When There Are So Many 'Human Errors' On Your E-Voting Machines, It's Your Problem

from the sequoia,-i'm-talking-to-you dept

Last week, we wrote about yet another problem with Sequoia e-voting equipment where the company was vehemently denying the problem was with the machines, even saying: "There's absolutely no problem with the machines in the polling places. No. No." Of course, this came right after a report revealing how easy it was to hack their machines, as well as numerous other problems with Sequoia machines. Yet the company consistently employs the same exact strategy: it couldn't possibly be the fault of the machines.

You may recall the story earlier this month about the Sequoia optical scanning machines in Palm Beach County that supposedly couldn't reach the same vote tally if different counting machines were used. At least that was the original claim -- but it was later changed when election officials admitted they had simply misplaced some ballots. Well, the latest report claims that the recount is now not showing lost ballots -- it's showing too many ballots. Fantastic. Election officials think they've traced the problem to the fact that some votes on Sequoia's e-voting machine cartridges weren't properly transferred, which kicks off Sequoia's standard PR response:
The company's representative, Phil Foster says "the cartridge is fine. Why it didn't read I do not know," suggesting another human error made on election night.
You know, when you keep saying that, and the problems keep occurring, at some point, people are going to stop believing you. Even if the problem really is human error every one of these times, people might begin to wonder why you don't design your systems to avoid such human errors.

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  • identicon
    Woadan, 16 Sep 2008 @ 12:16pm

    It sounds like Sequoia is not spending much time employing usability specialists in the design of their system. I don't mean, just in how the software itself is designed, but how the overall design for capturing votes in each machine, and then tabulating all the results.


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

  • identicon
    NeoConBushSupporter, 16 Sep 2008 @ 12:16pm

    In Reality

    I dont understand why we still let you people have the appearance of a vote.

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

  • identicon
    Chronno Trigger, 16 Sep 2008 @ 12:41pm

    User Error?

    If, due to user error, there are too many votes than I don't think that qualifies as user error.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous of Course, 16 Sep 2008 @ 12:51pm

    The human factor

    It's unlikely that a design team can imagine all
    of the stupid things that users will do. Some
    field testing followed by thoughful tweaking was
    in order, maybe a little follow-on engineering.

    In a rational world it would go something like
    this... "Yes, of course there are problems.
    There are always problems. We will fix them."

    The first step is admit there are problems.
    But Sequoia's stance makes that unlikely. So
    the problems will probably not be fixed by
    them without a little "inducement." By then
    their product will be so thoughly tarnished
    it will come to late.

    Just my best guess.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Sep 2008 @ 4:04pm

      Re: The human factor

      Yes there will always be errors but these errors are pretty damn easy to see and think could happen. People can't see EVERY error but those unforeseen errors should have a 1 in a million type chance of happening and something major like horrific vote counting and simple hacking like in the earlier article.

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

  • identicon
    Refuse the machine, 16 Sep 2008 @ 12:55pm

    Here is an idea. When you get to the polling station why not just demand a paper vote. They can't refuse your vote and if you don't feel comfortable with the machine they can't force you to use it. Use a write in if you have to ..

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Human Factors Guy, 16 Sep 2008 @ 1:03pm

    There will always be some human error rate using any product. The Florida punch cards (hanging chads anyone?) had about a 6% error rate.

    The articles listed about suggest a 1% or 3% error rate at the tallying point (depending on which link you follow). Then there must be some errors using the machine (I think I voted for X but I really voted for Y).

    Of course you never really know if your vote was tallied correctly...which means that most people assume theirs was and forget about it.

    The only way to improve this is to have a really good trail (does not need to be paper) so that voters can verify that their vote was cast for the candidate they thought it was cast for. Good luck in getting that to happen.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Sep 2008 @ 1:10pm

    I don't understand why it's so hard to create one that will work without errpr :)

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

  • identicon
    formerelectionguy, 16 Sep 2008 @ 1:10pm

    Buyer error

    Sequoia and other election equipment providers operate like every other major business. Their primary motivation is to make profit, appease shareholders, etc. It certainly makes sense for the public to ask why they design machines so susceptible to human error. But they are not accountable to the public. They're accountable to the market, which in this case is state and local governments. If we actually want these manufacturers to make a product less susceptible to human error, local and state governments will have to create the demand for such a product. Ranting about Sequoia won't create that demand (or at least not very quickly). The legislators and election officials who mandate and buy these defective or ineffective products are the ones who are accountable to us, the public. While any effort to shed light on bad products that effect our representative system is commendable, if we really want to quickly effectuate change, we have to complaint (about and) to those who keep shelling out millions on election equipment. In other words, Sequoia is not spending your money, your state representative is. Complaint to him.

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

  • identicon
    Voting machines from every manufacturer, 16 Sep 2008 @ 1:23pm

    Comedy of Voting Errors

    Interesting video:
    The Colorado Secretary of State de-certifies all but one voting machine manufacturer, then they say a software patch will fix the de-certified machines. But, because they can't re-certify under current state election rules, they lobby State Election Officials to change the law.

    This was last year and I haven't seen anything to indicate they have been re-certified yet.


    Why are we doing eVoting again? The whole concept seems undercooked, like a microwaved frozen pizza.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Sep 2008 @ 1:39pm

      Re: Comedy of Voting Errors

      Wow. The more you pick at that story, the more it bleeds. I wonder if there is any truth to this. Anyone care to dig deeper and verify?

      "The horrible (virtually non-existent) [Colorado] state certification process was begun under Republican SoS Donetta Davidson, who was replaced by Dennis after Davidson was named by George W. Bush as a commissioner of the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission. Davidson's new duties at the EAC would include overseeing federal certification for e-voting systems across the entire nation."


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

  • identicon
    6fingeredjake, 16 Sep 2008 @ 1:37pm

    The Public Is Missing the Point

    I think a lot of people fail to realize that nobody involved in the process of organizing our voting system wants it to be accurate. The 2000 election set a precedent: elections can be won even if you "lose" the vote as long as the voting system is flawed.

    Sequioa does not have any reason to make their machines accurate because they know election officials will buy them anyway. Election officials don't have any reason to buy accurate machines because nobody calls them on their decisions or punishes them for imprudence. And elected officials don't want accurate vote counts because then there is no chance for someone who loses the election to actually have the vote overturned.

    If you want to get an accurate voting machine, write your government and let them know that you won't vote until there is one.

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

  • identicon
    James, 16 Sep 2008 @ 2:13pm


    It sounds as those this guy gets his bs from the republicans playbook.. basically, don't answer the question and keep spouting the same bs until they believe you.

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

  • identicon
    GHynson, 16 Sep 2008 @ 3:37pm

    Why Fix It?

    If they designed the perfect machine,.then they won't be able to manipulate the votes.
    After all, dead people have the right the vote to you know.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Jerk, 16 Sep 2008 @ 6:17pm

    How to fix this...

    Make the company (Seq., Diebold, etc.) responsible, entirely, for any and all errors, hacks, mistakes, crashes or faults. Put their reputation, and several million dollars, on the line. If the company fvcks up, they are responsible, and lose their money. If the company EVER wants to have the slightest hint of a public contract, they should beta test the living Almighty sh1t out of these devices, then test them again. Then, when they are done testing it, let it go public.

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

  • identicon
    Just Me, 17 Sep 2008 @ 6:14am


    "Put their reputation, and several million dollars, on the line."

    Unfortunately this will never happen.
    If the politicians calling the shots as to who they buy from actually made rules like that (and enforced them) then companies would simply not bother. It all comes back to the fact that they are in this business to make a profit.
    If you include a clause that they their product has to actually Not Fail and they risk losing money they simply won't make the machines at all.

    No company will put out a product that they have a written contract stating they could lose money for errors - too much risk.
    That's why you can't sue your doctor for botched surgery - if you could, no doctors would perform surgery.

    Just my 2cents.

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

  • identicon
    Steve, 22 Oct 2008 @ 10:04pm

    I have a 50 dollar scanner than can do OCR flawlessly. Ahem.

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

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