back to article Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise, politicians will philander... And US voting machines will be physically insecure

The United States' electronic ballot boxes are as vulnerable as ever to physical tampering by hackers. So says this year's DEF CON Voting Village Report, which summarizes the findings of infosec experts who picked apart the various vote-casting computer systems in use today by cities and counties around the country. The report …

  1. Brian Miller

    Punch cards?

    Certain classes of voting equipment, including some (but not all) of the devices displayed at the Voting Village can still be used to conduct high-integrity elections

    Let's see, does that mean a paper card with the data? But of course we all remember the previous problems in Florida with hanging chads. I suppose if the machine punches the card it won't be much of a problem.

    1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: Punch cards?

      Does anybody still remember how to make a computer-controlled card punch?

      How about one with a mechanically coupled print head that prints the character punched in the corresponding column? Mechanically coupled so a visual inspection can verify that what's printed is the same as what's punched.

      Installed card punch should be integral with the voting machine and arranged so that, after voting, the voter can pick up the card, visually check it, and then put it into the ballot box.

      That should be a bit more secure than current electronic voting machines and would make counting the returns fairly fast while still allowing manual checks when a result was disputed.

      OTOH a UK-style manual system using paper ballots would be at least as secure and probably a helluva lot cheaper.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Punch cards?

        No good. Good, fast, AND cheap. All Or Nothing.

  2. Unbelievable!

    Mary Schmich - Pulitzer winner, inspired the ♫sunscreen song♫

    And thanks to her. Amazing wisdom, perfectly worded and so , so true.

    Baz Luhrmann put it to music. but Mary deserves a lot of the credit.

    01-June 1997

    https://www.chicagotribune.com/columns/chi-schmich-sunscreen-column-column.html (you'll need a vpn if in europe, or set opera vpn to americas)

  3. Atomic Duetto

    Suncreen

    I’m just here for the headline

    Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t

    Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t

    Maybe you’ll divorce at 40

    Maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary

    Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance; so are everybody else’s

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Suncreen

      Yes, the headline was great.

      I salute you, el Reg.

  4. veti Silver badge

    Huge cop-out

    by conducting statistically rigorous post-election audits.

    Yeah, that's totally going to happen, it's not as if anyone really had a strong vested interest in the outcome of an election. And statistics is so clear and simple to understand, every average Joe and Jill in the electorate can follow their working and be reassured in the outcome. Right...

    Honestly, that clause looks like it was slipped in on purpose to provide cover for election authorities that, we all know, are going to carry on using these machines no matter what we say.

    1. Bill Gray

      Re: Huge cop-out

      For machines with paper records, it standard practice to select 1% of machines (or a statistically significant number, anyway) _after the election_ for a by-hand recount, to be compared to the machine results. If it were me doing it, I'd make it some percentage at random and give each major party the right to add a few machines to those that were checked.

      I don't think the objections to such a procedure would come so much from the politicians as they would from the manufacturers of the machines.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't the same companies that make voting machines also make gas pumps and ATMs with one key fits all locks, and ATMs that can be remote jack-potted? What they really need to do is hire the companies that make casino slot machines to make voting machines. They gotta have better security than current electronic voting machines.

    1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

      @AC - "What they really need to do is hire the companies that make casino slot machines to make voting machines. They gotta have better security than current electronic voting machines."

      Oh, great! A system where the spins look fair, but the security makes sure the casino wins in the end.</sarcasm>

      Seriously, security of the voting process is only one (albeit a vital one) part of running a free and fair election.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No, you really _DON'T_...

      What they really need to do is hire the companies that make casino slot machines to make voting machines. They gotta have better security than current electronic voting machines.

      If you've ever seen the train wreck full of combustible dumpsters that is gaming software, you would never say such a thing. It's horrible, full of non-standard designs, 'we configured it to run over multicast because our VP demanded multicast in the product, even though the product would work MUCH better with unicast', other abuses of protocols and other abominations. Like trying to make ethernet work exactly like the older, multi-node access over RS485 serial bus, and worse.

      Devices that *should* accept NTP traffic to set their time, but invariably don't and rely entirely on some home-grown protocol to sync clocks between the server and the game controller, which either doesn't have a proper RTC built into it or has a very broken one, and crashes for no apparent reason, and gets lost because it won't talk to the server because while the server knows it's 2019, the controller thinks it's 2032, 1988, or 1976 at random. You know, problems that NTP WAS DESIGNED TO FIX AND/OR COMPLETELY ELIMINATE. (hell, we stopped short of figuring out how to modify the windows embedded that the controller runs to join a domain to try and fix the time sync problem, except that would de-certify the device in the all-powerful eyes of the regulators...)

      Posting anon for exceptionally obvious reasons...

  6. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Or just use pen and paper, with manual counting after, as they do in some less-sophisticated societies.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Everyone's in a hurry. I recall results in India take a number of days where Americans demand results before they turn in. Also, what's to stop a switch of the paper ballots and corruption of the checkers? We ATE talking organizations as big as national political parties...

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        I'm bored of posting this, but it seems necessary - even here...

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3_0x6oaDmI

        1. Danny 2 Silver badge

          That's a great video. You'd get more traction if you labelled it, "Why Electronic Voting is a BAD Idea - Computerphile"

          [One quibble: They should have made Tom pull up his hoodie to stop him pulling out his prematurely grey hair]

      2. caffeine addict Silver badge

        In any fair system, no votes are counted until the polls close.

        In the UK everything is done on paper with a thick black pencil and we have the results in within 12h of the polls closing.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          You're smaller and have fewer people. The US is the third-largest AND third-most-populous country in the world last I checked, (only Canada and Russia are bigger, only India and China have more people). Says something for logistics, especially with an impatient populace.

          1. jmch Silver badge

            "You're smaller and have fewer people."

            I fail to see why this is an issue. Vote counting is a parallel, not a serial process. The problem isn't with the amount of votes per se, it's with the ratios between number of votes cast, number of available ballot boxes (and therefore, number of votes per ballot box), and the number of people assigned to count them.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              But it involves logistics...physical logistics. Denser cities like New York (arising from high populations) pose problems of concentrated scale while the overall large size of the country means it takes time to gather things together, especially when the election is of a national scale. It's like asking why tiny countries like South Korea can wire up so easily while larger ones like the US have so much trouble (they tend to reply with the likes, "Have YOU seen the difficulties in running a high-speed line from New York to Los Angeles?").

              Basically, no matter how hard you try, it's still going to take several hours to get results from Los Angeles to Sacramento. And Sacramento also has to take in results from San Diego, San Francisco, the whole northern part of the state, and so on. And if the election is federal, those results in turn have to be relayed to Washington: across the country, several thousand miles away.

              1. John Robson Silver badge

                "Basically, no matter how hard you try, it's still going to take several hours to get results from Los Angeles to Sacramento. And Sacramento also has to take in results from San Diego, San Francisco, the whole northern part of the state, and so on. And if the election is federal, those results in turn have to be relayed to Washington: across the country, several thousand miles away"

                That result relaying can be by public broadcast - the breakdowns are published, and then summed centrally.

                No need to carry the data, just to have a trusted method of communicating it... By the time the ballots are counted and summed in a local area (with everyone involved watching on) there is no requirement for the numbers to be secret - in fact they usually aren't secret at that point.

                So a public broadcast isn't a bad way to transport the numbers. Then anyone can do the simple addition required to check that the central count is correct.

          2. caffeine addict Silver badge

            Jesus, you've only got five times the population of the UK. You're not China or India.

            Admittedly, it might be a challenge finding enough people who can count high enough.

          3. Velv Silver badge
            Boffin

            "The US is the third-largest"

            Trivia: If the US was to add a BILLION citizens, it would still only be the third largest.

        2. jmch Silver badge

          "In any fair system, no votes are counted until the polls close"

          True, you don't want later votes to be prejudiced by earlier votes. However in reality, with 24-hour news coverage and exit polling, that horse has already bolted. Even more so somewhere like US where voting is over 5 different time zones with 7-hour difference between east Coast and Hawaii

          1. caffeine addict Silver badge

            You're not allowed to give results of exit polling until after the polls have closed either. Think it was last election an MP got in trouble for reporting exit polls early.

            1. jmch Silver badge

              "You're not allowed to give results of exit polling until after the polls have closed either. Think it was last election an MP got in trouble for reporting exit polls early."

              In the UK, yes. I believe the US has no such qualms, but I could be wrong

    2. jmch Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      "Or just use pen and paper, with manual counting after"

      This is a no-brainer. Is it more important to get a correct count (and just as crucial, to be SEEN to have a correct count) even if it takes a couple of days, or to have *a* result within a few hours even if it isn't *the* correct result?

      Cost is a smokescreen, in places where vote counting is done by hand, the counters are paid nominal sums or are volunteers, and most of the oversight is provided 'for free' to the electoral committee by the parties contesting.

  7. Winkypop Silver badge
    Meh

    Paper ballots, sealed voting containers and many scrutineers

    Because decent democracy sometimes takes time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Paper ballots, sealed voting containers and many scrutineers

      And if someone has enough pull to switch boxes for ones with the same numbers and bribe/corrupt the scrutineers?

      1. Mongrel

        Re: Paper ballots, sealed voting containers and many scrutineers

        Primarily scale.

        You may be able to effect a location and skew the results but the more locations you alter the more chance of something going wrong. Compromised electronic voting systems can alter far more votes for far less risk and have a far wider reach

        1. Danny 2 Silver badge

          Re: Paper ballots, sealed voting containers and many scrutineers

          Exactly. To fix an election using voting machines (or vote counting machines) requires one bad actor. To fix a traditional British election would require tens of thousands of bad actors across all the parties.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Paper ballots, sealed voting containers and many scrutineers

            But given how big the parties can be, you can't rule that out.

            1. Schultz
              Holmes

              "But given how big the parties can be, you can't rule that out."

              Yes you can. There are election monitors from both parties present at each step (plus unaffiliated ones). You can volunteer for that job in your precinct. It's not magic, just a good number of people investing some of their time because they take their democracy seriously.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: "But given how big the parties can be, you can't rule that out."

                "It's not magic, just a good number of people investing some of their time because they take their democracy seriously."

                And they probably have ways to turn you to their side (if both parties aren't actually in cahoots). Dirty laundry and all that...

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Paper ballots, sealed voting containers and many scrutineers

          But given the stakes, you can't rule out an organization as big as a major political party taking the risk, especially if they focus their efforts on linchpin districts.

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge

            Re: Paper ballots, sealed voting containers and many scrutineers

            You can be absolutely certain that their political opponents would never roll over and allow it.

            There is no way in hell or anywhere else that balloting fraud in that scale would be undetected by the opposing political party. They'd be presenting their evidence in court before the count even started.

            And no, they wouldn't collude. What reason would they have to keep silent?

      2. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Paper ballots, sealed voting containers and many scrutineers

        Swapping one physical ballot box transfer requires:

        1) The ability to duplicate the ballot box physical identifiers. Easy enough.

        2) An opportunity to physically remove the "real" ballot box, replace it with your fake and destroy the real.

        Each individual van-of-boxes requires subversion of multiple additional actors, any of whom may either detect the fraud or decide not to go along with it.

        It's thus exponentially more difficult to subvert additional voting centres - convincing ten people is far easier than convincing 100. In most cases you'd need to subvert at least 1000 people to affect the result, many of whom work for an opposing party.

        It's far cheaper to subvert voter registration or boundaries.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Paper ballots, sealed voting containers and many scrutineers

          Still can't rule it out, especially if the parties are secretly in cahoots.

          1. Danny 2 Silver badge

            Re: Paper ballots, sealed voting containers and many scrutineers

            All the parties are secretly in cahoots? The Tories and the Scottish Socialists and The Greens ad nauseum? You surely can't doubt The Monster Raving Looney Party? Each candidate has an equal right to scrutiny of the process and the result. So far there has been no allegations of collusion.

            An actual scandal in the UK is postal ballots, which I feel should be scrapped and replaced with mobile voting centres.

            XKCD Voting Software

            https://xkcd.com/2030/

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Paper ballots, sealed voting containers and many scrutineers

              I'm talking the Republicans and the Democrats. I mean, why else hasn't a third party with an outsider view been able to make any serious headway in the American system in the last century or so?

              1. Danny 2 Silver badge

                Re: Paper ballots, sealed voting containers and many scrutineers

                Fair enough, we are talking at cross purposes because I've been promoting the UK voting system and decrying (some of) the US voting systems. I need to add I'm not a fan of British political parties, just the traditional voting system here.

                We also have the best road signs in the world. We don't have the best roads, not by far, but our road signs are clear and unambiguous.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Paper ballots, sealed voting containers and many scrutineers

                  Re: "We also have the best road signs in the world. We don't have the best roads, not by far, but our road signs are clear and unambiguous."

                  Except in Summer when road side hedges grow almost completely over said road signs. Especially at key motorway junctions.

                  : )

                2. jmch Silver badge
                  Facepalm

                  Re: Paper ballots, sealed voting containers and many scrutineers

                  "our road signs are clear and unambiguous."

                  My experience (albeit many many years ago), is that British road signs clearly and unambiguously showed me which way I wanted to go, but failed to tell me when I had gotten there, so I invariably drove right through, and only realised I had done so when the destination had disappeared from the signage in my direction of travel.

              2. Richard 12 Silver badge

                Re: Paper ballots, sealed voting containers and many scrutineers

                The US is a two-party system because it is first-past-the-post, winner-take-all.

                CGP Gray has a good video explaining why that kind of voting system inevitably results in a two party system.

                1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

                  Re: Paper ballots, sealed voting containers and many scrutineers

                  CGP Gray has a good video explaining why that kind of voting system inevitably results in a two party system.

                  Never heard of him until now. Even though he lives in London, he's still a US citizen, and it would seem that he doesn't take any notice of voting systems & politics outside the USA or he would know that:

                  - The UK hasn't had a two party system since the Labour Party became a significant political player in the early 1920s and now has five significant parties (Conservative, Labour, Liberal, Plaid Cymry and Scottish National, none of which are showing signs of fading away) plus an assortment of single issue, right wing populist and Irish regional parties.

                  - there are four major Canadian parties

                  - as for Europe: there are three major parties in France, four in Austria, six in Spain and seven in Germany.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Paper ballots, sealed voting containers and many scrutineers

            If you are really concerned, volunteer to be an observer at an election and judge the process for yourself.

            In general you will have observers from each party, independents, staff that are responsible for the voting or counting process (depending on the part of the process you are observing) and potentially a security guard.

            If there is a recount, votes will be counted by an alternative group of independent counters, again with observers.

            In smaller sites, there may not be as many but I have only been involved in local/general elections in urban areas.

            You will notice how difficult it is to get large changes past that many people.

            Compare that to US voting machines where there are suspicions that machines registered zero votes and had entries entered manually or they returned zero votes. I'm not suggesting either of those was a deliberate act to fix an election - I'm suggesting mistakes were made that resulted in votes being lost.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Paper ballots, sealed voting containers and many scrutineers

              Yes, last election a (US) locality near me mislaid a couple thumb drives of electronic votes. Didn't miss them (the second massive goof) and counted and published the results of the election. Found drives like three-four weeks later. Comforted everyone by 'proving' that the additional votes changed totals but didn't actually change any of the individual office winner results.

              We had more anguish over the botched Miss Teenage Fooville beauty contest. After that someone got fired! The messed up election - yawn. YLMD *

              Your Locality May Differ

      3. Velv Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Paper ballots, sealed voting containers and many scrutineers

        Go and read the Electoral Commission rules for votes in the UK, maybe other countries could replace a box, I'd suggest its next to impossible in the UK.

        At every stage every candidate has their own representative present. They put their own seal on each ballot box, their representatives watch that box all day, confirm the seal is theirs as its opened, and observe the count. It would take substantial infiltration to every candidates party as well as the scrutineers to pull of any kind of swap, and that's not going to happen in the UK

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Paper ballots, sealed voting containers and many scrutineers

      Our state does paper ballots, vote by mail, and the only electronics are the machines in each county office that counts the ballots - and the people running those machines are scrutinized and sworn in and felonies are committed if anyone screws up on purpose. Never been too many problems with suspect fraud outside of a few ballots in any one election. I miss the voting booth, but I trust my state's results.

  8. DougS Silver badge

    Microsoft to the rescue?

    Recently Microsoft has been talking about their Election Guard software to help with this problem. When I first heard of it I thought "oh great, another proprietary solution to election security" but it is free, open source, and claims to tick all the boxes for being verifiable (i.e. I can tell that my vote was correctly counted) and auditable and so on.

    I haven't really looked into it, but I'm glad that someone is trying to solve the problem rather than looking at it as an opportunity for another money grab like companies were after the 2000 election issues caused everything to think "computerized voting will solve all the problems!" and rushed headlong into making things worse than hanging chads ever were.

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Microsoft to the rescue?

      So how do you tell that *that* software was running on *that* hardware?

  9. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Catch 22

    I've warned politicians about the dangers of using technology in elections for decades. It has always been a solution looking for a problem. On the one hand it is potentially cheaper and faster, but on the other hand it risks your democracy where pen and paper function securely.

    The catch is any government that can secure an electoral system has already won with the existing electoral system and therefore has no motivation to reform it. It might be a fixed game but hey, I won.

  10. ChipsforBreakfast

    Why is this so hard?

    It *seems* like a reasonably simple problem to fix.

    - Secure the machine, physically. Put it in a sealed, tamper-proof box with nothing but a power plug exposed. No network connections, no wifi, nothing exposed except the touchscreen.

    - Give it a printer with a two-part roll. Physically print the ballot cast *as well as storing it electronically*, spit one part into a separate sealed bin and eject the other to the voter.

    - When it comes time to count, election officials collect the machines, unseal the outer case and read the vote tally. If there's a ny dispute or concern, a *second set* of officials open the printout box & do a manual count.

    That should be almost impossible to subvert given minimal competence and integrity on the part of those running the ballot, surely.

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: Why is this so hard?

      Don't call me surly.

      US voting machines have been accessed unguarded by campaigners and researchers. How would having a paper receipt for your vote help uncover fraud? If anything it would put you at risk of coercion or vote bribing - "I voted for you Don Corleone"..."Prove it".

      You call it a reasonably simple problem to fix, and I disagree. It is an unsolvable problem added into an already functional system for no apparent reason.

      1. ChipsforBreakfast

        Re: Why is this so hard?

        The point of sealing the machine in a tamper-proof box isn't to prevent people accessing it - it's so you *know* that someone did. It's no different from sealing a traditional ballot box - anyone *could* open it but not without you knowing about it.

        As for the paper receipts -

        One copy retained in a separately sealed compartment - that allows for a cross-check of the machine's count against the physical count (so you can determine if someone's tampered with the result after it's been read)

        One copy to the voter so they can see that the vote they cast is the vote that was recorded (so nobody can program the machine to show one thing and record another)

        1. Danny 2 Silver badge

          Re: Why is this so hard?

          If the machine was compromised then of course it would print out a false receipt.

          No personal offence but you haven't thought this through or read the research on this subject. You are speculating in an unhelpful way today.

          I'm more elderly than middle aged now, and I know your natural reaction to a tech problem is to refine and improve the tech. This is not a tech problem. This is a problem caused by the introduction of tech for no good reason. We don't need to fix election machines, we just need to remove election machines.

          Don't fix what wasn't broken.

        2. jmch Silver badge

          Re: Why is this so hard?

          "As for the paper receipts -

          One copy retained in a separately sealed compartment - that allows for a cross-check of the machine's count against the physical count (so you can determine if someone's tampered with the result after it's been read)

          One copy to the voter so they can see that the vote they cast is the vote that was recorded (so nobody can program the machine to show one thing and record another)"

          Giving the voter a physical receipt destroys the secrecy of the ballot. People could be blackmailed / threatened to vote a particular way and will be asked to show their receipt to prove they voted the 'right' way. PLUS a subverted machine could print the voters' real vote on the voters' receipt, and print a tampered vote on the 'internal' count one that matches the equally tampered electronic one. The way to combine paper with electronic is to print one receipt to the voter, who then verifies this and posts it back into the machine.

    2. Stripes the Dalmatian

      Re: Why is this so hard?

      A fundamental requirement for a secret ballot is that nobody can prove who they voted for. That defeats coercion and bribery.

      Also, why pay for a machine that prints ballot papers when voters will fill them in for nothing?

  11. Steve Kerr

    Trust in the manufacturers

    I recall one of the CEO's of a manufacturer of voting machines publicly promised to make sure that his machines would "get the correct party into power"

    Sounds to me like, you don't need the machines to be tampered with by dodgy officials and other bad actors when the manufacturer is willing to do it.

  12. Cuddles Silver badge

    Blame Huawei

    The fact that voting machines remain hilariously insecure is sad, but not really surprising. The part I found particularly interesting, though, was this:

    "found in one machine a hard-wired IP address pointing to an overseas address block. The exact purpose and nature of whatever underlying feature used this address remains undetermined, but it underscores questions about foreign control over voting system supply chains"

    All kinds of noise have been made about the dangers of foreign hardware, especially in relation to Huawei but also including plenty of others. Yet here we have real voting machines in actual use containing foreign-made hardware with hardcoded connections to foreign IP addresses for unknown purposes, and apparently no-one gives the slightest shit about it. It shouldn't be much of a surprise to anyone here, but it almost makes one wonder if security isn't actually the main concern, and maybe there are some ulterior motives involved in starting a global trade war.

    Edit: On a different note, there's also this:

    "This can easily create long lines at a polling place, since, as we also observed, it can take up to 15-20 minutes for these devices to complete a reboot cycle."

    Speed and convenience seems to be the only argument actually in favour of electronic voting. Except they don't actually provide speed and convenience and can instead massively slow things down even when they're not being hacked.

    Seriously though, 15-20 minutes to reboot? I didn't have to wait that long to load Spectrum games from tape. And that's including multiple attempts after the plug fell out just before it finished. How is anyone producing anything today that takes that long to boot up?

    1. A random security guy

      Re: Blame Huawei

      I ran the security team of a company (not disclosing it). The device ran a full linux and it had to start and record within 4 seconds.

      A system can be fine-tuned to come up fast. Maybe they are using Windows with hard disk.

  13. Wim Ton

    Why tamper with the voting machines

    In the USA the fraud starts before the election; changing district boundaries to optimize voter distribution for the ruling party a.k.a. Gerrymandering.

    Preventing voters that may vote for the wrong party from registering.

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: Why tamper with the voting machines

      Voting machines aren't the only way to muck up a democracy. It's just a cheaper way than buying a dozen newspaper companies and a couple of TV channels.

      If you are American then I'd suggest scrapping your electoral college to elect your head of state, and switch to one person / one vote. If you don't sort out your various electoral problems then there is a possibility in future of an American idiot as President.

      Unlike the British Prime Minister who was elected on 90,000 votes, 30,000 of whom joined the party in the past year. Yup, a lot of ways to muck up democracy, no need to involve our industry in that mess.

      1. The Real Tony Smith
        Facepalm

        Re: Why tamper with the voting machines

        'Voting machines aren't the only way to muck up a democracy'

        Here in the UK we are experts at that at the moment!

      2. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Why tamper with the voting machines

        "If you are American then I'd suggest scrapping your electoral college to elect your head of state, and switch to one person / one vote."

        That only means the election can then be determined by the big cities, New York, Texas, and California, meaning small but important states like the midwest (agriculturally-oriented--don't need a lot of people but they feed a lot of people) get left behind.

        Frankly, I think you need a multi-tier system to minimize any kind of vote focusing. Count votes three times: by person, by district, and by state--two out of three wins. By state blunts the cities, by district gives you the middle ground between person and state.

        If this won't work, nothing will because that'll mean ANY system can be corrupted because it's made by man, full stop.

        1. Danny 2 Silver badge

          Re: Why tamper with the voting machines

          I was suggesting voting for the presidency as a nation, each vote equal. It's just silly that most voters vote for one candidate yet the other candidate wins. If the electoral college plays a part in other lower elections I am not aware and have no opinion.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Why tamper with the voting machines

            But votes can never be equal, due to simple geography. It's well known that people within communities tend to think alike (otherwise they tend to move away). The vast majority of the country's population lies in the cities and coasts. Thus California, Texas, Florida, etc. It's been a concern since before the founding. In a popular vote, sparse populations get shouted down, simple as that, yet sparse populations still can provide disproportionate contributions (can cities run without the farms, for example). That's why it gets complicated.

        2. jmch Silver badge

          Re: Why tamper with the voting machines

          The US electoral system is deliberately set up to balance the influence of different interests, EXACTLY so that the more populous (urban) areas do not end up with a permanent majority over the less populous (rural) areas. But the electoral college in this respect is not much different from the UK first-past-the-post system. Either way the final outcome doesn't necessarily represent the relative %age of votes. (eg in the 2017 UK elections, Tory had 45% of votes and 55% of seats)

          Any change in the system would solve one problem and create another

      3. jmch Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Why tamper with the voting machines

        "If you don't sort out your various electoral problems then there is a possibility in future of an American idiot as President."

        I see what you did there!

  14. Kev99

    The US survived with paper ballots for over 200 years. Most of the rest of the world still does. The only logical reasons for the switch are the news media wanted to call elections as fast as possible, the various elections board became too lazy to count paper ballots, or some fool believed the hype that computer networks were safe and secure.

  15. Claptrap314 Silver badge

    In the end

    the purpose of a voting machine is to enable fraud. EVERY mechanical voting machine was known to be easy to "adjust".

    The difference, of course, is that with software, you can do all of it at once. And trapdoor the software to "correct" itself after the fact.

    Every time this discussion comes up, the printed paper for the voter to view comes up. I've pushed it myself. The more I think about it, though, the less I like it.

    Just do the hand count. The republic you save might be your own.

  16. Aodhhan

    Seriously--security professionals!

    It's funny how everyone gets nutty about the vulnerabilities of using electronic voting, and forget about the numerous vulnerabilities using paper ballots.

    A true security analyst will look at everything without prejudice or passion. The majority of posts display a lack of discipline in these attributes. You don't just start using a new operating system, full of new features and bling without testing it--do you?

    It's the number of controls required to mitigate the paper ballot vulnerabilities which is causing a need to look at electronic voting.

    When you use simple InfoSec 101 processes to realize them all, you'll begin to see there are many problems with paper balloting. Chief among these is a lack of consequence when something does go wrong. The second biggest problem is the fact it's a manual system handled by very fallible humans. Think about the number of hands your ballot goes thru, other than yours. If you think all ballots are protected by equal number of individuals by both (or all) parties--you're naïve. There's too many people and too many steps to mitigate them all--every time.

    This is the same whether you're in the UK or USA, and both have kept these problems quiet when they do happen, or come up with some method of covering it up. Such is the case when thousands of ballots seem to be missing and never make it to be counted from a district which leans heavily to one political side. If they do turn up, it's months after the election. Then there are the mechanical issues, It was less than funny a couple of years ago, when a majority of the 'ballot counting machines' broke down (at nearly the same time) in a Florida county. Basically delaying the counting of these ballots, in-which the losing side pushed to have all the ballots re-counted until these problems can be fixed.

    Also be mindful of the different vendors who will create crappy voting machines. Just like any vendor application. There are good ones and bad. Since the media gets paid to provide a "story to get attention", they tend to only publicize the bad. Leaving out the fact, there are certification procedures in most states now if e-voting systems are used. Similar to Common Criteria and/or NIAP.

    1. Danny 2 Silver badge

      Re: Seriously--security professionals!

      I have no experience of US elections and merely report what US researchers - like professors and such-like, not nutters - report about flaws in some US states systems.

      You asked me to think how many hands my ballot paper goes through, and I can tell you. Two. It's transported in a sealed box accompanied by a representative of each party to a counting centre, where it is counted by a lowly paid council worker or civil servant volunteering. Those centres are swarming with observant, hyped up, members of each party. There hasn't been a single failure or rigged vote in the past 90 years of our genuine democracy.

      If that is not the case in the US then speak to an American audience, but don't speak to a British audience because you are just uninformed.

      Traditional British voting works and has yet to fail. We don't have any electronic voting booths or internet voting and I hope we never do because nobody has explained to me what problem they are solving while I can explain what risk they introduce.

      We've got some problems here. I already said postal ballots are easily corrupted and should be ended. Plus in the Scottish Holyrood elections they use electronic voting counting - a single point of failure for no good reason. I warned the SNP about that in 2007, and senior party members were very interested until they won by a huge margin, and then they weren't interested at all.

  17. bpfh Silver badge

    So then....

    Use the voting machines, print a paper tag, the user checks it printed what they expected, this goes into the ballot box.

    The paper count goes ahead. If the paper and digital votes match then all is good, no second recount needed, if there is a discrepancy, the paper tags are the standard?

    In which case I don’t see the need for an evoting machine as in the end, counts and paper are still used and many voting stations will not want to buy 8 machines at $$$$ a pop?

  18. Rodrigo Valenzuela

    XKCD

    https://xkcd.com/463/

    R

  19. dnicholas Bronze badge

    How about rigorous pre-election audits? They used to call it counting the vote

  20. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Why do some push so hard for voting machines if not to more easily manipulate election results?

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