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April  21

Oh Yeah, Come to Think of It...

It didn't occur to the Barista at the time -- the time being Tuesday when we voted in the school board election -- that we were standing behind the curtain of one of the same old lever-pull voting machines still around from the McKinley administration.

As you may recall, Essex County voted to buy brand new electronic machines from Sequoia, a manufacturer in Calfifornia, and the new machines are required by the federal government under HAVA, the Help America Vote Act.

This was to have been the first election the new ones were supposed to be in use, the News Record of Maplewood and South Orange reports. But...

Originally, the county was supposed to deploy the new machines for the upcoming elections. As per the county’s contract with Sequoia, the 700 machines were due to arrive by Feb 28. By Casciano’s Feb. 8 budget hearing, only 49 had been delivered.

The lack of machines available for use, and public disapproval for using the new machines, prompted the state legislature to pass a law allowing the county to use its old lever-operated machines in the April 18 school board, and May 9 municipal elections.

In the true spirit of sunshine in government, county freeholders discussed the great big mess they're in ... behind closed doors.

With a primary election coming up in just eight weeks, the county is still short more than 600 new electronic voting machines.

Last week the Board of Chosen Freeholders, along with Superintendent of Elections Carmine Casciano and voting machines vendor Sequoia Voting Systems, went into an hour-long, closed-session meeting to discussion their options, including the possibility of seeking legal action.

April 21, 2006 in Buzz | Permalink


I'm a computer guy and I know the pitfalls of electronic voting systems. I hate electronic voting with every fiber in my body. If you desire ridged election you will support electronic voting. It is very difficult to ridge an election using paper ballots. Germany, the most industrialized nation in the world, uses paper ballot. Any politician that supports electronic voting systems is either an idiot, corrupt, or a corrupt idiot.

Posted by: lasermike026 | Apr 21, 2006 10:52:29 AM

I'd like to know what a "ridged" election is. Sounds like fun. But then, I remember friends telling me how much my teen sex life might improve when they first introduced ribbed condoms.

But, lasermike, such frothing so near to the weekend, your feathers will never dry this way. Surely a politician who supports electronic voting systems might also simply be for what looks to him or her like progress? All that anger over a few machines so that it shakes down into every fiber of your body? Have you been listening to a lot of "emo" music lately?

Posted by: cathar | Apr 21, 2006 11:11:44 AM

Mike, what type of "computer guy" are you (developer, analyst, QA, architect)? And what are the pitfalls you know about?

Posted by: BeanCounter | Apr 21, 2006 11:20:06 AM

Computer Guy, please educate us all on the pitfalls of computer voting. Please be brief and unemotional (emo, that is).

Posted by: Byron | Apr 21, 2006 11:23:53 AM

I agree with Lasermike. I am not a computer expert but know some, and I am sure it is a lot easier to rig (which I think LM meant by "ridge") an election with computers. Personally I love the old manual lever-operated machines. I learned how to vote on miniature examples of them in grade school in my childhood and they still work better now than anything else around. Sure, they jam sometimes but they make a record of the votes and are a lot more reliable than something that can have "hanging chads." Personally I think the whole country should go back to them! Plus remember if there is a nuclear event of some kind and an electromagnetic pulse occurs, all those computerized voting machines won't work anyway. We'll need backup paper or manual ballots anyway. Oh that's right, we might be dead so it wouldn't matter...

Posted by: mauigirl52 | Apr 21, 2006 11:28:46 AM

A happy medium is available.

Computer voting with a paper backup.

Posted by: Right of Center™ | Apr 21, 2006 11:36:27 AM

By "paper ballots," mauigirl, and without any further elucidation from lasermike, he likely didn't mean even the old voting machines you still like. But, rather, genuine paper forms, perhaps like those still used in such "people's democracies" as Cuba, China and Chechnya. And while I still remember the old claim that "Figures don't lie," I also recall its caveat, that "Liars figure."

And I don't know about you, but I've never hated a voting machine in my life with every fiber of my body. If only because we almost never have more than one date a year, and whether or no it then entails use of a ridged device.

Posted by: cathar | Apr 21, 2006 11:38:20 AM


I wish you luck in your investigation.

Posted by: Right of Center™ | Apr 21, 2006 11:39:08 AM

Americans would never go for rigged elections.

Richard Daley
Dead Mayor of Chicago
John F Kennedy
Dead President

Posted by: Blue Sky | Apr 21, 2006 11:40:23 AM

It would be a shame if our previously incorruptible voting system (Chicago in 1960, anybody? Florida?) were compromised by electronic voting.

Come on, I'm a technologist too. What I've noted over the years is that technology is never the issue -- whether you're talking paper, electronics, or smoke signals -- it's the human side of the system you have to watch.

I've been working in Financial technology for around a decade now, and the perennial question for us is "Why do sophisticated financial firms post big trading losses?" Most of the time, the answer is uncontrolled, unsupervised insiders. No technological choice will solve that problem, though relying on technology alone will certainly make it easier for insiders to cheat.

The only way to ensure fair elections is to make the results open and auditable. Technology doesn't matter.

Posted by: DavidG | Apr 21, 2006 11:41:34 AM

I just saw a tv news story about the new machines in Florida. The woman who was voting - I guess to show us how - couldn't read the screen because of glare, she couldn't get the touch screen to accept her touch and a second person had to stand next to her prompting her how to vote.

Posted by: hrhppg | Apr 21, 2006 11:43:51 AM

My title is senior unix/linux engineer.

Posted by: lasermike026 | Apr 21, 2006 11:45:57 AM

I saw written what I thought was a very reasonable proposal. You vote on an electronic screen and then the summary of your vote is printed on paper and appears in a window for your confirmation. When you confirm, the vote is registered and the paper scrolls onto a spool.

The paper record is used for any recounts or challenged machines.

This offers more back up than is now available.

Posted by: Right of Center™ | Apr 21, 2006 11:46:14 AM

I saw written what I thought was a very reasonable proposal. You vote on an electronic screen and then the summary of your vote is printed on paper and appears in a window for your confirmation. When you confirm, the vote is registered and the paper scrolls onto a spool.

The paper record is used for any recounts or challenged machines.

This offers more back up than is now available.

Posted by: Right of Center™ | Apr 21, 2006 11:46:28 AM

Indeed, the news articles I've seen indicate that the computer screens are not designed for people with disabilities in wheelchairs.

Posted by: Krys O. | Apr 21, 2006 11:47:28 AM

"unix/linux engineer".

At diebold?

Do you know any of the specifics?

Posted by: Right of Center™ | Apr 21, 2006 11:48:06 AM

Cathar, if it isn't may favorite dictionary. Shouldn't torturing a prisoner or committing war crimes?

Posted by: lasermike026 | Apr 21, 2006 11:48:41 AM


Better to stay with our handicaped-friendly lever machines?

Posted by: Right of Center™ | Apr 21, 2006 11:49:03 AM

Yes, I do know the specifics. I have colleges that have already examined the diebold system. The problem is the number of votes stored in memory can be changed at anytime and there isn't a system in place to verify whether that memory space has been tampered with. Long story short - computer based voting systems are not ready yet.

Posted by: lasermike026 | Apr 21, 2006 11:51:38 AM

Also, voting is not free in China or Cuba because these are dictatorial states. I doubt that the ballots are even counted.

Posted by: lasermike026 | Apr 21, 2006 11:54:18 AM

Do these "colleges" know you?

Posted by: Right of Center™ | Apr 21, 2006 11:54:26 AM

Yes, I know these colleges. Their work stands for itselves. Google bugtraq.

Posted by: lasermike026 | Apr 21, 2006 11:55:43 AM


Posted by: lasermike026 | Apr 21, 2006 11:58:15 AM

But they "vote" in China and Cuba, lasermike, by paper ballots. That is the point. There are even noises made about counting such ballots.

Also, your last post addressed to me was truly incoherent. Was that somehow because of the ridges?

Posted by: cathar | Apr 21, 2006 12:00:24 PM

hard to argue with work that speaks for itselve, especially when your colleges are involved.

Posted by: Right of Center™ | Apr 21, 2006 12:04:25 PM

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