back to article Sequoia attack dogs kill review into e-voting discrepancies

New Jersey elections officials have scrapped plans to inspect electronic voting machines suspected of malfunctioning during the recent presidential primary election, following legal threats by their manufacturer, Sequoia Voting Systems. Officials from New Jersey's Union County had requested the audit by Princeton University …

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Pirate

Corporatism

"Democracy" is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the US corporate establishment.

or, to put it less delicately, scum like Sequoia will make sure that other scum (like them) get elected. home of the brave, land of the free...no longer.

i'm curious to see whether the public will continue to take this, like the sheep they have been. there's always a chance that one of the domestic militias will wake up and send its small-mouthed, armed anarchists after the people who are really implementing these decisions - people like Sequoia, and behind them, old money and the GOP.

i'm naturalized, and my wife is a resident alien, so i'll probably be leaving in a few years. i've paid my dues, and have no special loyalty to the US. this country is getting dumber and crazier every year. George Carlin is right about this place.

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That reminds me of the old song...

"And They Call it Democracy" by Bruce Cockburn.

Trade secrets? Like the fact the &*^$%@)#$ voting machines are totally rigged, f'r instance?

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Can't help but wonder

How the (spurious) rights of one company can supercede the rights of the citizens of an entire nation to have their votes correctly counted.

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... I see

Nothing says guilty like threatening to sue when the government wants to be sure your machines aren't haxx0red like a cheap windows box connecting to the internet for the very first time.

I'm not normally one for the "Nothing to fear, nothing to hide" sort of mentality, but in elections, transparency is -absolutely- paramount.

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e-voting discrepanicies

The answer to this is so simple, I guess the counter boards can't see it..

Just require the machine mfg. to provide a output port on each machine with the proper data (total voted), and total to each party .(Numbers only) output to a lcd counter. Data can then be verified on site by the certification committee....simple, quick and accurate.

MWH

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Reminds me of a funny Onion news video ...

... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBrDzZCOQtI

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Thumb Up

I was just listening to Roger Waters

"When the sleigh is heavy

And the timber wolves are getting bold

You look at you companions

And test the water of their friendship

With your toe

They significantly edge

Closer to the gold

Each man has his price Bob

And yours was pretty low"

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Alert

A suggestion

The State Attorney General of New Jersey should file suit against Sequoia on behalf of the citizenry for knowing, willful, and deliberate suborning of the electoral process, and submit the paper-tape and cartridge records as evidence.

The only way Sequoia can prove that charge to be false (if it is, which I doubt) will be to open their machines to truly independent inspection.

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WHat bunch of pussies

I'd inspected them once of month just for the threat of a law suit. ( I hate to use this phrase). IF there is nothing wrong doing then whats the problem with the state inspecting it ???. I suspect the system has more holes in it then Cheney has had heart attacks

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Stop

New Jersey

The government of NJ can now officially be considered pansies. I can't believe that a state government backed down under legal threats from a private company. Unbelievable. If someone doesn't recognize the error of their ways and turn this ship around every decision maker in the NJ government should be sacked right now.

Democracy is leaving the building.

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IT Angle

Math is Hard

Maxwell was always suing people who claimed he was corrupt. After he died it was discovered that he'd made off with millions of other peoples money.

Everybody understands that software has bugs. But it is difficult to understand how someone can create a machine that can't count up reliably.

Why do these companies respond to technical criticism by calling the lawyers rather than fixing the problem?

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Gates Horns

Or they could....

Modernise their electoral system so that:

1) An Electoral Commissions staffed by professional, apolitical public servants (as occurs in Australia at the Federal and State level) performs all elections with one EC for National Elections and one in each state looking after State and Local (county) elections. This would ensure consistent ballot papers and processes across entire states and nationally for all elections;

2) Dispense with this complete nonsense of electronic voting - it's first past the post for heavens sake! You don't need some dodgy expensive equipment of dubious quality, reliability and veracity to count that!

Paper ballots can be very quickly counted by humans. Australia just did that at our Federal Election in December last year and our preferential voting system is much more complex by comparison. Australia has the most spread out, geographically isolated population on the planet and we still managed to returned a result by the end of counting on Election night without the aid of machines.

Australians have absolute trust in our electoral system as it's beyond manipulation by nefarious groups and individuals. Checks and balances people, checks and balances!

3) Reform your system of government so that the entire system isn't politicised by having to vote for every stupid little Government position. Is it really necessary to elect a school board? Is it really a good idea to elect a Sherif? If the past few U.S. elections are anything to go by, then electing the Electoral officials is a particularly BAD idea. Establish a professional, apolitical public service. You will get better government that way.

4) Keep different electoral cycles separate. In other words, at a Federal Election only vote for the Federal representatives - Senators, Congressmen (every two years is it?) with President every forth. And nothing else. Have your State and Local (County) elections on a different cycle so that those elections occur on different dates to the Federal ballot. For example, assuming you have fixed terms for everything, a Local (County) Election might occur mid Spring, Federal early Autumn and State late Autumn - oh sorry, Fall. It comes down to the K.I.S.S. principle really.

Not everything is bad about the U.S. system of government, for instance the Senate and Congressional committees system is brilliant with fantastically sharp teeth, keen eyes and probing tentacles. The Australian Parliament's and State based committees system is quite weak by comparison.

Australia's preferential system ensures that the candidate elected has at least 50% + 1 of the vote (i.e. a true majority). The U.S. system of First Past the Post means that a person elected has a minority of the overall vote (i.e. most people voted for candidates other than the one elected).

The proportional representation system in the Australian Senate ensures that a more balanced spread of parties are elected, rather than the duopoly that currently exists. (Greens get 10% of the vote, they get 10% of the seats) should be considered as part of the modernising process. Another option would be using the Haire-Clarke system from Tasmania with multi-member divisions elected on a proportional system, once again ensuring a more representative spread of parties in the House of Representatives or Congress in your parlance. You'll have a system that is more representative and responsive to the needs of the community.

The U.S. shouldn't believe for a minute that she possesses the absolute best system of Democracy in the world. Yes, there are some parts which are very good, but many parts with glaring weaknesses with corruption and political interference lurking in the shadows and as we've recently seen, boldy stepping into the light - and then threatening to sue.

If American citizens don't want to see their democracy privatised and corrupted further, you need to demand change.

*Devil Bill Gates because I'm sure he's all for privatised elections.

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Stop

Paper Ballots, Oh yes the traditional way to rig an election

I am amused by those story writers, with the obligatory air of smugness, that state that the only way to "fair" elections is with the use of paper ballots. I love fairy tales.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury I need only to remind you of two relatively recent occurrences of paper ballot rigging to have you convict paper of crimes against logic.

First, I present the election of 2000. The Dade county paper ballots let to millions of dollars happily given to lawyers making specious arguments at several layers of the judiciary culminating in the Bush v. Gore decision in the first George W. Bush election. And it led to the creation of a a cottage industry of conspiracy theorists that fiercely and wantonly ignore facts to keep their ideas in circulation in some dark corner of the Internet.

Finally I present the election of 1960. The Daley Democratic party political machine in Chicago managed to have thousands of dead Irish democrats cast paper ballots (often several times) for John Kennedy propelling him into office.

Faced with this evidence, irrefutable as it is, you must convict paper of the crime and send it to the dustbin of history until the end of time.

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Pirate

@Sino

Great research Sino! You pointed out two examples of paper ballot fraud!

You failed to consider this story alone outline outlines a huge number of ballot discrepancies in a single state, all of which used electronic voting machines. In fact the total number of questionable votes in the NJ example far exceed the number of questionable votes in the 2000 Presidential Election in Florida. Paper might not be perfect, but it's proven to be less prone to error than electronic voting.

Almost every other state has a website devoted to dealing with massive errors by e-vote machines. For example http://www.votesafetn.org/ outlines massive failures in every county in TN that used e-voting machines. The site has a great selection of meticulously detailed problems with the processes, machines, and results. You ought to do a bit more research before jumping on the technology bandwagon - that's what happened in the late 90's tech bubble, and you see where that got us.

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There's an obvious answer for NJ and other states...

Simply decertify the machines and replace them. Losing contracts (the machines are pennies compared to the dollars made for service and support) will quickly open a company's eyes when the cash cows go to greener pastures. Make corporate greed work for you. Corporations do it all the time. It's called leverage. I fail to understand why states don't take advantage of the fact they provide massive amounts of money to these companies. Even a small state like NJ would seriously dent a company's bottom line. That's what Ohio and California did to ES&S machines.

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@b shubin

Ask yourself, if it were really the GOP behind the NJ debacle, would Hillary and her male clone, McCain, really have won the primaries?

The true spinelessness of NJ stands stark. They should see the Supremes decision in Alden, John v Maine; to wit "the 5-4 majority concluded that states retained their immunity and their authority to allow private suits against the sovereign in their own courts." Simply put, they can equally disallow private suits against the state and tell Sequoia to go split wood.

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Coat

Alas

Alas , the problem with all Yankee elections is they have been rigged in every way possible one way or another since the election of the very first president since they declared themselves independent some two hundred odd years ago, thus total and absolute corruption is endemic from day one !

Further a country that touts and spouts democracy from the highest steeple in the land has a surprisingly large lists and ways and means to disenfranchise the largest number of voters possible !

The entire US electoral system is one of the most convoluted strangest set up that it is humanly possible to create , as all voters must register on party lines so allowing corruption to be endemic from the very first election involving political parties onwards since independence !

For them , whilst the Yankees are totally blind to the absolute inequality in their election system where corruption rules with an iron fist at every level of government , they will shout from the highest rooftop that other countries who operate a far fairer election with external audit are even more corrupt then theirs as the usual gun runners drug lords and other friendly pro US riff raff they have chosen to sell out the locals to the lowest US corporate bidder are soundly beaten in a free and fair election !

Thus forcing "foggy bottom" to sponsor a coup led by mostly thieves and crooks in a vain attempt to win the country back to the fold as a slave to their system of basic inequality or even invade countries as well Grenada style ! Although for some strange reason the newly educated peons of Nicaragua gave them one very big black eye the last time they tried !

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No Investigation?

Call me a cycnic but when a gov caves this easily over such an important issue then I start thinking they are afraid of the involvement of someone very high up being revealed.

But that's just me.

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Paris Hilton

tally's...we no need no stinkin' tallys...

So just wait for M$ to use this argument at the next EU monopoly commission..

"It's not a bug.....it's a trade secret"

What's wrong with paper ballots and a pot of indelible Ink to stuck peoples thumbs in??

Heck!I could design, build a voting machine using an old BBC micro to be more secure than these guys!!

Paris cause she's "super-smart" compared to Sequoia IT Dept.

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Bronze badge

It isn't the vote

The worst thing about US politics is that they have a system of taking bribes paid for by company reps with a spending budget that can only be matched by the likes of Donald Rumsfeld being directors of such companies.

Make Parliamentary "researchers" look positively harmless.

It doesn't matter who you vote for, a politician is going to get in.

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What "trade secrets?"

This is a glorified adding machine. It adds up votes, nothing more.

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Coat

Can't be inspected...

..can't be used. Once everyone has left Democracy, please turn off the light.

Mine is the one with the iron curtain.

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@Stuart Duel

Stuart, you said:

"2) Dispense with this complete nonsense of electronic voting - it's first past the post for heavens sake! You don't need some dodgy expensive equipment of dubious quality, reliability and veracity to count that!

Paper ballots can be very quickly counted by humans. "

That is not a very clever statement, to say the least.

Electronic counting has a lot of appeal that human counting doesn't have. Speed, no need for huge armies of volunteers, more difficult to rig for an outsider, and many other points.

On the other hand, it has, as we are all saying here, a big, big, big drawback, that is it is subject to bugs, and to possible tempering either by hacking or by corruption of the process by insiders.

The fact the latter is agreed does not mean one has to be as backwards as you are and say manual voting is the best ever.

Maybe by just taking the best of both worlds, you'd have something a little less black and white than what you say.

If for instance, you do an electronic voting with a print of your vote that falls into a ballot box, after having been duly validated by you through a glass, it has every single advantage of manual voting.

The voter has proof what he said was counted (at least in the ballot box), he can verify, the box can't be tempered with from the outside, it can be surveilled, and so on.

But it also has the advantages of electronic voting: automatic count, accurate results, easy aggregation, and so on.

And it can't be tempered with as long as the system includes manual recounts of the physical part. But then you just have to count maybe 1% taken randomly of all ballot boxes. If there are 10.000 ballot boxes, there's virtually no chance that a rigging with any kind of effect would go undetected.

Better yet, let each party designate the boxes he wants recounted, up to a certain number. It'd ensure there's always someone who will get a recount in the places where there might be a doubt. (and fo course, if you find discrepancies, then it's still time to do a count of everything)

As you see, it's not a question of electronic versus manual. It's simply a question of procedure. Here, the procedure is "we give you the results, shut the fuck up, and don't dare asking for checks and balance". THAT is the problem, not electronic voting in itself.

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Anonymous Coward

Problem worse than Sequoia claims

If you look at Felten's blog, there are scans of the receipt printed by one of these voting machines -- showing vote totals that don't add up EVEN ON THE SAME PRINTED RECEIPT. Printed total of votes for Democratic candidates doesn't equal the sum of the printed vote totals for each Democratic candidate. This was seen on several machines' printouts in this election.

Put simply, there is NO WAY this machine can be trusted -- it cannot even print out CONSISTENT vote totals for one machine, let alone ACCURATE ones (a point which is unprovable without printed ballots in any case). This is about as serious as a voting machine failure can possibly get.

Now, the state government's ultimate response to this will tell us all a LOT about what they really care about and how far we can trust them and their election system. If there's a serious investigation and a switch to paper ballots, the election results MAY be real. But if these machines are still certified come November, kiss your democracy goodbye.

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Pirate

The Manchurian candidate

@ Ito

you've answered your own question, with a resounding yes. two very safe, very predictable establishment candidates won. that's the way corporations like it. predictable, status quo, minimal disruption and maximum exposure to lobbyists.

they both fit the bill, and i don't trust either of them.

McCain showed his true colors when he helped Bush sustain the veto on the bill against waterboarding. that's about as blatant a sellout as i've ever seen. plus, he supports the Iraq adventure (stay there for 100 years? what the fsck for?).

Hillary was part of the administration that repealed some very important banking regulations back in 1998; this has led directly to our current banking crisis. she also voted for the war.

most of the candidates that would rock the boat have been eliminated, and Obama is next. then, your choice will be no choice, and corporate America will be happy.

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Coat

Genetic engineering gone mad!

Half rottweiler, hald giant redwood? My God, those things must be enormous.

What do you mean by "read the article"?

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If I was a resident of NJ

If I lived in NJ, and I voted on one of those machines, I would start a class-action lawsuit against the state. Then the state could decide who it was rather be sued by -- the citizens it fucked over by using faulty machines, or the manufacturer of the machines. If the state continues to use these machines, it is clearly willful and malicious negligence. Knowing that the machines were faulty, using the votes produced by the machines is willful and malicious negligence. The only fair and legal way around this is a re-vote without those machines. Anything less is yet more proof that the voting commissions don't care about the people's votes, which is illegal as one of the basic rights given to every adult citizen is the right to vote. Or are they going to try saying that the citizens were given that right, and there is nothing saying those votes must count towards something?

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democracy is alive and well then

As long as the regulatory bodies are in the pockets of the corporations, average folk don't stand a chance. Nicely done, oh yeah.

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NJ

Is the only state were you can hold to political positions at the same time. I belive the mayor of Newark was a senator at the same time .

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Paris Hilton

Class-action citizenry

@Chris C

As I was reading the prior comments, I was thinking just that. As a voter, I would most definitely sue the state for note ensuring that my vote was properly counted.

The fact that NJ would not stand up to Suckqoia is appalling, disgusting, and simply an abandonment of its citizens. I figure that Suckqoia's methodology in this situation is a threat to national security, and should be treated as such. Water-board their asses.

At the very least I would give Suckqoia one last chance: tallying a recall vote for every elected official responsible for the decision not to put a foot squarely in Suckqoia's collective ass.

Paris, for not properly counting.

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Anonymous Coward

Oversight, we don’t need no stinking oversight!

We have fixed this election and it is going to stay that way!

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Coat

Democracy, e-voting machines, etc..

It's been five years since democracy was introduced to Iraq, isn't it about time to get them to vote using the e-voting machines from Seqoia?

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Wot - no-one mentioned the manufacturers blatant admission of guilt ?

The manufacturer puts the errors down to mistakes on the part of poll workers.

WTF ?

So actions by poll workers can influence the results counted by the machines !

Need I say more ?

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Trade secrets?

For a glorified counter? You must be joking. I mean, all it needs to do is present voting options and record the vote cast. The only kind of trade secrets a device that simple could possibly contain are embarassing ones.

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Black Helicopters

@ Stuart Duel

Stuart,

You make some great points. Here in NZ we copied some points from your system, and it seems to work reasonably well.

However, you seem to have missed the point that the people who make the most money out of the current electoral system are also the ones more or less in control of it, so the chances of any meaningful reforms taking place are nil.

I would never use the term democracy to describe the US system. When the rich rule, its Oligarchy. The ancient Greeks used it, and it worked quite well for them, although most Greek city states had to supress revolts every now and again.

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