John Oliver Takes On Fucked Up Voting Machines In The Way Only He Can

from the nicely-done dept

At Techdirt, we've been writing about the problems of electronic voting for just about our entire existence. I believe the first time we wrote about the problematic nature of electronic voting was in June of the year 2000, a few months before the controversy over "hanging chads" in the 2000 election in Florida. Over the years, we've continued to write about electronic voting and its myriad problems dozens upon dozens of times -- and to this day I remain amazed at how little companies and election officials have taken this space seriously. Part of the issue is that there is no easy solution. There isn't a "good" solution, there are only options that are "less bad" than others. The problem is that many places use solutions that are obviously bad when there are at least better options on the table.

So it's great to see John Oliver step in and explain the problems with voting machines in a way that only he can:

If you've followed this space for some time (as, apparently, we have), you won't find much that's surprising in the piece, but it does such a good job of highlighting just how ridiculous the discussion currently is around voting machines, and how little politicians and voting machine companies seem inclined to do anything about it all.

Filed Under: e-voting, electronic voting, john oliver, voting machines, voting security


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  • icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 4 Nov 2019 @ 4:29pm

    Our Electoral Woes

    Turns out our real problem with our voting machines…

    …was that we forgot about DRE.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Nov 2019 @ 5:26pm

    who wants to post the xkcd comic?

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Nov 2019 @ 5:33pm

    The whole Russia thing was a load of crap!!!! You know how many different machines there are and in how many different city's, talking about MILLIONS. If Russia hacked into a few, ?!?!!? The whole Russia thing and Trump has proved a load of B.S. already.

    I remember here in California where I live that right after the whole dumb Hanging Chad thing, that the next election we went to those touch screen type voting computers. It lasted that 1 time and was gone!!! Where they went?!?!

    Since then, I think what we are now doing is the BEST way!!! That is with the thick paper sheet. It looks exactly like you get in the mail. You fill in the bubbles with a PEN. This is something everyone used to do going to school and taking tests and using a #2 pencil to fill in the bubbles. That's a whole lot harder as it's just a long row of bubbles and you could get mixed up if not careful. The way it's all laid out for voting, it can't really be much simpler. There's no hanging chad. There is no relying on a bunch of computers. There is one or 2 large computers that you insert your ballet into, which scans it and counts your vote. Most Important, all those Ballets people filled out are inside the locked machine. If there are any questions on the voting, you have all the original ballets that can be manually checked if need be. People used a pen and not a pencil and so you can't really change the votes if you had access to those ballets.

    No need for a bunch of expensive computers that will get outdated pretty fast. Kind of hard to tamper with, but I guess possible. Having a large scanner computer out in the open where everyone can see it and see what you're doing makes it really hard to mess around with. The only issue left is all the Illegals voting here in California. What is the true percentage of that?

    All the touch screen computers I think need to go. I also think everyone should ID!!! If you have to give your ID to the government for all the free handouts. Then it shouldn't be an issue on voting. You know when it happens, and have more than enough time to easily get one. ID, Driver's License, or Passport.

    I just went through the whole REAL ID here in California. I showed my birth certificate way, way back then when I first got my Driver's License. I didn't have it now, so I went through the trouble of getting a duplicate. Just so I can show it to the DMV once again for REAL ID. If I had to go through it, I think anyone voting has no excuse and should get a valid ID of some type also to show when voting.

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 4 Nov 2019 @ 5:57pm

      Using multiple exclamation points doesn’t make your point stronger, you know.

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 5 Nov 2019 @ 2:54am

        Re:

        When he starts with an outright lie about the Mueller investigation (no matter how you want to spin it, "nothing" is a false description of what it found) and ends with an outright logical fallacy ("I didn't have problem getting an ID so none of the 200+ million eligible voters will"), you know you can ignore what's in the middle.

        It does seem that the longer these walls of text are, and the more unnecessary punctuation used, the less factual information is contained.

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

        • identicon
          bob, 5 Nov 2019 @ 12:54pm

          Re: Re:

          When people post a wall of words, I like to go get my cheap hardware store reciprocating saw called "flag comment" and use it to cut a big o' hole into the thread list so only a small pile of "This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it" remains.

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

  • icon
    Gorshkov (profile), 4 Nov 2019 @ 5:51pm

    A tiny quibble

    I have only one issue with what was said ..... a phone using a modem to make a direct connection to another computer is NOT "the very definition of connecting to the internet". But that's just one line in an otherwise sterling show.

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

    • icon
      Federico (profile), 5 Nov 2019 @ 12:46am

      Re: A tiny quibble

      You forgot the part where the computer you called over the phone connects to something else. It's described as a "secure drop off" by the Texas official in the video but it might be anything.

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

      • icon
        Thad (profile), 12 Nov 2019 @ 11:25am

        Re: Re: A tiny quibble

        But you're speculating.

        Oliver stated that connecting to another computer with a modem is the definition of connecting to the Internet. It isn't, as those of us who can remember dialup BBSes and private online networks like Prodigy and Compuserve can attest.

        Sending a fax isn't connecting to the Internet either.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Nov 2019 @ 6:37pm

    In related newz, eLeETed00d15 is the 2020 frontrunner for President.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Zof (profile), 4 Nov 2019 @ 6:50pm

    Oliver proved he was a garbage shill when he attacked Sanders

    In the primary. Oliver is trash. He can go to hell.

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

  • icon
    Federico (profile), 5 Nov 2019 @ 12:37am

    The president said the truth

    Now, you can't say that often. I did learn something new from the video!
    https://youtu.be/svEuG_ekNT0?t=1064

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Nov 2019 @ 5:47am

    gleefully mind dicked every 4 years

    say it with me boys and girls:

    1. we don't elect the president through the popular vote
    2. the electoral college SELECTS the president
    3. the electoral college can (and does sometimes) vote against the popular vote

    say it with me boys and girls:

    1. we don't elect the president through the popular vote
    2. the electoral college SELECTS the president
    3. the electoral college can (and does sometimes) vote against the popular vote

    say it with me boys and girls:

    1. we don't elect the president through the popular vote
    2. the electoral college SELECTS the president
    3. the electoral college can (and does sometimes) vote against the popular vote

    (Besides, a paper trail for voting machines would kill too many precious trees, man. Save the planet, funk the people.)

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Nov 2019 @ 8:50am

      Re: gleefully mind dicked every 4 years

      I don't understand your point. We live in a republic, not a direct democracy.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Nov 2019 @ 9:14am

        Re: Re: gleefully mind dicked every 4 years

        Oh you get the point. You just don't want to admit that not even your presidential vote counts.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 5 Nov 2019 @ 9:40am

          Re: Re: Re: gleefully mind dicked every 4 years

          You feel better now or are you being paid to be Debbie Downer?

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 5 Nov 2019 @ 12:02pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: gleefully mind dicked every 4 years

            If there's a hole in the bottom of the boat, the person that tells you that there's a hole in the bottom of the boat is not a Debbie Downer.
            go back to sleep

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

        • icon
          James Burkhardt (profile), 5 Nov 2019 @ 9:43am

          Re: Re: Re: gleefully mind dicked every 4 years

          The point you make is true in principle, but in reality doesn't really say what you think it does.

          We have never had a significant level of faithless among the electoral college. No election has been decided by faithless electors.

          The electoral college has gone against the popular vote, true. But the college has gone with the weighted average of state-level popular votes in every case. What does this mean? Well, most states give 100% of electors to the winner of the state level popular vote, with the number of electors 'weighting' the value of that state vote. Other states send a number of electors based on a percentage of votes for a candidate, with the total number of electors representing the weight a given state has based on population.

          While it is true the electoral college is an archaic way to collect these weighted results, it has been faithful to the outcome of the weighted state results, even if individual electors have been faithless.

          Why does this matter? because as it turns out our votes do matter, unless your assertion is that the electoral college has just happened to vote in accordance with the results of the individual state races 58 times in a row.

          The system was not designed as a pure popular vote system. Issues with weighting would have been mitigated if we had not capped the electoral college and congress decades ago, but otherwise the system is working as intended, with faithless electors being the exception, not the rule.

          I support abolishing the electoral college in so far as we abolish electors, but I am not convinced elimination of the weighting is the right choice. Elimination of the electors removes the faithless elector boogeyman, and electors are unnecessary in an age of widespread communication. But I feel weighting might still serve a positive purpose, particularly if we keep first-past-the-post 2-party electoral assignment.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 Nov 2019 @ 10:05am

      Re: gleefully mind dicked every 4 years

      (Besides, a paper trail for voting machines would kill too many precious trees, man. Save the planet, funk the people.)

      Less paper used than your standard cash transaction receipt to maintain election integrity=you need to stfu

      The electoral college is effed up. Voters in Alaska, Rhode Island, and Wyoming should not have more voting power than voters in Texas, California, New York, and Florida. New England needs to be combined into one state. Wyoming and Montana need to be distributed amongst their neighbor states, states with people in them. North and South Dakota become Dakota.

      The power distribution in the Senate is ridiculous and needs to be revisited. The founding faters did their best, but this is a flaw.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Nov 2019 @ 11:38am

        Re: Re: gleefully mind dicked every 4 years

        (Dude...the part about the trees was sarcasm. I love God the Father, not mother nature.)
        Until the elected/selected seriously consider Congressional Term Limits, I won't take politics too seriously, but I digress...

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

    • icon
      NoahVail (profile), 5 Nov 2019 @ 10:52am

      Re: w/o the EC

      Quickly restating our reality w/o the Electoral College:

      A select minority of counties will pick every presidential election (ftr: I'm in one).
      https://i.ibb.co/Kysys65/electoral-college-population.jpg

      In most elections, only 4 states would decide every PotUS.
      https://i.ibb.co/0sKFgxx/Without-Elecoral-College.jpg
      Most states won't matter, ever.

      Now if we were meaningfully individual thinkers, there would be little need for the EC. But we aren't. We're highly susceptible to group-think. Worse, elections are decided by manipulating voters into select conclusions, that they'd never come to on their own.

      The primary issue with elections is that everyone is fine with the above.

      I'd agree that the EC is a poor alternative to manipulation-resistant voters but it's all that we have.

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

    • identicon
      Bruce C., 5 Nov 2019 @ 11:25am

      Re: gleefully mind dicked every 4 years

      The same voting machines used for presidential elections are also used for Senate, house, governor and all other elective offices. This issue has nothing to do with the electoral college.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Nov 2019 @ 6:30am

    Not good?

    I don't understand why optically scanned paper ballots aren't considered "good" options. The official vote is on paper. A machine does the counting electronically. Randomized manual counts can check the machine count, and disputes can always be fully resolved with a complete manual count.

    I live in a district with optically scanned ballots and feel quite comfortable with the voting procedures.

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

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 5 Nov 2019 @ 6:33am

      Re: Not good?

      I think John Oliver was talking about the Touch-Screen-only machines being problematic, not the ones with a paper backup.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Nov 2019 @ 6:49am

        Re: Re: Not good?

        The other point he made is that there isn't an obvious audit of the results in a lot of areas even when paper ballots are used. So even though you have the paper records, if the machine is counting them wrong you wouldn't know unless you do the auditing suggested. I.E. You take a small sample of ballots, run them through the machines and then manually count them and make sure the machine count and the manual count agree.

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

        • icon
          Samuel Abram (profile), 5 Nov 2019 @ 6:56am

          Re: Re: Re: Not good?

          Ah, I missed that.

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

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 6 Nov 2019 @ 2:57am

          Re: Re: Re: Not good?

          "So even though you have the paper records, if the machine is counting them wrong you wouldn't know unless you do the auditing suggested."

          And there is a VERY major issue with the fact that the only one who can properly audit a voting machine must have access sufficient to ALTER the results of the vote - or he won't be able to guarantee that what the machine tells him is factually correct.

          A manual vote count means citizen watchdogs can and do observe the proceedings. Automated tallying means any oversight is entirely in the hands of people who have heavy incentive not to be impartial.

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

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 5 Nov 2019 @ 9:54am

      Re: Not good?

      As the AC noted in response to Samuel, randomized audits and testing could establish trust, but in many areas the audits aren't actually done.

      And election officials disliked paper balloting given that failures in optical scanning hole punch ballots are what lead to the Hanging chad debacle.

      San Jose ballots are effectively giant scantrons, with an arrow being filled in. And I fully agree that system is great with easy manual counts and easy machine counts. Audits should be easy.

      But you always get some chucklefuck who insists the only way to be sure they aren't Emissionsgateing the scanner is manual counting, while discounting that if they are that dedicated to screwing the election, they could just pay off the counters (who generally get paid poorly for low skill work.

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

  • icon
    tom (profile), 5 Nov 2019 @ 10:51am

    Oklahoma has used optically scanned paper ballots statewide since the late 80s early 90s. Not sure why the Oliver piece showed us using the DRE machines. One big advantage of these machines is they tell the voter when the ballot is inserted if it is readable. If not, the voter is given a fresh ballot. Also, if power is out, the ballots can still be collected for later counting. I voted this way during an wide spread outage from an ice storm. Could be an issue in California today because of the power shutdowns.

    So far, all the manual recounts have been within a few votes of the first reported totals. It is to the point now that most candidates won't bother with a recount unless the margin is single digits.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Nov 2019 @ 12:14pm

    this video is unavailable.

    Do i need to post a screenshot?

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 5 Nov 2019 @ 12:39pm

    99%

    tends to be HOW much the companies CHARGE for these machines, even when they Dont program them.. They are Just computers.. Simplify the OS for what you need, and Cut off every port not needed, and Make those still in use Switched, so they cant be used without getting into the computer.. then Lock up the case so that if opened it SCREAMS...

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

    • identicon
      bob, 5 Nov 2019 @ 1:00pm

      Re: 99%

      But requires that the designer and customer cares about actual security. Its too much effort apparently.

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

      • icon
        ECA (profile), 6 Nov 2019 @ 11:59am

        Re: Re: 99%

        Thats Why I cant figure out HOW a small company cant make a $200-400 system from Junk, that can do the job..
        most of the price is making a Custom Case..
        Go out and get the 68000 chips or the PPC Chips..and have fun.
        DELL had a Case that was All steel, and hte outside was Just a box to hold a Slide in Internal case..2 layers of metal.. I think we could protect allot with that.. also install a battery backup..

        Logic in this country..
        If it aint expensive, its got to be BAD..
        If I can charge Allot of money for it I wont do it..

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


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