Why Isn't There A Central Database Of E-Voting Problems?

from the seems-like-a-no-brainer dept

For many years, we've been reporting on stories of e-voting malfunctions, mainly from Diebold/Premier, ES&S and Sequoia. For a sampling of such stories click on any of the following links: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25. And that's just the first 25 I found (there are lots more), and only cover stories that I actually covered. I'm sure plenty more glitch-infused elections have happened. Given all these glitches and errors, and a seeming lack of followthrough to make sure they don't happen again, a group is asking Congress to authorize a public national database of e-voting election problems.

The really scary part is that the researchers who wrote the report note that many of the problems are repeats -- a problem happens in one location, but another voting district uses the same machines configured in the same problematic way in another election, totally unaware of the problems it will cause. It's still amazing that after nearly a decade of examples of problems with e-voting, just how little has been done to fix these machines.


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    haiku, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 9:45pm

    It's also amazing just how little has been done to fix the officials who purchase the machines without hitting Google / Bing / whatever in order to check for reports on the machines ...

     

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      insiderlogic (profile), Sep 16th, 2010 @ 10:25pm

      Re:

      the officials who purchase the machines aren't the problem. there are only one or two choices they can make. there hands are tied and often they are frustrated. the big government certifies the small pool of machines from an even smaller pool of vendors. the officials need options. Still they do a great job with what they are given.

       

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    Drew (profile), Sep 16th, 2010 @ 10:29pm

    Why are voting machines still treated as free enterprise?

    Although I am all for free enterprise, better business models, etc. When did the method we use to vote require the honesty of people in business to make money? Ultimately these voting machines are nothing more than specialized computers that serve a specific purpose, and yet they are sold and acquired more like the latest all-in-one kiosk for the local mall. In this instance the problem is with the government; there should be contract bids and independent standards testing with a specific predetermined pattern of voting style.

    I guess I have a kind of weird look at this though since I live in Oregon where every election is vote by mail, so every election I know exactly how my ballot is going to look and how to use it to vote because it is exactly the same look and style as the previous elections. Can one say the same for electronic elections?

     

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      Sean T Henry (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 7:21am

      Re: Why are voting machines still treated as free enterprise?

      How are your votes tallied?... By computer?

      What the gov needs to do it offer a competitative grant to universities to make working software for the purchased hardware and tellDiebold/Premier, ES&S and Sequoia to STFU.

       

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        Drew (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 10:33am

        Re: Re: Why are voting machines still treated as free enterprise?

        That's a good question, probably....the ballots have a 'complete the arrow' style.

         

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          insiderlogic (profile), Sep 18th, 2010 @ 1:52am

          Re: Re: Re: Why are voting machines still treated as free enterprise?

          The voting machines are equip with 3 and sometimes 4 highly sensitive scanners. They are calibrated to detect the shade of black to white. black is a vote white is a no vote. this is why a certain marking device is used, so the scanners know all the shades that marking device will make from the heaviest shade of black to a determined amount of gray that will still indicate a vote. They are unbelievably accurate.

          I'm just discussing honestly when I say this but, everything written so far indicates that you all are blaming the companies and are against the "free enterprise" of the voting system, yet not one argument has been made that in any way validates that the fault lies with the system as it is. That is not to say there are faults in the current system but rather none of you have a clue what they are and who is responsible.

          1)running out of ballots is the fault of the local elections supervisor. They are responsible to insuring every registered voter has a ballot to vote. in most cases the county prints their own ballots.

          2)"...require the honesty of people in business to make money? Ultimately these voting machines are nothing more than specialized computers that serve a specific purpose, and yet they are sold and acquired more like the latest all-in-one kiosk for the local mall. In this instance the problem is with the government; there should be contract bids and independent standards testing with a specific predetermined pattern of voting style."

          This is exactly how it is done. Contract bids, independent standards & pattern of voting style are all currently in use. And who are they not being honest to? As far as "free enterprise" we should review the economic handbook. This is a strictly controlled arena in which the policy and law makers control what is or is not. (just look back through some of the articles in the listed in the original post. i.e. U.S. Federal Court makes ES&S forfeit its legal claim to the acquisition of "election companies".

          The issues of repeated failures. the machines are configured to the specs of each individual county and district. What the author of the mentioned article probably didnt understand is electrical components fail. And yes, there is little time wasted in reporting and repairing. Most Poll workers come from an age or four back before the technology boom. When more gen Xer's Volunteer to be a poll worker and utilize their computer efficiencies, then we might be close to righting

           

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 11:06pm

    It's very governmenty to make a database of your problems instead of fixing them. I suppose fining companies for insecurities, auditing and testing, accountability, changing vendors, and opening the machines up for third-party or all-party verification is too hard. Let's make a database of all the ways we screw up instead.

    How slot machines have more accountability than voting machines

     

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    Overcast (profile), Sep 16th, 2010 @ 11:46pm

    Something like that would be a "to-do" list that would be hard for the developers/government to fix.

    The assumption may mistakenly be - that they want them fixed.

    It would be much safer on a legal basis to for a party with an agenda to 'caress numbers' on devices with a history of improper operation than on something that works close to flawlessly; like an ATM for instance.

    Odd how some of the same companies make both devices; and really, both have the same function - to keep a tally/balance.

     

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    Overcast (profile), Sep 16th, 2010 @ 11:47pm

    "that would be hard for the developers/government to avoid fixing."* I meant.

     

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    bob, Sep 17th, 2010 @ 2:25am

    Might I Suggest

    Someone make a site and call it eGrok-Vote.
    Use with no requirement for attribution.

    NY just had it's roll out of it's new system, where you have to fill in an ocr oval. The voting ballots were about the size of a sheet of legal paper.
    As this was only a primary, there were still lots of problems mostly with the newness about it.

    Some of the polling places ran out of ballots, and there were a few reports of machine problems, just in my area.

    It will be interesting to see what happens this November.

    At least there is a paper record of the ballot, vice the old machines where you pulled a lever and it added to the count.

     

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    mattburrows (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 12:42pm

    Voting Machines - central database

    There is data available through EFF and Election Protection from prior elections. I don't know if anything has actually been done with the data and whether the data collection is ongoing (doubtful).

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 18th, 2010 @ 1:51am

    I understand security is pretty hard to get right but how hard is it to do i++?

     

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