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The New York Times has just published an  article detailing problems and frustrations surrounding the use of new electronic voting machines.

Any time a new technology is introduced there is going to be a learning curve, but many of the problems with the software and machines could and should have been easily detected and solved a long time ago.

The machines may be new, but the technology isn't. There is no excuse for problems like this:

After waiting half an hour or so, Mr. Rojas said, he fed his form into the machine, which informed him that his vote had been counted. The "public count" number increased by one. But then the screen announced a "system error" and instructed Mr. Rojas, 44, a chemistry professor at Barnard College, to contact a poll worker.

The poll worker told Mr. Rojas not to worry; every ballot was generating the "system error."

Doesn't inspire a lot of confidence, does it? An earnest poll worker probably isn't sufficiently trained to recognize errors with electronic scanners or the software that's driving them. If the programmer coded for an exception, something is wrong. It may be benign, but I wouldn't be reassured by being told that every ballot is generating an error.

Or this...

Some voters were unhappy about having to give the completed ballot to election workers running the scanning device. "That’s not a secret ballot at that point," said Paul Randour, 75, a retired lawyer who voted on East 79th Street in Manhattan. He insisted on inserting his ballot into the machine himself.

I agree with Mr. Randour. I voted this morning in my small Wisconsin village using a "complete the arrow" paper ballot that is scanned and counted electronically. There was a poll worker sitting next to the machine and I felt a little uncomfortable just having him watch me insert the ballot. It would have been obvious who I voted for if he had wanted to look down at my ballot. No way would I hand it to him and have him feed it into the machine.

I sincerely hope the incidents detailed are isolated, but it's very disheartening to read these stories every time electronic voting is introduced somewhere.

P.S. Last week I had toyed with the idea of crossing party lines in the primary to help select weaker Republicans. I decided not to, especially after a canvasser came to my door over the weekend and reminded me how important it was to GOTV, even if the Democratic primary races were mostly a formality. I voted on the Democratic side of the ballot, and I feel good. Like I knew that I would.

Originally posted to Giles Goat Boy on Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 08:52 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  There are also numerous problems in D.C. n/t (4+ / 0-)

    I see traitors, but they don't know they're traitors....

    by hcc in VA on Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 08:57:46 AM PDT

  •  Here, if the scanner doesn't work, (6+ / 0-)

    you put your ballot in a sealed box which is opened later and entered into the system.  "Giving it to a poll worker" does not strike me as extra secure, can't believe that.

    I see traitors, but they don't know they're traitors....

    by hcc in VA on Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 08:59:13 AM PDT

  •  My worst fear is that the vast majority of (6+ / 0-)

    e-voting machines are made by ES&S, owned by the brother of the infamous Diebold voting/fraud machines.  Like taking candy from a baby.  You vote and Republicans do the "counting."  We saw how that worked out in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, didn't we?

    I am more concerned with vote count fraud than pretty much any other issue in November and/or 2012.  The only way Rethugs "win" any election is to either convince Dems not to vote at all or "fix" Dem votes to count for Rethugs.

    America HATES REPUBLICANS.  They are a party of shame.  They are corrupt, corporate owned and operated and without any morals.  See Newt Gingrich for confirmation.  A party full of religious fanatics, racists, haters and/or total idiots.  If huge numbers of voters turn out in November and Rethuglicans "win" either house of Congress, you can thank ES&S for "counting" Democratic votes for Rethuglicans.

    Good luck, y'all.

    Fox News + Saudi Prince = Propaganda Promoting Sedition

    by Little Lulu on Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 09:02:43 AM PDT

  •  Polls open 1 minute ago (5+ / 0-)

    so I'm about to go vote. It is my understanding that the ballot is supposed to be inserted into a sleeve. The voter then takes the enclosed ballot and inserts it into the scanner (without the sleeve) thereby ensuring privacy. The poll inspector is only supposed to get involved in the case of problems or to the show the voter how it is done.

    I'm going to go now and see how it is being done at my polling place. My BOE commissioner told me the other day that their training sessions with poll inspectors had gone really well and a local poll inspector had told me that the new machines were "easy."

    As a computer software techie I know they are not as "easy" as they seem but you are right that this is not new technology by any stretch of the imagination but it is new to the users and that makes simple and easy not so simple and easy.


    Andrew - Time to reboot the New York State Senate

    by Andrew C White on Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 09:05:33 AM PDT

    •  We used to have sleeves here. (4+ / 0-)

      Now we just get the ballot. We've had the scanning machines for years, so voters here are accustomed to them, but I wonder what happened to the sleeves. I may ask around.

      Weenie liberals of the world unite! ...soccergrandmom

      by Giles Goat Boy on Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 09:08:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The privacy sleeves (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        oceanview, HudsonValleyMark

        should be a required component for the just the reasons you cited. I used one just now. The instruction on the sleeve was unclear even though the idea of sticking the ballot in the sleeve and leaving a portion hanging out the end so that it can be fed into the machine is about as simple as it gets. I'll discuss that with the BOE and see if they can come up with wording that is less obtuse. - Time to reboot the New York State Senate

        by Andrew C White on Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 09:41:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Us, too. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Giles Goat Boy

        Last time, I think I didn't have a sleeve, but I did put the form into the scanner myself.  The poll workers were not hovering over the scanner, so it wasn't really a  problem.  If I recall correctly, the one closest to the scanner was sitting down, so there's no way she could have gotten a good look, even if she wanted to.

        After reading here for several years, I feel pretty lucky.  In my Iowa town, I've never felt as though the poll workers were the least bit partisan.  They are very good at what they do.  Most have been doing it for years, and I doubt that they'd remember how someone voted even if they did get a peek at the ballot.  They are focused on getting people in and out without hassle or delay and do a damned fine job of it.  Yup, I'm pretty darned lucky....

        -7.62, -7.28 "Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly." -Langston Hughes

        by luckylizard on Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 09:45:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  The Sequoia machine used in Tompkins County (0+ / 0-)

      Allow you to insert your ballot FACE DOWN.  So that's what you do for privacy (unless there are people on the floor looking up)

      -5.63, -8.10. Learn about Duverger's Law.

      by neroden on Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 08:57:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I voted this morning. No one (5+ / 0-)

    asked to take my filled out ballot.  I was instructed to insert the ballot myself and did so.   That is the instruction which was given to all election inspectors in Westchester County, as my wife is an inspector and went through the training this summer (and is working the polls today).

  •  Good old (5+ / 0-)

    fill in the circle "scantron" here in North Dakota, and self-serve machine feeding. And no snoopy poll worker to stare at them. He's a few feet beyond the machine, usually giving an exit greeting.

    In 2008 I was teh very first voter at my precinct, so I thought to myself, for a a few seconds at least, Obama was winning my precinct.

    Turns out Obama indeed won eastern North Dakota that night by a modest margin.

  •  I really... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Andrew C White, neroden

    don't understand why this is considered complicated.  Anyone who's taken a standardized test in the past 25+ years can readily understand what's going on and how to vote.  

    As for the privacy issue, there was someone who ran my ballot through the scanner and yes, they could have seen what was marked (particularly since my district only had the two statewide races), but I suspect that they had an assistant there for two reasons:

    1.  Guy was looking for something to do given the low-turnout.
    1.  My precinct is uncommonly heavy with non-English speaking voters, particularly elderly ones, who are the most likely to need help in scanning a ballot.
    •  I think the poll worker... (0+ / 0-)

      ...should be there to provide assistance if asked. As you said, it's a simple process. Most people can do it themselves. There is no need to give someone the opportunity to glance at my voting choice, even if he/she means no harm.

      Weenie liberals of the world unite! ...soccergrandmom

      by Giles Goat Boy on Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 09:19:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Hey (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    neroden, SoCaliana

    at least you've got a paper trail in NY.  Here in GA it's all on the machines and the R SOS has just added an "upgrade" that scans the back if your driver's liscence (and presumably other state issued id, which is required for voting) in response to calls for a paper trail -- SOS has also put all voter info online, accessible by name and birthdate.
    Just waiting for the case where a stalker tracks someone down via the SOS website.

    •  I'm in Wisconsin (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      neroden, yella dawg

      But we have a similar process as the one being introduced in NYC.

      ID required for voting? Thankfully the R Attorney General here was shouted down on that idea. He lives in the same village as me and I find it interesting that at my polling place they have a sign that says "You must give your name and address to vote. It's the law!"

      Nothing so obnoxious in Madison, where I lived for years and still work.

      Weenie liberals of the world unite! ...soccergrandmom

      by Giles Goat Boy on Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 09:24:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yeah, we fought for that paper ballot. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      yella dawg

      I was pleased to get a paper ballot to fill out, and to watch it go into a locked box.

      Credit to my Assemblywoman, Barbara Lifton, for spearheading the paper ballot law in the NY legislature -- it was apparently a tough fight.  Credit to Bo Lipari for running the activist organization for it.

      A few years ago, the voting machine companies actually announced "NY will be a touchscreen state" and actually refused to offer us anything else.  Thank goodness we fought and held out for paper ballots.

      -5.63, -8.10. Learn about Duverger's Law.

      by neroden on Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 09:01:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yeah, really sorry for y'all in Georgia. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      yella dawg

      How's the organizing to get paper ballots going in Georgia?  I know it's gone nowhere so far.  But we've made so much progress in so many other states... and there were so many suspicious elections in Georgia recently....

      Well, the usual link:

      Around here, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delware remain "problem" states.

      -5.63, -8.10. Learn about Duverger's Law.

      by neroden on Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 09:04:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for the link (0+ / 0-)

        I'll be signing up there : )
        as far as I know nothing is being done now, but we have high hopes of a Democratic governor this time, former Gov. Roy Barnes, who should be supportive
        w/o him the outlook here for a paper trail is grim and my personal hopes will continue to be pinned to someone winning this in court.  Voter Id has been litigated and lost, so maybe someone will take up this . . .

        •  also (0+ / 0-)

          we haven't had any suprising results, really -- in 2008 the D blue dog Congressmen did win their recounts in Savannah and Macon
          but we need that paper trail and scanning driver's liscences is just nuts
          also hoping Obama DOJ will revisit Bush DOJ's approvals under the Voting Rights Act, but I'm sure that's somewhere on their list

  •  Its hard to trust. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Giles Goat Boy

    It doesnt even matter who did it, a lot of us are worried about our votes not being counted. For example, I live in kentucky and voted for Obama. But out of all the states, Kentucky reported their results first. Of course, it went to McCain (totally expected) but the speed at which they did it was somewhat disturbing. the polls couldnt have been closed for more than an hour when they announced it. It was weird.

  •  The German Constitutional Court declared computer (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    skrekk, neroden, Giles Goat Boy

    … voting machines incompatible with the requirements of Germany's Basic Law (= constitution).

    This is the key argument:

    „Der Einsatz von Wahlgeräten, die die Stimmen der Wähler elektronisch erfassen und das Wahlergebnis elektronisch ermitteln, genügt nur dann den verfassungsrechtlichen Anforderungen, wenn die wesentlichen Schritte von Wahlhandlung und Ergebnisermittlung zuverlässig und ohne besondere Sachkenntnis überprüft werden können. Während bei der herkömmlichen Wahl mit Stimmzetteln Manipulationen oder Wahlfälschungen unter den Rahmenbedingungen der geltenden Vorschriften jedenfalls nur mit erheblichem Einsatz und einem präventiv wirkenden sehr hohen Entdeckungsrisiko möglich sind, sind Programmierfehler in der Software oder zielgerichtete Wahlfälschungen durch Manipulation der Software bei elektronischen Wahlgeräten nur schwer erkennbar. Die große Breitenwirkung möglicher Fehler an den Wahlgeräten oder gezielter Wahlfälschungen gebietet besondere Vorkehrungen zur Wahrung des Grundsatzes der Öffentlichkeit der Wahl.“

    Gist of the above in English:

    "The use of electronic voting machines that record votes electronically and determine election results electronically satisfies the constitutional requirements only if the essential steps of the balloting process and results analysis can be reviewed reliably and without special expertise. While ballot tampering and electoral fraud are possible with the traditional election setup, under the framework of existing rules it requires considerable effort and has a very high risk of detection as a deterrent. With electronic voting machines on the other hand, bugs in the software or purposeful manipulation of the elections through manipulation of the software are difficult to detect. With voting machines, the broad impact of possible errors or deliberate election fraud demands special precautions if the principle of an open election is to be respected."

    The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war.

    by lotlizard on Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 09:38:26 AM PDT

  •  Just voted (5+ / 0-)

    no problems. Instructions aren't as clear as they ought to be but the process is simple enough. Machine worked without a hitch. - Time to reboot the New York State Senate

    by Andrew C White on Tue Sep 14, 2010 at 09:38:35 AM PDT

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