Maryland House votes to oust Diebold voting machines

Exactly, if it is not a standard function of Diebold, we don’t stinking need it! The tail should always wag the dog damnit. Good to see you have a solid head on your shoulders unlike these commies around here, Diebold is an american company and we should not require it to change for our silly little voting.

Damn, boyee, you’re like even more sarcastic than me!

You know all of your checks are sent electornically now. Online secuirty is possible. Diebold was criminally negligent, or wanted the machines to be hackable.

You must have missed the bit above with the conspiracy theory about how auditability was a standard Diebold function which was nefariously removed. Sorry about that, didn’t mean to spike your blood pressure.

It seems patently obvious to me that any voting machine should have to create a paper receipt in order to ensure transparency in democracy. With ordinary paper ballots, if there are suspicions of fraud or mistakes, the ballots can be recounted by another group. How do you recount electronic votes, when you have no idea if the machine even stored the correct vote in the first place?

Obviously a more efficient voting system would involve electronic voting, and I’m all for efficiency, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that you can make an electronic system transparent simply by adding a paper receipt. The machine can electronically count the vote, print off a paper receipt, the voter can confirm that is what they voted, and then put that in a separate ballot box. If fraud or mistakes are suspected, the electronic tally can be compared to a count of the paper ballots. Simple.

How do you test for fraud with these systems?

I am agreeing with you my man! You are one of the good guys! In celebration of our joint smartness, I am going to use an ATM today and click no when it asks me for a receipt. That will show these stinking hippies.


I think there’s a few main arguments for not having the paper trail.

  1. Cost. The governmental entities that run elections are usually not very well funded and elections are only one of their many responsibilities. Unlike other parts of government, like say the military, they have to watch every penny. A paper trail would also likely raise the cost of maintenance and consumables. This is probably why a lot of county auditors and secretaries of state don’t mind the lack of an audit trail.

  2. Perception. I’m not sure if the story that car makers didn’t want seat belt regulations because it gave the perception that their cars weren’t safe is true, but it certainly rings a note of plausibility. Drawing attention to the integrity of the system with every single ballot cast (“Here’s your receipt to prove we didn’t screw your vote”) just raises questions about the integrity of the system. More cost for more questions sounds like a lose-lose scenario for Diebold. This is probably why Diebold doesn’t mind the lack of an audit trail.

  3. Auditing effectiveness/privacy. If 1-to-1 voter to ballot linkage isn’t maintained, all auditing would just do is just check to see that the numbers matched up. This is probably why a lot of election watchers don’t mind the lack of an audit trail.

  4. Unnessecary redundency. What do you mean “I can’t think of a single good reason to not record the votes.”? The machines are recording the vote. If you’re not going to trust the machine, why would you trust the audit? This is probably why idiots don’t mind the lack of an audit trail.

And yet all of these reasons are bullshit. If you’re going to have an election, you’ve got to pay to run it in a way that people know it’s being run accurately, and even if the auditing only catches the dumbest hackers who don’t know how to ensure the numbers match up, that alone is enough of a reason to have it.

But more to the point, I still have yet to see a single unrefuted reason that paper optical scan ballots aren’t the best method all things considered. It combines the hand-check ability and “so simple, everyone can do it” intuitiveness of “X in a circle” paper ballots with the automated tallying of e-vote systems all while inherently providing a paper trail and no worries about power outages or backups.

There seem to be two points being made here:

  1. Diebold is sketchy.
  2. Electronic voting needs a paper trail.

While I’m with you guys on #1, I see no good reason for a well-implemented system of electronic voting to create a paper trail. If you have an electronic machine that uses paper receipts, and a set of election results are challenged, would you manually count the receipts or would you trust the electronic tally? Which do you think would be more accurate?

I would think that thousands of itemized paper receipts would be harder to alter than an electronic record. And I would further guess that a system that records its tallies redundantly, in two seperate forms of output, would be even harder to mess with.

You want to throw out the paper trail?

Then have public domain software with some kind of governmental oversight.

Privatizing elections is a crime, or it should be.

You can only have one official set of results. You’re either going to use the electronic tally, or the paper tally. Electronic voting should reduce errors compared to non-electronic voting, so I hope to see electronic voting eventually become universal.

That said, I agree with Mr. Mayer. I am uncomfortable with a private corporation arbitrating elections through the use of machines whose basic functionality is a closely-guarded secret. But Diebold’s sketchiness does not invalidate the potential usefulness of electronic voting, just as voting fraud in general does not invalidate the potential usefulness of elections. :-P

I think you are oversimplifying the issue. It’s not that black and white.

Of course the electronic tally will be used. Computers don’t have the human error factor when counting. The point of the paper trail isn’t an alternative tally but rather spot checking and auditability. It won’t be required to hand count all the paper receipts every time (unless there are other reasons to suspect shenanigans) but a spot check of a small fraction of the paper receipts against the computer records will serve to keep the computer honest. Or more accurately, keep the humans with access to the computer honest.

When dealing with accuracy, it really is that simple. A spot-check of a portion of the ballots would invariably differ from the electronic tally, and the spot-check’s total would be less accurate. And when dealing with fraud prevention, I don’t see why electronic vote tampering would be any easier than “traditional” vote tampering. If anything, a well-designed electronic system should be more resistant to fraud.

I realize we’re thought-experimenting it up big time here, but imagine a situation where, due to vote tampering, and the paper receipts and electronic tally are grossly different. I see no reason why we should be inclined to trust the paper receipts over the electronic data.

Dave47, you seem very enamored of the accuracy of computers when that isn’t even the issue here. Yes, computers are more accurate but there are ways for humans to reach acceptable levels of accuracy as well (double checking, reconciling differences, etc).

The reason that people want paper trails and double checks has nothing to do with accuracy and everything to do with fraud prevention.

The sole purpose of a paper ballot spot check is to make sure, via comparison with a non electronic source, that the electronic records were not tampered with. Frankly it’s much easier to tamper with electronic data. Tampering with a room full of phsyical ballots is difficult, and is a physical crime. We know how to prevent physical crimes and how to investigate and prosecute criminals when such crimes are committed. A database full of votes on the other hand is decidedly harder to detect tampering in. Especially if the tamperer is skilled or has a priveleged position such as perhaps the sysadmin of an e-voting system or software developer for a e-voting system.

Ok, cool. A while ago I got into an argument about this with a friend who basically held the view that traditional voting systems are better because they use paper! I think I may have been projecting some of his silliness onto this thread. I can see how a paper trail could serve as a “red flag” to help identify (and discourage) cases of fraud. But a system that uses other types of “red flags” could work just as well. Either way, without some very solid fraud prevention mechanisms, electronic voting should remain no more than a plan for the future.

It could be worse, Venezuela tried to roll out an electronic voting system that could be comprimised and identify both the identity of the voter and the way they voted from the electronic record.

But yes, there is really no reason not to have a paper trail. You could do solid solutions completely electronically, but the Diebold system certainly isn’t an example of that.

Isn’t that the foundation of all relgions? Trust the people in power, they know best.

Yes, the “Argument from Authority.” Very archaic.

My personal wish for a system would be one in which the voter enters into the voting booth with a nice scan-tron like sheet, fills in the bubbles next the names and issues they’d like to vote for, exits the voting booth where several people can drop their completed sheets into a nice optical reading machine that would tally the votes electronically.

That way you get a nice paper trail in the form of the original ballots, which could be recounted at any time using another optical reader, and have the results electronically.

Plus you save on the costs of having an expensive electronic voting machine with touch screen LCD and what-not in every voting booth.

That describes my county’s system to a T.