back to article Rigged e-voting machine snacks on Homer Simpson

If the US voters reporting flipped votes in early balloting for the US Presidential race think they have it bad, they haven't heard of Homer Simpson's plight. In this Sunday's episode of The Simpsons, the lovable loser enters a voting booth for this year's presidential election and is surprised to find a touch-screen machine. " …

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Coat

I'm not worried

My vote won't count anyways, so, to quote AE Newman "what, me worry?"

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Coat

Oh, irony...

This, my fine pals, is how a leading candidate ends up loosing them elekchuns.

Worst, loosing to a tech-illiterate oponent because of rigged electronic machineries. How ironic is that?

</mode=commentard>

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Anonymous Coward

Open Source Plug

I'd feel much better about the machines if the source was open and the vendors of the machines would accept outside help and implement it speedily. And doing checksums among the machines can help prevent someone from changing the code while they vote.

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cause and effect

I think the american public are going to have a deep distrust of any sort of voting since they sat there and let let their fraudulent shepherds herd in the current imbecille, even though they actually voted for the other one who went on to win a nobel prize.

i dont think it would matter what the technology being used is, as they are going to be extremely weary of being fleeced again by their captors.

oh wait, whats that? fox news reporting that mcain got 180% of the evotes. oh, well, fox said it. must be true. back to the pen then.

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Joke

They should have had these...

...for the Irish EU referendums. Then the poor Paddies wouldn't have to keep

being sent back to the polls until they get it right!

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e-Voting

e-Voting machines are all crap.

Never trust them, ever.

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Silver badge

It could, just, be the voters - too.

Everyone who's worked in tech support has come across the smoking[1] wreck of a PC, where it's obvious that the user has spent hours (maybe days) trying to get it to do something and in the process has FUBAR'd it. When challenged, these users generally respond to the question "What did you do to it?" with the phrase all parents know: "Nothing, it just broke"

Now, I'm perfectly willing to accept that no system is perfect and that there are occasions where something as simple as a button press could be mis-translated into an entry for the other side (especially as no-one is allowed to inspect either the workings, or the software of these gizmos). However, as this video http://www.rocketboom.com/rb_08_oct_21/ shows, we're not talking about a brain-surgeon's convention here. Even the smallest application of Occam's razor would lead to the conclusion that voters are the main cause of errors in electronic voting, no matter how simple you try to make it, or how strenuously they deny screwing it up.

[1] figuratively speaking of course

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Solving a Non-Problem

What's wrong with pencil marks in a box on a paper ballot?

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Paris Hilton

Er...

How can it drop votes? How can there be 10-year-old bugs? It's a vote counter....

If one button is pressed, increment one counter. If another is pressed, increment that counter. How hard can it be?! Oh, I get it.. they're using a signed 16 bit number for one candidate and 32 bit for another. WHOOPS, it's a landslide in this state, with 3 million votes versus -27,000!

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Stop

You're missing the main problem here

The real problem is the measures put in, supposedly, to prevent voter fraud. It just so happens that they tend to disproportionately disenfranchise poor people, i.e. "people of colour". Remember Florida last time?

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Hmm..

"computerized voting systems that can cause votes to be lost or miscounted because of malfunctions"

Or if you believe certain people, because one party invests some quite serious money into trying to cheat by rigging the voting system. Of course, this never happens in any other country.........

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Anonymous Coward

Does it matter?

“I'll show you politics in America. Here it is, right here. 'I think the puppet on the right shares my beliefs.' 'I think the puppet on the left is more to my liking.' 'Hey, wait a minute, there's one guy holding out both puppets!'” - Bill Hicks

All votes go to /dev/null anyway.

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Boffin

I Say , "Ban Them ALL!"

One felt pen. One paper ballot. One well-locked and on-camera (tape ROLLING!) ballot box. One big careful double-checked count-um-up at the end of it all, then write the results down SOLID and seal 'em in an envelope along with all the adding machine tapes, scratch pads, etc generated on the way to that lawfully crucial Bottom Line.

Count them fairly by counting them ACCURATELY, People! (Shite, all too many of us here Stateside'd be grateful to be counted at all, no mistake.)

Replicate and re-replicate this above-outlined production process line sensibly and with an eye toward PUBLICK SERVICE, dammit, in all cases of subsequent massive enthusiastic voter turnout. NOTHING hurts voter trust (and consequent turnout) as badly as unleashing the certain likelihood of massive election-day cyberfraud on us all, no mistake.

Um, that harming of publick trust really is what a certain powerful Stateside faction actually *wants*, you know.

That is why baninng the fool contraptions is the Right Thing in every instance. Outlaw every last point-shaving column-flipping fraud-enforcing one of those damnable devilish easy-riggin' thangs outright. Life on Earth in these Untied States of Criminally Hostile USDC Criminal Takeover of Just Everything is fraud, toxicity and certain death enuf already, without Secret Cyber-Boogering of the popular vote (now denigrated by many high-handed top-down scholarlike "authorities") to screw us all.

There is precedent, kindly do be reminded. The net effect of electronic voting-machine eror/fraud is both similar to (and I think synergistic with) that brought about in the publick's shattered hearts and minds by the New Unitary US Executive's shockingly routine employment-and-denial game re secret evidence, secret torture in secret prisons, secret Hegelian domestick terror ops such as the infamous (also criminal) Ninesey-'Levvensey Kerfluffle turned upon us all, and ever soooo much more of late, yet again.

<boom-boom-chikka-chikka-boom-boom-yoh...>

But the elite

design to cheat

so as to keep the treat

of their high-hand seat.

That is why they all lie

to the folk on the street.

After all, they only want us all to fall

To force their dominance complete.

I think it's high time for them dudez ta' feel the heat.

I ain't leavin' that cyber-votin' casino 'til I gets my RECEIPT!

<boom-boom-chikka-chikka-boom-boom-woe...>

Item: One district in Pennsylvania just today (sez the "Free Speech TV" Telly-Vision report) grudgingly consented to provide paper ballots to affected voters should half or more of the casino/voting devices "fail or malfunction". The Election Commissioner had previously refused any such remedy except in the case of 100% of the electronic units undergoing full failure.

Now WHAT would THAT MAN want THAT BADLY that he would tolerate ANY State/corporate-sponsored cyberfecking with OUR VOTE? Such an attitude of contempt toward the Rest of Us on the part of any public elections official is not tolerable imho.

Yet the plaintiffs in that landmark "voter rights" decision all hailed it as a victory. Lord, what blind stupid dummies these ones must presuppose us all to be!

Cartoonist Wanted. Project: "101 FUN Things to Do About a Paperless Electronic Voting Device". Apply within.

The Boffin - because I know how damn easy it is to make a convincing liar out of a few chips of "morally neutral" boron-doped silicon and a little Flash Gordon Flash-Um-Up on the side, for the "benefit" of Boffins Visiting from Outside the Plant. Been there, done that; better off not doing any of that any more at all. So be warned, US-er folk, and make a CHANGE that makes a REAL change.

So long as criminally corrupt and inutterably anal election-controller crims continue to control the SECRET VOTE COUNT *anywhere* in these Untied States, one's own lawful vote is not worth the pixels and bits it's "memoritized" in, and does not make a damn's worth of difference any more.

Increase the Peace.

Reverse the Curse.

Reject ALL Terror.

(You KNOW you WANT to.)

"John 8:32 is Just All Right by ME!"

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Coat

Re: Open Source Plug

"I'd feel much better about the machines if the source was open and the vendors of the machines would accept outside help and implement it speedily."

Hey, they've met you halfway! Outside (self-interested) help and speedy (ie full of bugs) implementation ;)

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Anonymous Coward

I have a simple solution,...

Who wants to be president. Raise your arms :)

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Boffin

Quarantined!

One of the vote-flipping Diebolds is currently in quarantine after it went rogue and started its plan for redirecting the votes to the Lizard Man candidate. The Lizard Men are renowned for being on the side of the machines in the war against the Fleshy Ones.

http://coloradoindependent.com/13187/adams-county-quarantines-machine-that-switched-candidates-vote

Machine Must Smush!

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Pirate

A bold move

A bold move, that, by Diebold: change your name to distance yourselves from accusations of potential bias, flawed machinery and chicanery. If you cahnge the brand names on the machines, no one will recognise them as the same ones whose reliability has been called into question.

Changing the engineering would cost even more than the strategy boutique that came up with the new name.

If a company were a leopard, it *could* change its spots. But it would *still* be a leopard.

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Black Helicopters

Hateful things

Not only can'y you register a protest vote, by comment or otherwise spoiling paper, you can't even guarantee voting for the candidate you wish OR if our lot get hold of it, that the details of who you voted are not published on the web or of course to the police, spooks or anyone else they feel like.

'How many DVD's would you like sir?'

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Alert

I don't get it...

Machines are effectively infallible, they cannot make mistakes by themselves, they have to be helped by us humans. Surely if the e-voting is all screwed up, then it's down to the programmers to fix it?

I may very well be simplifying things, but if it's broken, fix it.

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X marks the spot...

This is why you just can't beat the paper trail of a good old fashioned pencil and paper. The only way electronic voting can be trusted is if the element of anonymity is taken away and voter numbers are tied to votes in a way that allows the voter to log back in and check that their vote has been recorded correctly. Anonymous voting is one of the cornerstones of democracy though because otherwise things could get *very* nasty.

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Flame

Rise of the machines

May I be the first to welcome our new D3m0Krat1ka11y "elected" machine overlords.

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So

If it's gonna switch the votes, then shurelie the 'mericans jus' need to vote for the other one...

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Well, Ive got nowt to do with the US elections

So i suppose it's just a matter of time before somone knocks on my door and congratulates me on becoming President of the US.

Shit: There goes the neighbourhood.

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Black Helicopters

Seems about right

After all, some group which calls themselves ACORN has registered a Homer Simpson to vote, and Mickey Mouse, and dead people, and ... well you get the idea.

I'm heading to Montana. I need to lay low while the courts bungle yet another election.

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Re: Solving a Non-Problem

Exactly, these could be electronically read with 99.99+ reliability for decades. No chads, no miscalibrated touchschreens, nothing. It just works (TM) and is 100% verifiable by a human later on.

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@ Pete

Sometimes IT people make me despair with their anti-user attitudes but when said w.r.t. voting machines it takes the frickin' biscuit. We're talking about trying to operate a basic application on a machine. If a user can operate an ATM / cashpoint they should be able to operate a voting machine. If this isn't the case, it's the voting machine that's broken, not the human race.

Either way, the system of voting machine + pleb is broken, and since the idea of democracy is that plebs can vote, the system is unsuitable for use in one.

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Stop

@ various

@ AC 00:38: Open Source is good, if you can understand Source Code; but unless you can be sure that the voting machine really is running the exact same code you have read and understood, it doesn't make voting machines secure. (Though it does reduce the amount of money government departments send to convicted monopolies in foreign countries and create local programming jobs, and it tends to be higher-quality because an Open Source programmer can't hide behind the "nobody is ever going to see this" excuse.)

@ Walking Turtle: Receipts are **not** the correct solution.

Imagine this on the notice board at work: "Everybody who wants to take time off work to go and vote in Thursday's election must show a validated receipt, showing a vote for the factory owner's brother-in-law, to their supervisor immediately on their return. Disciplinary action will be taken against any employee who fails to do so." Sure it's illegal, but who's going to make a complaint against the only employer in town?

And anyway, what's to stop the machine from, when you press Candidate A, printing out a receipt for candidate A and recording a vote for Candidate B?

@ Anton Ivanov: Better, just have the candidates' representatives count the damn things by hand in the first place, under public scrutiny. And what makes it secure is the adversarial relationship between the counting personnel. None of them trust any of the others, so the only way they can all agree is on the truth.

@ Simon Painter: What you're suggesting is not a valid solution.

You can *record* 380 votes for Candidate A, 500 votes for Candidate B and 120 votes for Candidate C, along with the voters' ID numbers, and let everyone log in and check online who their vote was recorded for. But that doesn't mean jack shit if you *announce* 480 votes for candidate A, 420 for candidate B and 100 for candidate C.

With paper ballots, it's *not* the existence of a paper trail that makes it secure (in fact, paperless direct-recording machines can be made highly secure against vote-tampering) but the fact that the actual things being counted are the exact same things that were marked by the voters -- there is no copying going on at any stage. It's the copying that is the inherently unverifiable bit.

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What an idiot.

"Even the smallest application of Occam's razor would lead to the conclusion that voters are the main cause of errors in electronic voting, no matter how simple you try to make it, or how strenuously they deny screwing it up."

I see you've never used a touchscreen voting machine. It is essentially impossible for a person, at least one who is competent to get themselves to their polling place, to fuck up using the device; I believe this actually qualifies them, from at least this IT professional's perspective, for consideration as the ideal end-user interface.

And that is the one kind thing I will ever have to say about touchscreen voting machines. I hope you enjoyed it.

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Stop

False presumption

As far as I can tell, the whole voting machine brouhaha was sparked by the presumption that some statistically significant number of voters who were competent to make a wise decision about the leadership of their country were nevertheless incompetent to read a ballot and punch a hole in it in the proper place.

I'm not buying that.

No matter how fancy and infallible you make the machines, they're still being operated by people who consider education a quality of "elitism" and use the word as an insult.

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Unhappy

@Bert Ragnarok

Actually, the whole idea behind the machines and lack of verifiability is that they are now equal opportunity disenfranchisers.

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@A J Stiles, re receipts

There are a number of voting protocols that include receipts which can be used by the voter to confirm correct voting and counting (or at least to eliminate the more plausible branches of the attack tree), but cannot be used by third parties to confirm whom the voter chose. Chaum's Scantegrity II is the most recent to get widespread attention in the press, but there are earlier proposals, such as Rivest's Three-Ballot system.

Of course these protocols do not require fancy electronic voting machines with proprietary, bug-ridden software, so they're clearly unreasonable.

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Coat

Spot on, Friend Stiles!

@ AJ Stiles: "And anyway, what's to stop the machine from, when you press Candidate A, printing out a receipt for candidate A and recording a vote for Candidate B?"

Exactly right. Ban them all, no compromise on that. A paper receipt at a crooked casino such as we are now saddled with ain't worth squat to any of *us*.

But the normal citizen, being mostly media-driven, generally de-educated and less than half-informed by far re all the "Wonders of Modern Digital Election Systems" sure would likely fall for its' built-in warm thermal-paper fuzziness, wouldn't they just?

Good watchin' out. John 8:32 Just Rocks, don't she, my friend? Good morning, America! Now I'd best get me coat; the Dawn's Early Light reveals an ongoing Unitary Executive commitment to Blackwatering our Fair Cities asap... At yet another ob$cene profit to their families and afterparty-buddies, and No Paper Trail... Again...

Mine's the one with fair-to-major portions of the Unspeakably Secret Key Regenerative Redemption Factor nestled down in both its' pockets. (Shield your eyes; it's a bit intense...)

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Stop

Enough with the "Open Source" bollox already!

Look, Open Source might, theoretically, offer you some assurance that the program running in YOUR hardware actually does what it's supposed to do.

Open Source doesn't off YOU any reassurance that the program running on MY hardware does what it's supposed to do - you have to trust ME, and take my word for it that I'm really running the version of the program that you want me to run.

It's the same with "voting machines". You could have a million ace programmers verify that the 1,000's of lines of code that are supposed to be running on the machine don't contain any nefarious back doors, but so what - you still end up taking someone's word for it that the code that's actually going to run on the machine is the code that was reviewed, and not something that has a superficially similar GUI.

Open Source is just a Red Herring in the e-voting debate - a prime example of a solution looking for a problem that it can solve, and ignoring the fact that the trust mechanisms in a secret ballot are fundamentally different from the trust mechanisms in computing or banking.

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Can we please give up the secret ballot?

I appreciate the Australian ballot to prevent vote buying, but I'm starting to think that transparency in the voting process is far more important (because if we don't know whether the tallies are correct, nothing else matters).

I want to see every vote and every voter's name published in a big list online. That way:

- I can look at my vote and ensure that it was counted correctly.

- I can count the results myself and verify that the official tally is correct.

- The public can scrutinize the list for fraud (make sure their dead relatives didn't vote, etc)

I don't think electronic voting is inherently scary. It has potential to empower the public. It may even let us do something sophisticated like an instant runoff later down the road. But it just can't be built inside a black box.

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Alert

RE: I have a simple solution,...

"Who wants to be president. Raise your arms :)"

That's a good first step. The second would be to ban anyone raising their arm from ever being President, as they're either too meglamaniacal or incompetent to do the job!

No sane, intelligent person would ever take a job like that!

(Now, let's see if this post makes it on Opera.... Seriously, what'd you guys do to the site this week? It's been crashing on Seamonkey all week and half-assed loading on Opera... all the other sites are fine!)

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Bronze badge

re: Can we please give up the secret ballot? (AUS)

The public can scrutinize the list for fraud (make sure their dead relatives didn't vote, etc).

You can buy a copy of the role, or visit it in a library.

If you want to check online if your dead relatives are registered to vote, go to https://oevf.aec.gov.au/

Many people have always thought that transparency was more important than confidentiality.

There are sound theoretical and practical reasons to have public voting, as we do in parliament and in Congress.

Union meetings in AUS routinely returned 'unanimous' votes until secret ballots were enforced by the government, over strenuous objections by parts of the union movement.

Local elections in the UK routinely returned local land-owners until secret ballots were enforced by the union movement, over strenuous objections by parts of the government.

We have secret voting only because we have tried public voting.

"Only a fool learns from his own mistakes." [Otto Von Bismarck]

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@Christopher Martin

Back when public ballots were the rule, you had massive voter intimidation(including at least one period where the military got in on the racket). A better solution would be to encrypt the voter identification but not the votes. That way anybody can tally the votes but only you can tell who you voted for. Everybody would need a unique key to be able to decrypt only their details, though.

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Unhappy

It doesn't matter anyway, the outcome is certain

Springfielders would never vote for a non-yellow candidate

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Alert

Homer Simpson....What?!

Homer- Loser? Loser?!!!

Ahem; a look at his CV:

-10+ year career at nuclear power plant, saved it from meltdown at least twice.

-Still on wife #1, 3 kids.

-Owned security company, shortly thereafter became Springfield police chief.

-Mayor of "Old Springfield".

-Country music singer manager.

-Missionary.

-As "Mr. X": underground blogger-before the wretched 'B' word existed.

-Tow truck driver.

-US Naval reservist (the nuclear sub incident can be excused as it was his "first day").

-Plant employee union leader-succeeded in reinstating dental plan.

-Toured with band Smashing Pumpkins.

-Worked with Mel Gibson to improve remake of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

-Was blasted into space, and safely returned.

LET'S SEE YOU GUYS BEAT THAT RECORD!

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@ Christopher Martin

How's this for a scenario, then?

First of all, The Authorities need to have an idea of every voter's social network (i.e., who they know; their friends, relations and co-workers.) That's not terribly difficult to piece together if you know where they work and where their kids go to school.

Then you create a "secure DRM" system which enables a user of the latest Windows (and nothing else; Mac users are subversives and Linux users are penguin-shagging perverts) to log in to a server if and only if they provide a unique identifier.

Then you rig the election. We'll use the same figures I postulated before:

Candidate A (Labour) = 380 votes (really), 480 votes announced.

Candidate B (Conservative) = 500 votes (really), 420 votes announced.

Candidate C (Green Paty) = 120 votes (really), 100 votes announced.

Finally, you publish online the Big List -- subject to onerous DRM under the colour of preventing misuse. Except, due to the requirement for a unique ID to be entered, you know exactly who is looking at the list, and who they know -- and therefore which votes to show correctly and which ones you can get away with doctoring.

Your ex-coal-miner uncle, who has been a staunch Labour supporter all his life, has his vote recorded for candidate A. The dippy tart down the street with the purple hair voted for candidate C. Your mother voted for B, as did your boss. All looks in order; and if you could be bothered to go through the whole list, you would indeed find 480 votes for candidate A, 420 for candidate B and 120 for candidate C. Alright, so there are only 380 receipts out there, scattered to the four winds, for candidate A, 500 for B and 120 for C; but enough of them have already been lost or destroyed to prevent you doing an accurate recount based on the receipts. 60 people who voted for B and 20 people who voted for C will be recorded as having voted for A; but the people whose votes have been altered in your personalised copy of The Big List will have been carefully selected to be strangers to you. And who's going to ask a stranger how they voted?

You have sacrified voter anonymity, but you haven't gained anything in return. The election is still rigged -- except now, it looks a lot **less** rigged, because members of the public can see so clearly that it isn't.

The **real** underlying problem, which won't be solved by any fancy measures such as publishing Source Code (that might or might not correspond with what the machines are actually running) or issuing receipts (that might or might not correspond with how the vote was ultimately counted) with a code encrypted against the voter's thumbprint, is LACK OF PUBLIC SCRUTINY OVER THE COUNTING PROCESS. That can **only** be solved by hand-counting, in public, of the actual ballot papers marked by voters -- **not** copies. (Or, possibly, by the use of direct-recording mechanical voting machines.)

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Anonymous Coward

How long?

Before the makers of the machines collectively take the makers of the Simpsons to court for dissing their scandalously poor products? It would fit; the quality of the product is usually proportional to the ease with which you reach for the lawyers.

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Stop

Paper and pencil

Now I know most of us are technical people here,

but this is one area where tech just does not belong.

A paper system, with the count supervised by scruitineers form both parties is virtually infallible. Why bother with an electronic system, that willNEVER have the full comfidence of the electorate?

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More on paper and pencil

Here in New Zealand we used the paper and pencil system yesterday to throw out the party that has been in power for 9 years.

The compete results were out in only 5 hours from the polls closing.

It all seemed to go very smoothly, and although the votes will all be recounted and scrutinised over the next few weeks ,It will be surprising if there are any significant changes .

This style of voting has always been done here (well for the 54 years that I have voted) and will probably continue.

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