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
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2008 @ 12:01pm

    You can go around and around and around

    I never understood why Techdirt runs story after story of e-voting nightmares. But they do.. Look a Caltech-MIT project was formed to detail the types of errors that occur with e-voting. We are talking about a small margin of error here. Are there anomalies and irregularities in e-voting? YES. But it is a small percentage. If there is a major problem that occurs it will be due to failure to prepare and test equipment before voting begins. Comparing this in contrast to paper ballots the margin of error is very small. Personally I think e-voting is superior in many ways. While you could always make an arguement to minimize the margin of error I feel these machines are here to stay and should be. If you want to look at the report your may: http://pcworld.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http://find.pcworld.com/42088

    PROS: E-voting terminals can be more convenient than paper systems as well. When equipped with headphones and a Braille keypad, touch-screen machines let sight-impaired voters cast their votes without needing to share their choices with a human aide. Officials don't need to supply paper ballots in different languages--voters select the language as a menu option. Results can be transmitted to election headquarters in seconds, and recounts are a snap since each vote is unambiguously stored in memory.

    CONS: The Caltech-MIT Voting Technology Project was established in December 2000 to study voting machine reliability and generate guidelines for future voting systems. The project's 2001 report--still considered the definitive study of machine accuracy--found that in elections from 1988 to 2000, touch-screen (also called DRE, for direct record electronic) machines fared worse than paper ballots in many cases (see the project's report here). But generally, their margin of "residual votes"--those thrown out because of error--was within the range of other voting technologies. In presidential elections, for example, punch-card machines had the highest percentage of residual votes, at 2.5 percent. Touch-screen voting machines were slightly better, at 2.3 percent, and optically scanned paper ballots worked best, at 1.5 percent.

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