back to article Electronic votes mysteriously vanish in Ohio election

Electronic voting machines made by Premier Election Solutions have once again been caught dropping votes during the November elections, this time in Ohio's Montgomery County. The missing five votes failed to register during the original count and again during a recount, according to The Dayton Daily News. They probably never …

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  1. Christoph

    And how many more?

    Both those recent errors were discovered through unlikely chance. So there is a very strong probability that there are a lot more errors which were never found.

  2. David Wilkinson

    These two quots said it all.

    "You've got an error that erases itself, which is the worst of all worlds because it can cover itself up."

    Not "seen this particular condition anywhere else in Ohio or anywhere else in the country.

  3. Pierre

    I second Christoph and David Wilkinson

    So most -if not all- of the results obtained from Premier/Diebolds (or whichever name these crooks choose) machines might be rigged. And this goes at least 2 presidential elections back. Shouldn't the UN send observators?

  4. Pierre

    May I be the first to shout OPEN SOURCE?

    I know that open source is not the answer to everything, but I'm pretty sure that a code review would have flagged the "if audit trail and results don't match, override the audit" policy as nonaudit-acceptable.audit

  5. Christian Berger

    Intentional?

    Sometimes I wonder if those "bugs" aren't intentional. I mean how hard can it be to count something? I guess they are waiting for the bugs beeing the main argument against machine voting, and then fix them, causing all arguments to disappear, paving the road for a bright future.

  6. lglethal Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Actually im suprised this isnt easier to pick up

    Im not American so i dont know the specifics of how voting works there but here in Aus, your name is ticked off on a register at the voting centre before your given the bit of paper to go do your voting on. Now even if your doing it electronically surely you have to have your name marked off somewhere before you go into the electronic booth to stop you coming back and voting multiple times. It should then be fairly simple to count how many people voted at your voting centre and tallying this with the number of votes (legitimate and illegitimate) made on the electronic voting machine.

    The only way i can see this system failing is if someone goes to a voting centre, goes into a booth and isnt able to/decides not to vote. I cant imagine many people going to the voting centre, lining up, waiting, getting your name crossed off, then not voting. But if someone isnt able to vote (because the system is too complex or fails) then your system should be abandoned straight away. Anyway whats wrong with the good old pencil and paper option?

  7. Francis Boyle

    mysteriously?

    It's Premier = Diebold.

    Oh wait, irony.

    Bit like shooting fish in a barrel, innit?

  8. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    WTF

    What kind of pea brain thinks having removable memory cards is in any way acceptable in a supposedly secure system?

  9. Paul Banacks
    Flame

    How hard can it be?

    How difficult can it possibly be to securely collect the answers to a few multiple choice questionnaires cheaply?

    It's ridiculous that these "projects" which could be built by a solitary geek in his garage take millions of dollars to create by a company using the latest "technologies" only to find that they fail their most basic task!

    If anyone wants to pay me to make a set of e-voting machines + counting in a non-secretive professional manor then I'll happily take on that task!

  10. Frank Sattler

    What I don't get is this.

    How hard is it to add things up? Voter enters boot, clicks button/touch screen, clicks again to confirm, total of votes for selected party/candidate is incremented by one. Behind the scenes, some logging takes place.

    From where I'm sitting, this is almost secondary school computer science. It's got to be considerably harder to balls this stuff up than to get it right, and whatever goes wrong in development sure as hell should be caught in QA. It's not as if there are a huge number of test scenarios to run through.

    Where's the question mark icon?!

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  12. mr.K
    Coat

    It is a bloody counter

    How hard can it be to make a counter? Even better, a counter which puts out a paper trail for random controls.

    Ah well, America isn't a true democracy anyway, so why do I care.

    And now watch me while I make a run for my coat.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    re: Actually im suprised this isnt easier to pick up

    Actually, the first time the machines were used during the Florida elections, they/politicians/media were actually saying that it was just that, people were going in and not voting. How could machine's set up to do something so simple fail?

    But since the elections appear to not actually matter anymore in a too obvious way, here in the land of the free, there would never be a re-run in any state becuase we peasants just aren't patient enough to have to vote again?

    Would be nice to see who owns diebold/premier stock, eh? Neither of the major parties ever seem very interested in finding out what's going on except the "odd" ones that can't stop rocking the boat. Soooo annoying, you wish they would just shut up and drink the cool-aid already!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Paper trail

    Presumably they all have paper trails by now and they simply ran a random check of those paper audit trails vs the recorded vote and checked that the error was within a statistically correct margin for the given margin of election win?

    You know,... do sciency stuff to verify against fraudy stuff.

    IMHO, wherever you create an opportunity for power or money, it attracts people who want power or money. So if you make machines that can be made to create a fraudulant election, then people WILL abuse it. So best to sort out these problems before they can be abused.

  15. kissingthecarpet
    Linux

    Electronic voting doesn't add up

    I seem to recall that a government-sponsored committee had a look at e-voting for the UK, and it was agreed that its a bad idea. The leading open-source expert in e-voting software(Jason Kitkat) thinks its a bad idea at

    http://www.bcs.org/server.php?show=ConWebDoc.8748

    A quote - "Following the elections the influential National Institute of Standards and Technology released a firm report, which said that electronic voting machines 'in practical terms cannot be made secure'."

    The Yanks should pay attention to their own experts, rather than the guys who make the machines, & the pols who are in their pockets.

  16. Donald Becker

    Even more interesting with the history

    The back story here -- the part that makes these stories gratifying -- is the many years that Diebold has resisted any review. There was a small group of transparency-in-voting advocates (w/ more than a little overlap with Open Source advocates) pushing for publishing the source code for these machines. Or at least making it readily available for expert external review. For years Diebold insisted that their code had already been throughly reviewed, and that they shouldn't have to reveal their highly proprietary method of incrementing counters.

    It turns out that those advocates were right. Not just "not wrong". But Completely Right. After the first confirmed errors, no apologies or changes. Nor after the second. Or after the continuing series of subtle errors. These were all "rare" errors, yet almost every careful, time-consuming review finds new ones.

    This would never happen, but the original people protesting the Diebold closed system should be generously funded to be advocates for new, carefully designed, verifiable and open voting systems.

  17. he who knows
    Stop

    who did they vote for

    how many of the votes were democrats compared to repblican. i bet there wasnt a single republican missing

  18. Sajjad Syed

    Remind me...

    What exactly is electronic voting supposed to improve?

  19. raving angry loony

    Same company?

    Is this the same company whose CEO boasted that he guaranteed he could bring the votes in for Bush? I thought so.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Men in black

    "You've got an error that erases itself, which is the worst of all worlds because it can cover itself up."

    It's a conspiracy I tell's ya!

  21. David Gosnell

    "highly proprietary method of incrementing counters"

    I guess something as obvious and foolproof as

    obamaVotes++

    (or ++obamaVotes for the kind of anal retentives who also reverse "if" conditions)

    would have had too much prior art to patent?

    And yes it is the same company whose CEO boasted all that.

  22. Diogenies

    @Iglethal

    I have worked a polling booth in Oz and idiot voters put the wrong papers in the wrong box - and we were only voting for House of Reps and Senate.

    Compare & contrast with US where they vote seperately for Prez, Vice Prez, Congressman, Senator, as well as Governor, State Senate, State Congress, Mayor, Local Council, School Board, Sheriff, Dog Catcher , Firechief & potentially Judges etc etc all on the same day and on the same ballot paper - just a smidge more difficult (equivalent to us voting for GG,PM, Senate, Reps, State Gov, Premier, Upper House(not Qld),Lower House, Police Chief, State Education Minister & his/her Regional Directors, Mayor, Council, local bushfire brigade captain all on the one ballot paper without "above the line voting"

  23. Nigel
    Boffin

    Do it all by hand.

    Electronic voting means that you can get a result faster, which is viewed by some as an improvement. Personally I feel that it is more important (a) to get to the right result eventually, and (b) to have auditable physical media.

    If speed is desired, the best way is paper ballots fed through an electronic scanner / counting device at the polling station, and into a sealed ballot box. Mostly, that'll be accurate enough to give a result acceptable to all parties within minutes of the polling stations closing. On the other hand if it's close, or if corrupt software is alleged, the paper ballots can be recounted both by machine (several times, to determine random error levels), and by hand (to make sure that there is no systematic error / deliberate corruption in the software).

    Personally I think that the time-honoured UK approach (counting by hand, with no machinery at all) is the best way to do an election. It's VERY hard for anyone to steal an election when all the evidence is open to scrutiny by all parties (and of course, independant observers).

    A subtlety in hand counting that many miss: it is a process of iterative refinement. The first count assembles ballot papers into groups of (say) 100 all for the same candidate. Subsequent counts look for hundred-bundles that actually contain (say) 99 or 101, or contain a paper for the wrong candidate. Each time an error is found, logged and corrected, the result gets more trustworthy. The same cannot be said of any electronic recount, because it starts everything from scratch, and will contain both the same systematic errors, and the same distribution of random ones.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    @who did they vote for

    I suppose the fact that the Republitard lost and the Democrap won escaped your attention?

  25. shay mclachlan

    pah

    This is what you get for messing around trying to use high tech solutions. All major Political elections should be decided Butch Cassidy style by a knife fight and/or a kick in the balls.

  26. kain preacher

    Well

    "The Yanks should pay attention to their own experts, rather than the guys who make the machines, & the pols who are in their pockets."

    Csnt haver that now can we. Then we would have to listen to experts on cannabis.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    i've voted paper and machine

    Started out on large paper ballots with an ink marker; switched to punch cards...moved to another area where they had the large "lever-type" machines and then they finally went to the punch cards. after the florida vote fraud with the "chads" (a total bunch of useless willy-wagging) we got the touch-screen machines. They're easy enough to use, but last election i voted for "paper" and used a simple pen to make my choices known.

    The punch cards were easy and reliable and I never had a problem with chads or any other nonsense. the last paper ballot was crazy large to cover all the issues and pols running for offices.

    Still, it only counts if you can get one set of wankers out of office to get a new set of wankers in now, innit?

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