Guy Who Insists E-Voting Machines Work Fine... Demonstrates They Don't

from the say-that-again-please dept

If someone pitched a movie based on e-voting machines that work as bad as the ones being used in the current election, the story would be dumped as being unrealistic. But truth is, indeed, often stranger than fiction. You may recall on Friday that we had a post about problems with e-voting machines in West Virginia selecting the wrong candidate when voters touched the screen. Various officials rushed to insist that there was absolutely nothing wrong. One, the local county clerk, Jeff Waybright insisted that the problems were "the result of voter error."

Well, it appears that a group called Video The Vote went and visited with Mr. Waybright as he showed them how the e-voting machines work, and perhaps the "human error" is on Mr. Waybright's part. The beginning of the video is troubling enough, as he brushes aside concerns while he shows a miscalibrated machine. He demonstrates how he clicks on one candidate and another is highlighted, in a tone of voice that suggests why would anyone possibly be upset or annoyed if that happened? He then oddly thinks the fact that his wildly miscalibrated machine enhances his point because when he clicks on Barack Obama's name, the actual name highlighted isn't McCain (of course, it's not Obama either, but he doesn't seem troubled by this). Waybright seems to think that the only complaint people are making is the fact that some tried to vote for the Democratic ticket and saw the Republican ticket show up -- when the real concern is simply the fact that when you touch one name, someone else's name is highlighted. Democrat or Republican really isn't the issue here.

However, then things get worse. After mocking the idea that anyone clicking on a Democratic ticket vote would get the Republican ticket vote, he shows how to correctly calibrate the machine, showing how easy it is to fix the "problems" of the miscalibrated machine. When he's done, to prove it works, he touches the box to vote for a straight Republican ticket ticket... and, wouldn't you know it, Ralph Nader's name is highlighted as the voter's choice. His response? "Oh, that's out of calibration!" as if it was no big deal, apparently missing the fact that he had just calibrated the machine. He then seems to think none of this is a big deal, because voters will see the misvote before they submit it, apparently unaware of the idea that many people are already quite distrustful of these machines, and seeing them highlight the wrong name over and over again will make them seriously question the legitimacy of the election.

Filed Under: e-voting, glitches, west virginia
Companies: es&s

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  1. identicon
    Jason, 30 Oct 2008 @ 1:53pm

    Voting software...

    There is no reason why all voting software shouldn't be open-sourced. The data security mechanisms should be probably kept secret, but the actual software itself should be open to public scrutiny. These aren't the governments elections, they are the peoples elections. It is absolutely our right to be certain that our vote counting mechanisms are as without fault as they can be in an imperfect world. I have no problem with knowing there are much better programmers than myself in the world. I've still caught things that they've missed. They've caught things that I've missed. The point is that the more eyes you have looking at a problem the better. Especially in software since there are so many things that can go wrong. Making a dot appear where you press your finger on a screen is a whole lot of code where a whole lot of things can go wrong. Tying that dot to a data field that's going to get stored in a database along with a lot of other information is another place where a whole lot of things can go wrong. Combining that local data with a regional and then a statewide database adds more points of potential failure. In the real world we'd be outsourcing this to SAP for $50M and hoping for an election sometime in the middle of 2010. Sorry, but small business can't solve this. They are trying hard, I'll give them that, but they simply aren't up to the job. It's time to open up the process to the people who own it, the citizens of this country. We can't afford to do the alternative right, in time or dollars.

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