back to article Four-year-old Diebold glitch silently drops votes

A four-year-old software glitch wiped out almost 200 votes from a small California county's November elections tally, causing officials to certify results that are now known to be incorrect. The bug, which resides in specific versions of tabulation software sold by Premier Election Solutions, caused 197 paper ballots to …


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  1. Pierre
    Thumb Up

    UK has personal info leaks,

    and USA have election-botching e-voting machines. Never learn any lesson from past mistakes, ever, as that could be viewed as a weakness. Always stand by your guns even if (and especially if ) you're obviously wrong, better look like a dumbass than like a sensible person. That's the Merkin way, pals! Merkins (and especially politicos) are always right. The facts, on the other hand, can be wrong. But a good dose of "we take this issue seriously" should do, until next time...

  2. Phil Endecott

    Fabricated logs

    The aspect that I found most disturbing was that the software appears to store some sort of log file - however, after this bug has struck, the deleted votes are also missing from the log as if they had never existed. So far from actually being a proper append-only log file, it's in fact generated retrospectively from the final results.

    Remember that Diebold's other product is ATMs. Are the programmers for them more or less competent?

  3. Bill Cumming
    IT Angle

    When will the learn...


    The error only came to light after a volunteer outfit using open-source software and an off-the-shelf paper scanner audited the results.

    in short..

    Open source = Win

    Closed source = Fail

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    So, so simple to fix

    Paper ballots



  5. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    What stupifies me is...

    What I don't understand is that this is ai freaking simple process. Any first year IT student can make a program that counts. It's the most basic thing you can do with a computer, count stuff.

    How hard can it be? Why are those compagnies not getting sued out of existance? Isn't the USA the land of lawers?

    Paris, cause she can probably count better then those machines.

  6. Charles Manning

    What's on TV?

    Nobody really cares about politics and elections and all that crap. Most people are just glad to have all the talking heads off the box for a few years and have them make space for sports, Survivor and the really important stuff.

    Walking down the street it is almost impossible to tell the difference between Clinton, Bush or Obama America. Most voters can't really tell their day to day policies apart and around 50% don't even vote.

    A bit of fraud? Well who cares.... it would not have really impacted on the outcome. If the Diebold junk had caused the wrong person to be voted off the island then you can expect people to care.

  7. Martin Lyne

    Let's see.

    Push a fucking button. Store a fucking record.

    I know 12 year olds that could code this. Well I don't *know* any, but I'm sure they exist.

  8. A J Stiles

    Open Source is Not Enough

    The use of Open Source software in voting machines is solving the wrong problem. There's no way for the person using a voting machine to tell, before they cast their vote, to tell that the binary actually running on the voting machine corresponds with the published Source Code.

    Election paraphernalia and procedures MUST be Universally Comprehensible, otherwise there is no democracy: you can't trust what you can't understand. Any kind of software-driven system is by definition NOT U.C., since understanding it is restricted to competent programmers. In fact, since it is impossible to distinguish between something which has been comprehensively destroyed and something which never existed in the first place, there is no way to know for sure whether or not the software altered itself between the election and any post-mortem inspection to determine whether the binary matches the published Source Code.

    Pencil and paper and manual counting by mutual adversaries work just fine, scale indefinitely and are Universally Comprehensible. Given the nature of the democratic process, I would say that it should not be out of place to mandate their use in a national Constitution.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    re: What's on TV?

    "....almost impossible to tell the difference between Clinton, Bush or Obama America. ...."

    The weeds growing in the streets are greener when the lefties are in charge.

  10. Paul Berry
    IT Angle

    Voting Machines

    What is the problem here that only technology can solve? Is paper and pencil not good enough? Seems to be another hi-tech "solution" in search of a problem that doesn't exist, because that's where the money is.

    Not news is you read RISKS anyway:

    Where the mechanics of the system (and here it's closed-source software) cannot be independently inspected, monitored, or supervised then it's scarcely a solid foundation for democracy.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    First off, while I think every vote should count, there still seems to be one super critical fact missing from both this story and the coverage on the linked web page for the people doing the count: Did the failure to count those ballots change the outcome of the vote? This is super critical because if it did, the wrong person is in office, and whether or not he or she is a member of my party, does not belong there. Absent that, the issue drops from super critical to serious. It is serious because it needs to be fixed for the next election, but having not affected the outcome of this election, is moot to the purposes of governing.

    Next, for all you idiots who think Deibold/Premiere has morons doing their programming work and don't see the need for a technological assistance in vote counting, counting is easy if everything that needs to be counted all comes in the same form and arrives at the same time. Real elections don't work that way. Handling how to deal with adding and removing ballot sets strikes even me, as a non-programmer, as a task that requires a good bit more insight than even a proficient college grad would have. As for those of you advocating not using machines and or computers to tally millions of ballots in 24 hours: please, go back to your caves and don't come back out until you have at least mastered the concepts of 'fire' and 'the wheel.'

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Electronic voting machines: brilliant!

    The Bushies were so impressed by the 2000 electoral chaos in Florida, they decided to "fix" elections everywhere. This crap kit is the fix, supplied by the Republican-controlled Diebold corp.

    To anyone who believes that ballots must be tallied in 24 hours, look again. There is no such legal requirement. In any case, paper ballots CAN be tallied mechanically. See the InkaVote system as an example.

  13. IT Dog's Boy

    Completely Unsurprising

    I live in Humboldt County and it's no surprise at all that years go by before anybody bothers to check that the vote counting machines are up to date, or do anything else with even a hint of a competent manner.

    Getting my coat because I really need to leave this area, anybody need a sysadmin in a real city?

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Local conditions

    For those of you not familiar with some of the lesser-known details of our state:

    Humboldt County is on the northern coast.

    The northern coast is known primarily for two things: fog, and the cultivation of "wacky tobaccy".

    Offered in case this helps explain some of the behavior.

    No, that's not my coat and I don't know how that thing got in the pocket.

  15. A J Stiles

    @ AC

    You know, they count votes by hand in most countries in the world, and they get the results in quickly. The secret is to have many teams of volunteers; all of whom are loyal to one candidate, and therefore none of whom trust one another. The only way such a group can ever agree on a result is if that result is the correct one.

  16. Tim Weigel

    Re: re: "What's on TV?"

    Regarding the weeds: they may be greener when the Dems are in power, but the Republicans can do it CHEAPER.

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