Voting machines currently cause concern

In Monday's IT Blogwatch, Richi Jennings watches worrying voting machine problems. Not to mention stockbroker schadenfreude...

Callebs, Todd, and Tanneeru report:

iVotronic touchscreen
In many states across the country, voting has begun, and in some cases, so have the headaches ... troubling signs for many who are skeptical of whether their votes will count.

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In West Virginia's Jackson County, there were some reports that voting machines were accidentally recording the wrong vote ... The machines were manufactured by ... Election System and Software. The machines will be used in several states this year.

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In Georgia's Fulton County, several polling sites apparently lost their connections to the state's voter database, causing some long wait times for voters.
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Mike Masnick isn't surprised:

The GAO had warned that there would be some pretty massive e-voting problems this year, as election officials were not properly trained on the already problematic machines, so it should come as little surprise that over in West Virginia, the "early voting" procedures have resulted in numerous complaints ... The scenario is depressingly similar to the one that The Simpsons predicted, where the voter selects one name, and the other one shows up as highlighted.

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What's more depressing is how everyone involved seems to brush this off as no big deal. Officials claimed that these "were isolated cases" ... And then there's West Virginia's Secretary of State, Betty Ireland , who basically pulled a page from Sequoia's playbook, of covering her eyes and ears and screaming loudly that everything is fine.

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The machines are supplied by ES&S whose machines (like both Sequoia and Diebold) have a relatively long history of screwing up at election time. ES&S ... insisted that no independent experts should be allowed to look at the machines and that they were safe and reliable because those working at these firms knew better than the rest of us.
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Georgia sounds sanguine:

Vote "jumping" like that reported in West Virginia is usually the result of the screen not being calibrated properly. It's no secret that computer technology susceptible to glitches + 72 year old poll worker with little training = problems the voting booth (and yes, the average age of a poll worker is indeed 72). Add variable election laws to the formula and you have a state of confusion.

But since these problems will inevitably occur, there's a least a benefit to having them occur 10 days from the election.
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Supernoma wonders, eh:

Why can't the US do what we do in Canada? You don't have to make this complicated.

In Canada, we show up to our polling station with our voter card, show the card and receive a ballot. We take the ballot, which has the names of the candidates and their party in large font very clearly, and put an X in the big circle beside the candidate we're voting for.

Thats it! No fancy machines, no complicated forms, and no computers to go wrong or be hacked.
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Spiffingly, gov.uk concurs, says Todd R. Weiss:

Here in the U.S., electronic voting machines ... have been commonly used for more than a decade, but they are still being eyed warily across the pond.

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Michael Wills, a member of the British Parliament and the minister of state for the Ministry of Justice, wrote a letter to his fellow members saying that e-voting was not something being considered at the moment ... Concerns about the fledgling technology were heard from some government officials after a trial of e-voting in a few elections last year.
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And so does Zogger:

Voting isn't a (*(&^ing nail, stop trying to throw your coding hammer at it! This has gotten to be an example of obsessive compulsive disorder with these schemes.

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Unless there is an independent deep forensics investigation of every single computerized voting kiosk at the end of the vote period, including disassembling the chips on the machine and all that stuff, it can not be verified in a timely, cheap and thorough manner.

Oh, a "paper trail"? Why yes, let's look at that "new idea" to "insure" and "verify" the computerized vote! A plain empty box CAN be verified at the start of the voting day by many people looking inside and going "yep, empty!" And a paper trail is exactly what you get start to finish with plain paper ballots.
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Karsten Rohweder doesn't get it:

The counting must not only be manual, but also public. Everyone with an interest in the election, including the voters, must be able to verify the process. That can never happen with voting machines.

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It's not like voting machines have any significant inherent advantages over pen-and-paper voting. I guess they are a bit faster in counting. But sacrifice the trust in democracy (and a couple of billions of dollars) for that little convenience?
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And finally...

Buffer overflow:

Other Computerworld bloggers:

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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/adviser/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 23 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him on Twitter, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use boring old email: blogwatch@richi.co.uk.

Previously in IT Blogwatch:

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