Florida still hasn't figured out how to run an election


So in a Palm County judicial race, only 60 votes seperate the two people running. Almost 3,500 ballots are missing. All three recounts have resulted in different numbers. And now they want the court to decide who won.

Reporter: Do you think this will diminish voter confidence in the voting equipment?
Gov. Crist: “I hope not, I hope not. It shouldn’t.”


Fallout from the 2000 election is what led to paper ballots being used on Aug. 26, the third voting method in eight years for Palm Beach County.

First, elected officials embraced touch-screen voting as a way to avoid the confusion blamed on the punch-card/butterfly ballots of the chaotic 2000 election.

Then, U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Delray Beach, persuaded Gov. Charlie Crist and the legislature to ban touch-screen machines so voters would cast paper ballots in this year’s all-important presidential contest.

The timing was tight.

Palm Beach County voters used Sequoia touch-screen machines in the January presidential primary and March municipal elections. Three months later, West Palm Beach voters in a special city commission election were marking paper ballots in a new Sequoia voting system.

The quick turnaround showed. Nearly 700 votes were temporarily uncounted after the June municipal election because elections workers weren’t aware of a new software feature in the vote tabulation system.

Until people take the counting of votes seriously and spend the money to do it right, this kind of shit will keep happening.

It’s because they are doing so much cocaine down there, it’s such a fun thing to do.

I still can’t figure out how voting machines are so problematic. When running a database driven poll even on vBulletin here takes only around 20 lines of PHP code, the fact that they can’t get voting machines to function without bugs, corruption, or failures is possibly the most egregious example of horrible government oversight I’ve ever seen.

Well, let’s be honest about this: Florida’s only being singled out because of what happened in 2000. If you did similar auditing of any state’s polling procedures, you’d find just as many irregularities. In a country with roughly 120MM people voting in a presidential election, where “voting rights” laws prevent even the asking for identication cards for potential voters, and where human beings are in charge of running the elections, a certain amount of error is built into the system.

God forbid we should implement a paper trail.

This is what I don’t understand. People and business are so anal about receipts that many of them promise a reward to me if the cashier doesn’t give me a receipt for a 69 cent pack of gum. And yet when I go and vote for a President for the next four years, I don’t walk away with any proof.

This seems simple - you touch your selection, and it gets printed behind a little piece of glass so you can verify your choice. Then you get a take-away receipt. In case of shenanigans, the computer tally is compared to printed receipts at the machine.

Then you bring your take-away receipt to the guy who offered you ten bucks if you’d vote for Smith :)

Isn’t that a lot like saying you shouldn’t sell guns because some people use them to break the law?

Or shouldn’t let anyone use BitTorrent because some people use it to pirate software?

Oh, it’s “Coke-head” Wexler, that explains it.

I just like thinking up possible ways to abuse the system (whatever the system is); didn’t mean to suggest that vote receipts are a bad idea.

The positive benefits of said receipts would outweigh the minor risk that someone might be stupid enough to try and buy “guaranteed” votes (do it on any significant scale, and you’d get busted so hard it wouldn’t be funny), unless someone can think up some other more insidious way to abuse 'em.

This distinction is common in voting tech circles. Here’s a blog post I found on the difference between strong and weak secrecy:


The political implications are pretty interesting, and both are technologically possible.

I’m not saying I like the guy’s idea, but there’s nothing in there to suggest that a receipt would say who you voted for.

Strong secrecy is worth shooting for, but how do you achieve this while simultaneously leaving a paper trail? It’s important for the system to prove to the voter that his or her vote was counted correctly, as we’ve all (hopefully) seen how easy it is to hack an e-vote machine to output whatever result you want.

So, I take it you’re opposed to absentee ballots?

The reality is that our system can’t have strong secrecy. Hell, we don’t even allow absolute verification of identity. Anyone could take one of your recent bills to a poling place and take your vote.

Strong secrecy is definitely achievable. I don’t really have time to do a review right now, but it could definitely happen. There are some very smart people working very hard on this. Lots of serious engineers want to prevent a repeat of Ohio 2004, it’s not just tinfoilers.

I don’t think lack of serious engineers is at all the problem here. This isn’t even really a technology issue.

The current systems with no audit trail and no verification are so full of holes that anyone moderately competent has to be able to see them. The fact that the holes exist and are accepted by the agencies in charge of such things indicates a larger problem, namely that these agencies are lacking in competence or technological savvy or (more likely) both.

Until we can address that the problem better technology isn’t going to help.

What I’m trying to say is that people are working on the technology and they are going to solve it. The political problem is a separate enormous problem.

But it seems that the false threat of voter fraud has allowed far more abuses and voter disenfranchisement than any actual fraudulent voting.

At least in the modern era.