines and was of no help at all. The only positive note in the piece is that many more voters complained about the use of e-voting machines.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Celes, Sep 12th, 2006 @ 4:13pm

    Ah, Montgomery County.

    Wow, THAT'S ironic. Montgomery County likes to think it's the best county in Maryland and has the most intelligent people. Oops...

    However, they did have paper ballots to use while the cards were in transit (although the poll workers should have been better informed - some turned people away). I'm sure it was hectic, but they did have and make use of a plan B.

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

  2. identicon
    E-voting for dummies, Sep 12th, 2006 @ 4:17pm


    E-voting.. what a crock.. i think its just that these companies are soo cocky into thinking that nothing will go wrong.
    Maybe it will hurt their investors if they admit paossible faults in the system. Bu tif they are privately owned company, then why wouldnt they want their voting machines to be 99% foolproof and backed up

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

  3. identicon
    Voting, Sep 12th, 2006 @ 4:55pm

    The problem is..

    Electronic voting systems are far too complex, the more complex you make something, the more opportunities there will be for something to go wrong or to be tampred with. The systems need to be greatly simplified..

    India uses a very very simple electronic device.. 380 million people voted on it.. and I do not know if it is foolproof, but it seems to have worked out pretty well

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

  4. identicon
    Ted Brown, Sep 12th, 2006 @ 5:00pm

    Who's looking for a solution?

    This is obviously a huge issue, so I was wondering if y'all know of companies looking to compete in this arena.

    Since you guys seem to hit similar things so often (voting, net neutrality, etc), could you maybe create a resource page for them? Or is that venturing into your paid services?

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

  5. identicon
    Haywood, Sep 12th, 2006 @ 5:01pm

    Re: The problem is..

    Anyone who thinks anything is foolproof, hasn't met a really dedicated fool.

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

  6. identicon
    Sean, Sep 12th, 2006 @ 5:11pm

    Voting in the digital age

    I think people with a stake in the election process take advantage of the fear people have of computers when they develop voting systems. They intentionally try to "black box" the process; meaning that it is not clear what happens in the box.

    I would like to see a system that allows me to go online after the election to make sure my choices were recorded correctly.

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

  7. identicon
    Sean, Sep 12th, 2006 @ 5:14pm

    On or Off Championed

    typo or incorrect word usage...

    -but it's a view OFT championed

    short for often, obviously

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

  8. icon
    Mike (profile), Sep 12th, 2006 @ 5:19pm

    Re: On or Off Championed

    typo or incorrect word usage...

    Just a typo. I had changed the sentence at the last minute. Fixed now... Thanks!

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

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2006 @ 5:33pm

    Why is it I have access to my bank over the net, but can't vote over the net ?

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

  10. identicon
    Mark, Sep 12th, 2006 @ 7:03pm


    Because Banks view you as a customer, and are looking to make your banking experience richer, keeping you as a customer.

    Government views you as a ?

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

  11. identicon
    Nobody, Sep 12th, 2006 @ 7:18pm

    Isnt it possible?

    Isnt It possible for these machines to be rigged? I mean there are a million different ways a hacker can interupt/view/change/delete the data on my computer. Let alone a simple "e-voting" machine. Isnt this a little insane? Maybe we should find a new system of media to do this with. I dont want a repeat of mr bush.

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

  12. identicon
    KL, Sep 12th, 2006 @ 9:56pm


    No, the real problem here is that for these companies there is no incentive to have systems that work right. Once a county, city or state puts in massive amounts of money to get these machines in they know full well that these same agencies will not throw the money away very easy. Add to this the reality that in the voting screwing up people are getting into office because of it and as such will they really make the change? We have a president that is in that exact position!

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

  13. identicon
    Sanguine Dream, Sep 13th, 2006 @ 5:59am

    Re: Re:

    I know! I know!

    A source of income?

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

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