Sunday, August 24, 2008

Diebold and the voting (NON) fiasco

I don't exactly know why people need to be told this, but all the comments blaming Diebold for the election problems miss very important points.

  1. The problem of dropped votes is because the memory cards got switched too fast.

    Imagine using a funnel to fill a canister, and you switched your source material before it was finished. The data transfer rates of memory cards are only so fast, and people are in such a hurry that they don't wait for the data to transfer fully.
    Or, if you're wanting a real-world application: You didn't transfer all of your pictures from your memory card before swapping to another.
  2. "Antivirus on a voting machine? Are you serious?"

    No, silly. Antivirus isn't necessarily on the voting machine. It's on the server that handles (receives and tabulates) the data. Misconfigured or not optimally configured, it could delay or delete data coming from memory cards as it scans the data transfer in real time. This *IS* the function of antivirus software and it does have the potential to cause issues with data transfer *at the server.*
  3. Diebold is in cohoots with the Republicans

    Of course they are. And the democrats who are in charge of the House and Senate have done nothing to stop Diebold from continuing to place touchscreen machines.
  4. ATMs don't have these problems.

    And Diebold is involved with ATMs. ATMs are not necessarily used for gathering data from several thousand people in one day by volunteers. It doesn't mean that ATMs don't gather data and transfer it, but I bet it's likely that the ATMs handle transactions with the servers in real time, rather than hand inputed memory card swapping at the end of a long day.

Disclaimer: I shouldn't need one. I am a computer guy. I have no real or imagined association with any of the parties involved, except that I vote touchscreen and I use ATMs with Diebold logos. If you don't want to vote touchscreen, get an absentee ballet. If you disagree with my observations, that's fine. I'm not telling you to believe me. This *is* my blog.


Unknown said...

As a computer guy, do you know whether or not a proprietary election voting system, Diebold or some other, guarantees public scrutiny? The issue is the elimination of our right to vote by removing the public's right to subject proprietary voting systems to public scrutiny.

Australia's software is free to the world to download, modify and use for our elections. In the U.S., it is illegal to use nonproprietary software. Why?

tech guy said...

A proprietary election voting system by any vendor does not guarantee public scrutiny.

Your right to vote is not abridged if you use an absentee ballot. It's a valid and perhaps more convenient option than touchscreen as you have ample time to fill and submit it.

As for why it is illegal to use nonproprietary software, that is a problem that needs to be addressed. I will not argue that point. I will say that neither the Republicans NOR Democrats seem to consider this an issue worth tackling. The rank and file might, and I agree. Once the representatives are elected, how representative are they of their electorate?

In short, I agree with your sentiment. I think the idea of proprietary software is that external people won't easily be able to make changes to the software and the "proprietary" software can be vetted against its original installation while "open source" may not have that assurance to the people who certify that software.

I don't necessarily hold or agree with that position. I'm merely providing an idea to the thought process to answer your question.

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