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[P]
Insecure elections marching ever closer

By aphrael in Op-Ed
Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 08:20:03 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

Friday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports on a controversial decision by Missouri's Secretary of State: the state of Missouri will be allowing soldiers stationed overseas to cast ballots via e-mail. Their absentee ballots will be scanned and converted to PDF files, which will be emailed to the Defense Department, printed out, and then faxed to Missouri.

I'm in favor of helping soldiers vote; this is a democracy, everyone should be able to vote. Yet I'm deeply skeptical of this proposal, for two reasons:

  • The plan depends on e-mailed ballots being printed out and faxed by the Defense Department but does not provide any safeguards against soldiers being sanctioned for how they have voted;
  • The transmission method is inherently technically insecure


It's a firmly established doctrine, at least in the United States, that an employer should not have the ability to sanction his employees for their voting behavior. (Back in the nineteenth century, of course, they could; but the reforms of the progressive era put a stop to that). It would be bad enough if WalMart could control the votes of their employees; but it's highly disturbing to see someone creating a plan which could allow the Pentagon to control the votes of its employees. Democracies have been historically prone to being upended by powerful militaries; creating a system which allows officers to see, and sanction, voting behavior by enlisted men would grant the military bureacracy too much political power.

It's true that there is no plan in place to sanction soldiers for their votes; but the plan being adopted does not include safeguards against that - and this is precisely the type of political power which, if available, will be abused, sooner or later.

This flaw in the plan could be ameliorated, of course, by having the soldiers email their ballots directly to some agency of the State of Missouri, rather than to the Pentagon. I hope that the State of Missouri considers adopting such a procedure.

Doing so, however, would not solve the other problem with the proposal: email is an insecure method of transferring a vote. The official in the news report is quoted as saying that, because it's a scan of the ballot, the signature can be verified; but there's absolutely no reason that the packets containing the scanned image could not be intercepted, and the image changed so that the *votes* are different but the signature is the same. Intercepting the packets is trivial; changing the image is more difficult, but wouldn't tax the skills of the average professional web designer.

This is a terrible idea. A better idea would be to allow the votes to be cast via e-mail provisionally, under a scheme in which the e-mail must be received by the date of the election and the actual physical ballot must be sent seperately and received no later than the date of the final canvass of votes. This would allow the actual ballot to be compared against the e-mailed ballot while, at the same time, providing soldiers with a way to cast a ballot on election day rather than two weeks beforehand.

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Poll
Should soldiers be allowed to vote by electronic mail?
o Hell, no 51%
o Absolutely 15%
o Only if there is some sort of verifiable paper trail 33%

Votes: 4665
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o controvers ial decision
o Also by aphrael


Display: Sort:
Insecure elections marching ever closer | 212 comments (209 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
Certainly a bad idea. (2.00 / 3) (#1)
by Aemeth on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 03:25:23 AM EST

It would be bad enough if WalMart could control the votes of their employees; but it's highly disturbing to see someone creating a plan which could allow the Pentagon to control the votes of its employees.

Actually, I think WalMart controlling the U.S. would be worse.


...mathematics may be defined as the subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true.
Bertrand Russell


While funny, you are dead wrong. (none / 0) (#25)
by glor on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 08:38:08 PM EST

One could perhaps argue that Walmart already controls the US.

--
Disclaimer: I am not the most intelligent kuron.
[ Parent ]

Vote Fraud (3.00 / 6) (#2)
by brain in a jar on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 03:33:46 AM EST

Appears to have occurred on the poll accompanying this article.

As I am seeing it now, it is an exact 3 way split of the vote with exactly 1500 votes cast, 500 for each option. Those look like suspiciously round numbers to me.

If I'm right about this I think its pretty damn funny given the context...


Life is too important, to be taken entirely seriously.

Sorry! (none / 0) (#19)
by RaveX on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 01:04:35 PM EST

Screwed it up. Now it's 500, 500, 501.
---
The Reconstruction
[ Parent ]
-1, St. Louis Post Dispatch (1.11 / 18) (#3)
by felixrayman on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 04:07:47 AM EST

What's next, a writeup of the latest rantings by the Paducah Kentucky Daily Pigfucker?

Plus you're apparently so idiotic that you get your panties all in a bunch worrying about your pathetic little "democracy", which consists of 40% or so of the populace choosing, once every 4 years, which of two aristocrats they think will be slightly less likely than the other to fuck the whole country up.

Write that up for a article, instead of worrying that soldiers who face death on a daily basis are going to be piss-in-their-pants scared that their commander knows they fucking voted for Nader.


Call Donald Rumsfeld and tell him our sorry asses are ready to go home. Tell him to come spend a night in our building. - Pfc. Matthew C. O'Dell

And you would prefer (none / 0) (#5)
by The Aggrandised Mu on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 06:32:17 AM EST

the New York Times which staffs its ranks with legions of journalists who fabricate news outright? I doubt you'd be complaining much if he referenced the ridiculously opinionated New Hampshire Gazette. At any rate, I get the strange feeling that your denouncement of this particular newspaper with out any reason reeks of urbanite elitism, to put it very mildly.

I think of people starving
But do you think I care
Let them all die hungry
So I can breathe their air.
[ Parent ]
I prefer you to shut your fucking hole (1.11 / 9) (#43)
by felixrayman on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 04:30:47 AM EST

Yeah I'm all fucking urbanite. And elite and shit.

I'm assuming you are still so very impatiently waiting on the Paducah Kentucky Junior Varsity Debate Club to take you off its waiting list?

Call Donald Rumsfeld and tell him our sorry asses are ready to go home. Tell him to come spend a night in our building. - Pfc. Matthew C. O'Dell

[ Parent ]

Nice one, junior. (none / 0) (#139)
by The Aggrandised Mu on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 10:19:03 PM EST

You also hate niggers and kikes?

I think of people starving
But do you think I care
Let them all die hungry
So I can breathe their air.
[ Parent ]
Nope (none / 0) (#144)
by felixrayman on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 02:54:10 AM EST

I just hate you.

Call Donald Rumsfeld and tell him our sorry asses are ready to go home. Tell him to come spend a night in our building. - Pfc. Matthew C. O'Dell

[ Parent ]
Hehe (none / 0) (#148)
by The Aggrandised Mu on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 06:44:28 AM EST

that's okay. I've ruined the discussion for plenty of your angsty teenage feelings-based leftist articles to satisfy myself. I would expect you to hate me.

I think of people starving
But do you think I care
Let them all die hungry
So I can breathe their air.
[ Parent ]
St. Louis != Paducah, KY (none / 0) (#143)
by NeantHumain on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 02:09:29 AM EST

Quite unlike Paducah, Kentucky, St. Louis, Missouri, is a major metropolitan area; and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is a somewhat respected newspaper. You may be urban, but you're also ignorant of the culture and geography of your own country. I advise you to read more about St. Louis, which isn't that horrible a place to live, especially if you spend most of your time browsing K5 anyway.


I hate my sig.


[ Parent ]
What high school did you go to? [n/t] (none / 0) (#145)
by felixrayman on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 02:57:30 AM EST



Call Donald Rumsfeld and tell him our sorry asses are ready to go home. Tell him to come spend a night in our building. - Pfc. Matthew C. O'Dell

[ Parent ]
Speaking of Vote Fraud: (none / 0) (#4)
by wageslave on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 06:12:08 AM EST

As was pointed out earlier... Should soldiers be allowed to vote by electronic mail?
Hell, no 33%
Absolutely 33%
Only if there is some sort of verifiable paper trail 33%

Votes: 1500

--- Wage Slave
Soldiers (1.33 / 3) (#12)
by wireless orc on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 10:12:15 AM EST

shouldn't be allowed to vote at all.

[ Parent ]
You seem to have made a logical error. (2.50 / 4) (#7)
by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 07:24:39 AM EST

The plan depends on e-mailed ballots being printed out and faxed by the Defense Department but does not provide any safeguards against soldiers being sanctioned for how they have voted;

The article does not say that, and  the ballots do not need to be printed out by the DoD at all.  The receiving address can be a program that directly faxes the electronic image. Easy enough to do, a few lines of shell script.

Also, I hate to break it to you, but there's nothing stopping state officials from playing games with the old absentee ballots anyway. That's always been the big concern with absentee ballots.

I agree that e-mail coupled with later physical mailing of the vote would be better in terms of record keeping, but it hardly addresses your security concerns.

I've never known a weasel to lie to me, whore himself out for money or pretend that the weasel competing with him is hungrier than he is. Goddamn it, w

The article does say (none / 1) (#18)
by aphrael on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 12:56:12 PM EST

that the ballots are being printed. The article does not say there are safeguards; you are correct that I am inferring the lack of safeguards from the fact that the article doesn't talk about them.

As for the games with old absentee ballots - the overall problem with absentee systems is a different issue than the problems with this particular absentee system.

[ Parent ]

It does? (none / 0) (#24)
by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 04:35:45 PM EST

So, I read the article again and I still don't see where it says they get printed out along the way:


Blunt announced a plan that would let soldiers in certain locations scan their absentee ballots into e-mail messages that would be transmitted to the Department of Defense. The Defense Department would then fax the ballots to the soldier's local election official.

That doesn't say they aren't printing them out, but it doesn't say that they are, either.


I've never known a weasel to lie to me, whore himself out for money or pretend that the weasel competing with him is hungrier than he is. Goddamn it, w
[ Parent ]

(weak) evidence for printouts (none / 0) (#70)
by bobsquatch on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 01:12:23 PM EST

Quote from Schneier: "Are the paper e-mails sent separately to the counties?"

Assuming that Schneier knows what he's talking about, and that the reporter didn't garble his quote, and that "paper e-mails" means printouts of the email (not the original scanned document), then there's a printout somewhere along the line in the process.

Why is this relevant? (Apart from nit-picking an article, of course.) The DoD, like any middleman with access to the plaintext, can print, fax, copy, phone in, email, whatever, thousands of copies of the data after the data has been fudged. There's no reason to trust a DoD-sourced printout over a DoD-sourced fax, so why do we care if the DoD prints anything out?

Sending the original document directly to the elections officials would be preferable because it eliminates the DoD middleman. There would still be concerns about security in the military post office, the USPS, the local elections crew, etc., but at least you've reduced the risk of fraud to some level more-or-less equal to the risk run by any other absentee.

[ Parent ]

I'll cede the point (none / 0) (#75)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 01:55:45 PM EST

Since I can readily believe they would be stupid enough to print them out and manually fax them.


I've never known a weasel to lie to me, whore himself out for money or pretend that the weasel competing with him is hungrier than he is. Goddamn it, w
[ Parent ]
It does. (none / 0) (#105)
by Zerotime on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 12:57:30 AM EST

Their absentee ballots will be scanned and converted to PDF files, which will be emailed to the Defense Department, printed out, and then faxed to Missouri.

Of course, judging by how far down the page your reply is, that part might not have been added until after you'd commented.

---
"I live by the river
With my mother, in a house
She washes, I cook
And we never go out."

[ Parent ]

Are we even looking at the same article? (none / 0) (#115)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 10:26:23 AM EST

This is weird, because I just read the article linked to above, for the 4th time, I think, and it definitely wasn't there when I looked - I even did a search for the word "print" just to make sure I wasn't overlooking it.

Ah, well. As I said in another post, I cede the point because its easy to believe that it will happen: stupidity springs eternal.

The real pity is that I worked for a company that had an e-mail/fax gateway back in the early 1990s. Completely automated the process. sendmail to phonenumber@fax.company.com and off it went.

I was watching the convention when suddenly this guy jumped a wall and tried to attack Dick Cheney. The Secret Service was totally unprepared - they di
[ Parent ]

Re: The arlicle does say (none / 0) (#52)
by d4rkst4r on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 08:53:19 AM EST

How is the issue of fraud regarding absentee ballots in any way different in this case then normal? Merely because more people apparently handle the ballot in transit (and this is a big assumption regarding the tranmission process) ?

[ Parent ]
Trusting a centralized authority (none / 0) (#98)
by FlipFlop on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 10:07:42 PM EST

How is the issue of fraud regarding absentee ballots in any way different in this case then normal? Merely because more people apparently handle the ballot in transit (and this is a big assumption regarding the tranmission process) ?

This system is less secure because there is a centralized service with an opportunity to manipulate the votes before they are counted. There is no means of detecting any tampering of the votes. There is no one watching to make sure the votes were not altered.

The system is even more troublesome since the military has hundreds of thousands of troops throughout the world. Someone could carefully pick which votes to manipulate to swing the election in a few key states.

Someone at the DOD could literally control which of the two major candidates becomes president.

AdTI - The think tank that didn't
[ Parent ]

Why e-mail at all? (none / 1) (#8)
by wiredog on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 08:20:02 AM EST

The current system works well enough. You contact your County for an absentee ballot, they mail it to you, you fill it out and mail it back. Low tech, yes, but fairly secure. The lead time (you need to vote about two weeks out to be sure it's counted) might be an issue, but consider how many people have already made up their minds.

Oregon, IIRC, has gone completely to an absentee ballot, and many States allow absentee balloting for people who aren't even out of the state/country on election day.

The absentee ballot system is much more (in theory) easily abused, but that's another question from this type of absentee balloting.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

I agree. (none / 1) (#17)
by aphrael on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 12:54:51 PM EST

The absentee ballot system *is* easily abused. But this system is worse than the usual absentee systems.

[ Parent ]
It's highly amusing... (none / 1) (#11)
by skyknight on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 10:05:08 AM EST

The official in the news report is quoted as saying that, because it's a scan of the ballot, the signature can be verified;

I find it highly amusing that we think a hand written signature is proof of ANYTHING. When a signature is not a function of the document being signed, but rather a more or less static value, then it's a proof of NOTHING, certainly in the digital age. If the music companies can't stop illicit file sharing, why should we think that our signatures on documents are safe? We need to be thinking about cryptographically signing documents ASAP, or at least switch over to signing things in blood so they can be DNA verified. At the very least, the latter scenario would give the Red Cross a powerful way to augment their donation income, and for the trouble of coming up with this idea they could perhaps stop pestering me personally for blood and money.



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
The Red Cross DNA Database! (none / 0) (#41)
by loqi on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 03:09:44 AM EST

Don't you see it's all a huge conspiracy to obtain our DNA and create a mega-terabytational database and Dracula is running the whole thing?!

[ Parent ]
Duh... Where have you been? /nt (none / 1) (#55)
by skyknight on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 09:04:14 AM EST



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Riiiight ... (3.00 / 9) (#13)
by Mr.Surly on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 11:18:20 AM EST

Seems pretty clear that you've never spent any time in the US Military.  The idea of soldiers being sanctioned by their superiors for how they vote is as likely as having a sailor being punished by flogging on a modern Navy ship.

Using the email system is not mandatory.  You can still fax or use the mail. You do know that mail from / to soldiers overseas is subject to being opened and inspected, right? As far as the "old way" of faxing, it's highly likely that the voter won't even be present when the ballot is faxed.

The idea that the process was ever as secure as you'd like it to be is questionable.


From what I understand... (2.00 / 5) (#14)
by CodeWright on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 11:32:32 AM EST

...the return of flogging would be a welcome boon for solving discipline problems aboard ship.

--
A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
You're missing the point (2.60 / 5) (#15)
by jolly st nick on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 12:25:25 PM EST

The very question of soldiers being sanctioned for how they vote should never even come up in a properly designed secret ballot.

It shouldn't just be unthinkable, it should be as close to impossible as can be contrived. Time brings changes in many things that were once unthinkable, but it does not bring the impossible.

[ Parent ]

Impossibility does change (3.00 / 2) (#63)
by RadiantMatrix on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 10:38:46 AM EST

Time brings changes in many things that were once unthinkable, but it does not bring the impossible.
That's not quite true. I think I agree with you on the basic point; namely, that we shouldn't hinge election secrecy and security on the mere hope that those in power will behave. But, the idea of "impossible" does, in fact, change.

I'm sure that during WWII there were plenty of German officials who were certain that breaking Enigma was impossible. In fact, when certain German officers suspected that Enigma had been broken due to the uncanny "good luck" the Allies were having, those officers were scorned -- some, I think, were even punished.

Now, however, we realize that there is no such thing as "encryption that is impossible to break" (Except, possibly, one-time pads). And, in fact, that Enigma is a relatively weak cipher.

Then there was cold fusion. Everyone thought it was impossible, until... oh, wait...


"In any sufficiently large group of people, most are idiots" - Kaa's Law

[ Parent ]

Not "possibly" (none / 0) (#85)
by Cloaked User on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 03:49:48 PM EST

One-time pads, used correctly, are impossible to break.
--
"What the fuck do you mean 'Are you inspired to come to work'? Of course I'm not 'inspired'. It's a job for God's sake! The money's enough and the work's not so crap that I leave."
[ Parent ]
OTP (none / 0) (#159)
by RadiantMatrix on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 09:30:58 AM EST

One-time pads, used correctly, are impossible to break.
That may be true at present time (and it's likely universally true); however, there have been plenty of things in history that were "impossible" until someone noticed something new...

We can't guarantee that someone won't find a weakness in the OTP scheme at some distant point in the future.  Always be wary of absolutes! :)

Still, OTP's, correctly used, are the strongest cryptography anyone has been able to imagine, and it appears that breaking them is so improbable as to be essentially impossible.

"In any sufficiently large group of people, most are idiots" - Kaa's Law

[ Parent ]

OTPs (none / 0) (#185)
by jreilly on Sat Sep 04, 2004 at 12:33:27 AM EST

*sigh*

It's terribly easy to break one time pads. All you have to do is exactly replicate the random number source used. Of course...there's a few random number sources that can't be realistically replicated...probably easier to just steal the encryption key =)

Oooh, shiny...
[ Parent ]
Questionable it may be (3.00 / 3) (#16)
by aphrael on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 12:53:40 PM EST

but if it's as questionable as you're making it out to be, that's disturbing: what you're basically saying is that, while we go to great lengths to make civilian balloting secure, there is no security around balloting by soldiers whatsoever.

That's a huge gaping hole in the security of our election systems, if true.

[ Parent ]

Civilian voting is secure? (NT) (none / 0) (#164)
by Mr.Surly on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 10:19:35 AM EST



[ Parent ]
note its by state (2.00 / 2) (#20)
by khallow on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 02:31:17 PM EST

Since Missouri can do this, we can find out a) how insecure this process really is, and b) uncover flaws in the process. One of the interesting features of a federal system.

Stating the obvious since 1969.

already know of 1 flaw (2.33 / 3) (#21)
by zenofchai on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 02:56:52 PM EST

as few as 1 fraudulent votes can change who is president of the United States, because whomever wins Missouri, even by one vote, gets 100% of the electoral votes of Missouri.

this is what is known as a brittle system in computer terms (scroll down to the computing definition). it would be better if our election method were robust, since the outcome is one of the more important global events.
--
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]

a great point! (none / 1) (#23)
by khallow on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 03:40:46 PM EST

As far as I can tell, this is actually the problem people are complaining about when they talk of Bush "stealing" Florida. However, elections are by their nature brittle. You don't expect 30% of Bush and 70% of Kerry to run the US. I'm fine with an appropriate random process (supervised by Congress) for selecting the president at that point, but I don't think society is ready.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

brittle elections (none / 1) (#56)
by zenofchai on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 09:09:22 AM EST

However, elections are by their nature brittle. You don't expect 30% of Bush and 70% of Kerry to run the US.

No, but I do expect an election to better reflect the will of the people, and be more robust against fraud and error. In the end, of course, there can be only one winner. However, the all-or-nothing per-state electoral vote block creates an artificial and easily fixed source of brittleness in the system.

I'm fine with an appropriate random process (supervised by Congress) for selecting the president at that point, but I don't think society is ready.

Nah, not necessary. Splitting electoral votes per state based on the margin of victory in that state doesn't even require a Constitutional amendment, and I think society is quite ready for such a change. Its sole outcome is a more robust electoral system which more accurately represents the will of the people.
--
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]

not necessarily a good idea! (3.00 / 3) (#69)
by khallow on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 12:49:22 PM EST

Nah, not necessary. Splitting electoral votes per state based on the margin of victory in that state doesn't even require a Constitutional amendment, and I think society is quite ready for such a change. Its sole outcome is a more robust electoral system which more accurately represents the will of the people.

The brittleness of the electoral system by state does one important thing. It amplifies the importance of campaigning in the state. If you can swing the vote by 5% in a state, that may mean a small fraction of electoral votes under your robust system rather than possibly the entire state. Look at Ohio, for example. At least according some news sources, this is a swing state where both major candidates are campaigning heavily to win. I'm sure Ohio citizens thinks they benefit from the attention.

Having said that, I got to agree with you. Split up electoral votes and suddenly no one is "stealing" elections any more.

Stating the obvious since 1969.
[ Parent ]

depends on the state and you bring up a good thing (none / 1) (#79)
by zenofchai on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 02:16:41 PM EST

For example, "non-swing" states currently hardly get any advertising at all (last election my home state of North Carolina saw hardly any advertising).

That said, any system which has the effect of meaning that you can't buy the presidency with regionally targeted advertising is a better system. Now you not only don't have people "stealing" elections, you also don't have them "buying" them either? Sounds good!
--
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]

In other words (none / 1) (#40)
by loqi on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 03:05:09 AM EST

the electoral college makes absolutely no sense and should be abolished? That makes way too much sense, I doubt people will care.

[ Parent ]
not quite (none / 0) (#54)
by zenofchai on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 08:55:16 AM EST

I don't think the electoral system or college needs to be abolished -- after all, the electoral system helps protect the interest of a state's population, and this is a valuable goal in my opinion. It is just that the "all or nothing" per-state electoral system is an obviously brittle system -- as would any system in which 1 fraudulent vote determine the outcome versus 100 million legal votes. The electoral college simply needs to divide their electoral votes amongst the candidates approriately according to the margin of victory. This wouldn't even require a modification to the Constitution, by the way. It could be implemented this fall.
--
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]
heh (2.00 / 5) (#22)
by trhurler on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 03:17:33 PM EST

the Post Pisspatch is a shitty paper. You read it too, eh? Too bad there's nothing else decent that covers local events.

Anyway, Blunt's supposition is that the DoD would never do such a thing as to manipulate the votes, and he's probably right, but I agree that I'd prefer a better system.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

What the hell? (2.00 / 3) (#26)
by sticky on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 08:45:42 PM EST

Just how many dupe accounts do most people have here?


Don't eat the shrimp.---God
what are you talking about? (2.50 / 2) (#28)
by aphrael on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 09:57:25 PM EST



[ Parent ]
The poll (2.50 / 2) (#30)
by sticky on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 10:57:16 PM EST

Looks like more than a few people have been stuffing the ballot box. It has close to 4x the number of votes than the FP poll, which has been up for like 2 years now.


Don't eat the shrimp.---God
[ Parent ]
erm. (none / 1) (#38)
by aphrael on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 02:28:27 AM EST

you don't need dupe accounts to do that.

[ Parent ]
Regardless (none / 0) (#45)
by imrdkl on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 05:54:10 AM EST

Given your POV expressed in the article, the effect would have been starker had you made affirmative option the apparant winner.

[ Parent ]
It was for a while (none / 1) (#78)
by aphrael on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 01:58:28 PM EST

then I decided it would be better to make it reflect the actual results, percentagewise. i'm terrible at election stealing.

[ Parent ]
Wimpy, really wimpy (none / 1) (#80)
by imrdkl on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 02:29:01 PM EST

You'd never make it as a neocon.

[ Parent ]
I know but (none / 0) (#59)
by sticky on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 09:21:18 AM EST

Do you really think that many people voted in the poll? I doubt it.


Don't eat the shrimp.---God
[ Parent ]
No. (none / 0) (#77)
by aphrael on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 01:57:57 PM EST



[ Parent ]
I'm stunned (3.00 / 2) (#27)
by Lord Snott on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 09:06:30 PM EST

I live in Canberra, Australia. Our last (territory) elections gave us the option of electronic voting.

It was pretty straight forward (though I did think the system's interfaced sucked). The whole process was open and transparent. It also stopped one of the independent candidates demanding a recount.

Why has this been so difficult to reproduce overseas? Email a vote, scan it, print it, fax it?!?! WTF?!?! How can an organisation like the Pentagon have such a backward system in place?

If I read the essay (and the linked article) correctly, not only is the system open to tampering, it's not necessarily a secret ballot, either. In a culture like the military, I'd hate my superiors to know I didn't vote the accepted way.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This sig in violation of U.S. trademark
registration number 2,347,676.
Bummer :-(

Umm, dude (none / 0) (#44)
by QuantumG on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 05:08:15 AM EST

That would be because the US is full of nut jobs. Right wing extremists don't live in Australia. We don't have the kind of people who picket funerals with signs that say "God Hates Gays" ok? We get away with a lot of stuff in Australia because no-one wants to steal the elections.

Gun fire is the sound of freedom.
[ Parent ]
Lest we forget Fred Nile ;-) (nt) (none / 0) (#93)
by Lord Snott on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 08:31:33 PM EST


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This sig in violation of U.S. trademark
registration number 2,347,676.
Bummer :-(

[ Parent ]
Or Jack van Tongeren. (nt) (none / 0) (#103)
by Zerotime on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 12:50:37 AM EST



---
"I live by the river
With my mother, in a house
She washes, I cook
And we never go out."

[ Parent ]
It's because you don't understand the US elections (none / 1) (#60)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 09:26:10 AM EST

Please keep in mind that the USA was not designed to be a single nation - it is/was a federal collection of states, much like where the EU seems to be headed.

The other thing to keep in mind is how many square miles the US covers - particularly when the government was designed. I realize Australia is big, but your population is overwhelmingly concentrated in a few areas.

  1. Each state runs its own elections, thus each state has its own voting procedures.
  2. In turn, most of the states delegate the actual operation of the elections to the counties. This means that the procedures for voting will vary from county to county. States typically have dozens of counties.
  3. In any given election a person will be voting on 15-50 different offices, ranging from president down to dog catcher, plus any financial issues that the county or state is required to defer to the voters, plus any referendums that petitioners have gotten added to the ballot.
How do you expect a single national system to handle this?

I've never known a weasel to lie to me, whore himself out for money or pretend that the weasel competing with him is hungrier than he is. Goddamn it, w
[ Parent ]
I guess, but... (none / 1) (#95)
by Lord Snott on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 08:58:14 PM EST

Australia was not designed to be a single nation, either. In fact, WA did not want to be a part of the Federation of Australia, it was... umm.. forced into it by the British.

Each state has has it's own voting procedures, too. Instead of counties, however, we have shires.

In previous state and territory elections, we've had our "tablecloth ballots", where there were so many options (110 candidates in 1973 and over 260 in 1999) the paper ballot was, literally, the size of a medium tablecloth.

That being said, the Australian Capital Territory (not actually being a state) is a fairly good starting point for electronic voting. We've a small, centralised population (about 300k people), and since we're not a state, the Federal Government can step in and veto anything in case things go horribly wrong (our states, as you said, are like independant nations, our territories have no power other than that given by the Federal Government).

You asked "How do you expect a single national system to handle this?"
Well, not by the emailing/scanning/faxing system the Pentagon seems to be using. Anything has gotta be better than that.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This sig in violation of U.S. trademark
registration number 2,347,676.
Bummer :-(

[ Parent ]

Well, again, (none / 1) (#101)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 12:07:36 AM EST

It's not the pentagon's decision. One state, out of 50, apparently allows faxed ballots.

I was watching the convention when suddenly this guy jumped a wall and tried to attack Dick Cheney. The Secret Service was totally unprepared - they di
[ Parent ]
Few thoughts (2.00 / 2) (#29)
by jd on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 10:38:42 PM EST

First, there's nothing inherently insecure about an e-mail ballot. PGP/GPG, a strong X.509 certificate system, and you can be sure that nobody on the outside can either read OR spoof votes. By digitally signing the vote, it also provides some safeguards against someone at the Pentagon from vote-tampering.

However, there's no reference to secure e-mail. Standard e-mail is trivial to sniff or modify en-route, as it's plain text. It's also impossible to verify that what is sent is the same as what is received or printed. Without that guarantee, it would not be hard for, say, a political sabateur from modifying votes from the "wrong" party to the "right" one. Nobody would be able to tell. In consequence, it is impossible to verify that the votes ultimately processed are the same as the votes cast.

Second, the idea of sanctions for "incorrect" political persuasion is slightly less likely. Especially if the "wrong" party was ultimately elected. Too risky. If anything untoward is going to happen, it'd need to be something that couldn't be easy to identify or track. As mentioned above, vote tampering is a much more likely problem.

Let's move onto the scanned image problem. That's such a non-issue. You detect the box you want marked. You detect the box that IS marked. You change the sizes so that the total area you have identified is the same for each. Swap the two areas round. Voila - a change in vote that would beat any trivial inspection.

For a more "convincing" fake, you'd want to do color adjustments, so that the backgrounds matched up (so flaws in the paper matched up). You'd also want to do line detection, so that you could add/remove crease-marks that you'd split up.

"Ok, but all of this is very intensive, and would be much easier to do with manual help, rather than fully automatically."

True, but if the perp was in the Pentagon, they'd have the time to make the modifications. An intercept would also still be possible - you just have to have a "dummy" SMTP server sitting between the sender and the receiver, which captured the electronic votes. The villain of the piece could then take whatever time they liked to "perfect" the counterfeit votes, and then send them off from that same mid-point, spoofing the original sender's IP and sender's SMTP server behaviour.

The ONLY way you can be sure that what the election office gets is what the voter cast is if there is a digital signature (X.509) that is securely generated (SHA-1 is a lot safer than MD-5, for example) AND which can be verified by the election office AND which shows that the message has not been tampered with.

It's better if the message is encrypted, as then only those with a "need to know" will see the vote that has been cast.

Why is this important? Because if you know that, say, 45% of people have voted the way you don't want, and you KNOW that enough people haven't voted to sway the election the way you want, it wouldn't be hard to inject enough false votes to change the result.

The fewer the number of people who know who has voted, the less the risk of fake votes. (The recent Chechen elections suffered a lot from false voting, with recorded turnouts of 80% but International Monitor reports of near-zero turnout.)

The more controlled the information, and the less any one person knows, the harder it is to conduct a convincing fraud.

(Ralph Nader, in the Oregon referendum to put him on the ballot in that state, got a LOT of votes from dead people.)

changing scanned ballots (none / 1) (#39)
by Norkakn on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 02:36:00 AM EST

just scan in 40 random ballots that vote the way you want and add some noise.... just swap the vote section instead of changing it (-:

[ Parent ]
That would work, too (none / 0) (#92)
by jd on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 07:56:06 PM EST

Again, a proper digitally-signed e-mail would be immune to such tampering, but it's my guess that they're going to use utterly plain-text SMTP.

[ Parent ]
Rusty, you've got one hell of a sense of irony. +1 (none / 0) (#31)
by Russell Dovey on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 11:07:02 PM EST

Great work with the poll there.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan

intercepting packets (2.66 / 3) (#32)
by coderlemming on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 11:17:35 PM EST

random tangent:

Intercepting the packets is trivial;

Is it really?  I wouldn't exactly know how to do this in practice, and I've researched in the security field.  We say it's "trivial" for the sake of security discussion, but how would you even get started doing it in this case?  How often does such a thing happen?


--
Go be impersonally used as an organic semen collector!  (porkchop_d_clown)

intercepting packet (1.25 / 4) (#37)
by chro57 on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 02:22:49 AM EST

intercepting packet purely theorical ?

Well, I have a formation in "security", which came after a real theorical formation in networking and cryptographie ;-)

Sir, you have seemingly no knowledge of the possible misuse of the usual tools of routing, filtering, available on you favorite router or linux system.

You probably don't even have a clue on IP routing ;-)

Don't count on me to give you a script to follow ;-)

But fondamentally, good secure evoting protocol are very hard to design and then follow, without a trusted integrated electronic computer in the brain of normal humans ;-)  (do you trust this system of the local hierachy ? Of this vendor ? Is it proved by people you trust ? Are you able to mentally cryptocode ? ;-)

Then there is the very simple way of doing it the usual antique way : have soldiers go to a standard paper voting pool, counting publicly, and then sending the aggregate information, which is back published by the media. Security and confidentiality of the vote is assured by the local voters and exterior observators. Gueee, voting is an act of the art of war ;-)

Democraty is not easy. Pace, friends.

[ Parent ]

intercepting packets (none / 0) (#49)
by d4rkst4r on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 08:18:57 AM EST

Sorry, there is a huge difference between being able to sniff packets, and intercepting them and changing their contents.

[ Parent ]
Packet alteration, injection (none / 1) (#65)
by RadiantMatrix on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 10:54:09 AM EST


Sorry, there is a huge difference between being able to sniff packets, and intercepting them and changing their contents.

True, but things like airpwn do exist, and they do just that.  Granted, this is for WiFi, but the concepts are equally applicable to wired media.
"In any sufficiently large group of people, most are idiots" - Kaa's Law

[ Parent ]

Re: Packet alteration, injection (none / 0) (#112)
by d4rkst4r on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 08:21:40 AM EST

The only way it could work is if all packets pass through the middle man. On the internet (wired) the only way to accomplish that is to convince both endpoints that the only route between them passes through you. That is not impossible, but far from simple.

[ Parent ]
Re: Packet alteration, injection (none / 0) (#160)
by RadiantMatrix on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 09:36:37 AM EST

On the internet (wired) the only way to accomplish that is to convince both endpoints that the only route between them passes through you.
Almost, but not quite.

A hypothetical attacker would need to intercept the best route (still hard, but a little easier than the above), or the only existing route (such as a corporate gateway).  Come to think of it, a real attacker would have the same choice. :)

The latter of the options is most likely; compromising a single-point-of-access device like a site router or firewall.  While this may not be accessible to the general public, the possibilities exist for script-kiddies to accomplish a packet-sniff or packet-injection attack.

Of course, if one does a thorough job of securing single-point services, it is unlikely to ever be an issue.  However, it's still wise to consider the scenario of "what if someone gets the access to do this", because it's easier than many people think.

"In any sufficiently large group of people, most are idiots" - Kaa's Law

[ Parent ]

Wha? (none / 1) (#66)
by RadiantMatrix on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 11:07:57 AM EST

Well, I have a formation in "security", which came after a real theorical formation in networking and cryptographie

Either your native-language version is spelled "cryptographie", or you're handing out a line regarding your cryptography experience.

Add that to your habit of ending nearly every paragraph with ';-)' instead of punctuation, and your credibility is slipping.

Don't count on me to give you a script to follow

The poster you reply to wasn't asking for scripts, but an example to prove the hypothesis that packet alteration is 'trivial'.

But fondamentally, good secure evoting protocol are very hard to design and then follow

There are well-established principles for secure communications; things agencies like the Pentagon are already familiar with and use for far more sensitive data transmission and authentication than what is required for an electronically-transmitted vote.  From such a group's point of view, implementing secure voting should be relatively simple.

Here's an off-the-cuff example:


  1. Soldiers access a secured network (of which the Pentagon already provides many) and generate an asymmetric keypair.  The secret key is stored on portable media and secured with a passphrase.
  2. Soldiers enter a booth, mark their vote clearly on paper, scan the document, and then put the paper copy in a tamper-evident folder.
  3. The document is signed with the Soldier's secret key, then encrypted for the State's election board and sent via the secure network.
  4. The tamper-evident envelope is marked with the Soldier's fingerprint in UV-visible ink and mailed to the State's election board

Of course, there are opportunities to mess with votes here, but doing so would require an extremly intense and coordinated effort.  Anyone with a grounding in security knows that large, coordinated efforts are very difficult to keep secret.  And, the system above would be worlds more secure than other voting methods currently used.

"In any sufficiently large group of people, most are idiots" - Kaa's Law

[ Parent ]

can your protocol be proved ? (none / 0) (#211)
by chro57 on Sat Sep 25, 2004 at 09:44:55 PM EST

I spend 10 minutes thinking about your protocol.
I didn't find any "easy" loophole that wouldn't be at big risk of being spotted.

But this is not a proof, that there are not such loophole.

The good old protocol can be proved for confidentiality, integrity, no need of central authority.

Is this one proved for all those properties ?

Well, I guess that these questions will be considered "purely theorical", until there is a real problem...

And noone care for "my science". Trust the practicals experts.

[ Parent ]

uhm... (none / 0) (#102)
by coderlemming on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 12:36:01 AM EST

You're an idiot, but I'll make myself a little more clear for the benefit of everyone else:

Given a computer in the way of the communications, yes, I could understand how one could intercept packets and change information (though it would definitely not be a trivial process).  But in a real-world example like this, how exactly can one "trivially" intercept these votes?  Figure out the routing of packets from where the soldiers are stationed to the DoD, break into a key backbone router, and install a program that carefully monitors traffic and intercepts, modifies, and reinjects those votes?  Unlikely.


--
Go be impersonally used as an organic semen collector!  (porkchop_d_clown)
[ Parent ]

Probably injection is the greater risk... (none / 0) (#155)
by skyknight on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 08:58:15 AM EST

given that source authentication with generic e-mail is basically non-existent.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Isn't this a red herring? (none / 0) (#209)
by Gooba42 on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 05:18:02 AM EST

Specifically the issue at hand with this issue is that the soldiers' votes don't necessarily need to be intercepted off the wire since there are plenty of legitimate intermediary servers and systems which can't necessarily be trusted.

The soldier's vote is being trusted to whoever does the scanning, the client they send the mail from, the server they send the mail through, the server which receives the mail and then whatever client handles it from there. That's 5 points of potential intercept or corruption and they are fixed points. No sniffing or backbone intercept necessary because we know where to find them.

[ Parent ]

This move may backfire (3.00 / 3) (#33)
by acceleriter on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 11:37:05 PM EST

While the military tends to be conservative, and thus Republican-leaning, those Missouri residents extended in Iraq, particularly those who were subjects of stop-loss orders, may tend to vote opposite the way Matt Blunt might desire.

Given that a dead man beat Ashcroft in the 2000 Senate race, I will find it hard to believe that anything other than fraud could account for a close Bush win in that state come November.

I dunno... (3.00 / 2) (#36)
by skim123 on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 01:24:43 AM EST

You're talking about the first state to pass a state Constitution measure banning gay marriages. That seems to be a pretty pro-Bush rhetoric. I lived in Missouri, too, for eight years, and while I have only visited in the past four, while I was there the state was very conservative, especially considered to my home of the past four years (California).

Besides, the reason Ashcroft lost, in large part, was because he was being challenged by a very popular incumbant governor. When Carnahan died a few months prior to the election, his wife took his spot, so the name on the ballot still read Carnahan. Had Ashcroft been running against someone less popular, or had there been a name other than Carnahan on the ballot, I would have wagered Ashcroft would have won the election.

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum


[ Parent ]
Losing to a dead man (3.00 / 2) (#61)
by Cro Magnon on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 09:28:46 AM EST

It's actually harder to run against a dead man than a live one. If Ashcroft had gone negative against Carnahan's ghost, he'd be an insensitive lout. And Carnahan's widow got a lot of sympathy votes.
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
that's why Ashcroft... (none / 0) (#206)
by Wah on Tue Sep 07, 2004 at 11:43:36 AM EST

...runs with Jesus.
--
umm, holding, holding...
[ Parent ]
um... can't they already vote? (none / 1) (#34)
by Run4YourLives on Tue Aug 31, 2004 at 11:54:53 PM EST

I was in the Canadian Army during an election about 8 years ago.

Easiest voting I have ever done.  They gave us pretty much the whole day off. They also gave us 5 different days to go and do it.

Now, I wasn't in a combat zone, and I suppose the logistics would be a little more difficult, but come on now, email?

Unlike the author, I don't worry so much about a voter's inability to choose because of employer interference in the military. There are the one who put their lives on the line for the opportunity.

What I worry about is why the bastion of democracy that your country proclaims to be has, between hanging chads and technically ignorant politicos such a lack of fundamental rules regarding its elections.

Mind boggling.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown

Re: um....can't they already vote? (none / 0) (#50)
by d4rkst4r on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 08:42:28 AM EST

Yes, they can and nothing in this post represents a change in that. This simply gives more alternatives. But I am puzzled as to your statement that the US has a "lack of fundimental rules regarding its elections". That is certainly not the case.

[ Parent ]
be puzzeled all you want. (none / 1) (#67)
by Run4YourLives on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 11:17:12 AM EST

...but you have too many fingers in the pie down there, IMO, all all it seems to cause you is election problem after election problem.

For instance, why does a state government have any say at all regarding how a federal election is held? (don't answer, I know the reason - hypothetically though)

Why do sitting governments have direct control over approved voting methods?

Up here in Canada, a single entity, Elections Canada, ensures all elections are consistent across the country. Of course, it isn't a perfect system, but it ensures behaviour throughout the country follows the provisions of the Canada Elections Act. No voting machines. No email ballots. No hanging chads.

You get your ass up, walk to the nearest school (usually) and use a pencil. Everyone does it the same damn way.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]

I know you said "don't answer" (none / 0) (#68)
by davidduncanscott on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 12:22:00 PM EST

but how could I not?
why does a state government have any say at all regarding how a federal election is held?
How could a federation of states not give states authority over federal elections? Do we have different ideas of the meaning of "federation"?

[ Parent ]
differentiate between state and federal elections (none / 0) (#140)
by Elohite on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 10:26:08 PM EST

Surely you give the states in a federation control over state elections and keep the federal elections in the hands of federal officials. It's as easy as having two ballot papers, two ballot boxes and two electoral overseers at the polling place. Giving state officials control over how federal elections are run seems a bad idea.

[ Parent ]
Picture... (none / 0) (#192)
by davidduncanscott on Sat Sep 04, 2004 at 10:44:31 AM EST

the extreme case: the United Nations. Do UN officials oversee the choice of Ambassador, or are they appointed by each country?

Granted that the concept has become attenuated over the years, but this country really was set up as a Federation. The authority of the Federal government was derived from that of the various states, not the reverse. Each state has its own way of doing things, provided only that the Constitutional rights of the people are preserved -- kingdoms are illegal, but the various states have various forms of state and local governments, with strong and weak governors, single or dual houses, and yes, different setups for elections.

Besides, this is a pretty big country. We have 3,141 counties, and each of those has Lord knows how many polling places -- I'd wager a couple of hundred on average. About the only Federal officials that numerous and widely-scattered are postmen, and since I regularly get my neighbors' mail, I'm not too sure about using them for the purpose.

[ Parent ]

Sanctions (3.00 / 5) (#35)
by Quila on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 12:03:24 AM EST

The security questions are valid, but the idea of sanctions for voting "incorrectly" are idiotic. I've been in the military, voted absentee, and helped "voting officers" do their job. They take legalities quite seriously, and any hint of pressure on the voters would cause heads to roll -- none would dare do it. The only thing that would cause them to show disdain would be a soldier not bothering to vote.

BTW, I worked with high-ranking conservative officers when I voted for Clinton in '92 and they knew which way I voted (I told them in conversation). In the same election I also voted against the anti-gay amendment in Colorado. We had some interesting conversations, but I was never sanctioned for my choice, just got kudos for voting in the first place.

Exactly. (none / 1) (#162)
by Mr.Surly on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 10:11:10 AM EST

You nailed it on the head.  Why on earth people tend to think that the entire military is just like boot camp from "Full Metal Jacket," I'll never figure out.

[ Parent ]
agreed (none / 0) (#181)
by xmnemonic on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 07:58:39 PM EST

It is amazing how many Americans have such strong opinions on issues regarding an organization about which they know nothing.

[ Parent ]
Short sighted (none / 0) (#207)
by lugumbashi on Tue Sep 07, 2004 at 01:28:29 PM EST

Just because you never were pressured into voting one way or another does not mean you should allow the secrecy of the ballot to be compromised. Election Rules need to cater for the worst case, such as a time in the future, hopefully never, when the US is so badly split as to be on the brink of civil war. In cases like that the ballot must be secret. You may think this is an unlikely scenario, but there are plenty of places in the world where it is not. US democracy should hold itself to the highest international standards both for the benefit of itself and internationally.
-"Guinness thaw tool in jew me dinner ouzel?"
[ Parent ]
Anyone who takes advantage of this (none / 0) (#42)
by jubal3 on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 03:15:25 AM EST

new program, deserves all the sanctions they get...just for stupidity.

I'm more worried about some knucklehead with a political axe to grind at the DCPERS office changing votes for the hell of it.


***Never attribute to malice that which can be easily attributed to incompetence. -HB Owen***

A really fucking bad idea (none / 1) (#46)
by nebbish on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 06:03:39 AM EST

As far as I can tell it'd more secure and less open to abuse for us to vote by postcard.

---------
Kicking someone in the head is like punching them in the foot - Bruce Lee

How many (none / 1) (#47)
by SanSeveroPrince on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 06:41:04 AM EST

of those soldiers are in the electoral college? I believe the last election has already made it abundantly clear that the US doesn't give a flying monkey's ass about the popular vote...

----

Life is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those who think


Presidential elections (none / 0) (#48)
by d4rkst4r on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 08:08:49 AM EST

Presidential elections in the US are not popularity contests, by design. Our founding fathers were wise enough to recognize that it would be very easy for a scoundrel to win the popular vote but not be the best candidate for president. Hence the creation of the electoral college system.

[ Parent ]
Antidemocratic (none / 0) (#73)
by lugumbashi on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 01:37:00 PM EST

You are right, that is what the founding fathers thought, because they feared genuine democracy. It is not wise though. So far electoral college voters have never changed the outcome of an election. There have been occasional protest votes.

Like I said to my pro-bush Aunt, there is no point in her voting at all, because she lives in Staten Island.
-"Guinness thaw tool in jew me dinner ouzel?"
[ Parent ]

Re: Antidemocratic (none / 1) (#111)
by d4rkst4r on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 08:13:33 AM EST

Sorry. You make a statement but offer nothing to back it up. The founding fathers fully understood that so-called pure democracy does not work. A fool could win the hearts and minds of a majority of the voters and yet be completely unfit for the presidency.

[ Parent ]
Not relevant (none / 0) (#166)
by lugumbashi on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 11:01:51 AM EST

That is not an argument for keeping the electoral college, unless you are advocating that the electors change their votes after the election. That would provoke a constitutional crisis. This is a real danger in a close election.

To use your own words, a fool could still win the hearts and minds of the majority in the US presidential election. The electoral college system does not stop this. What it does is give more power to the smaller states and effectively disenfranchise Republican voters in New York and Democrat ones in Texas.


-"Guinness thaw tool in jew me dinner ouzel?"
[ Parent ]

Straight face (none / 0) (#84)
by SanSeveroPrince on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 03:46:32 PM EST

This wonderful system, of course, culminated with the election of Dubbya. I can see where you'd be able to really make a point for its merits.

----

Life is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those who think


[ Parent ]
Re: Straight face (none / 0) (#110)
by d4rkst4r on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 08:07:18 AM EST

The system worked very well. Insulting the president because you do not approve of his policies says nothing about the effectiveness of the election system.

[ Parent ]
Amazing (none / 0) (#113)
by SanSeveroPrince on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 09:53:31 AM EST

It's simply amazing. Only an American would sit here, defending Bush's legitimacy and stating that a reduced electoral college works better because it's not as easy to sway as an entire population WITH A STRAIGHT FACE, IN THE SAME SENTENCE.

Cool. I wish I had your nerve.

----

Life is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those who think


[ Parent ]
soldiers (1.00 / 3) (#53)
by ThaboZ on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 08:54:33 AM EST

Soldiers tent to be more right wing, pro-war, pro-fascism anti-left etc etc.
They played an important role in the stealing of the ellections the last time the neo-conservatives stole the elections that placed George War Bush in the White House. They were given extra time to vote etc etc.

[ Parent ]
Re: soldiers (none / 1) (#62)
by d4rkst4r on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 10:16:56 AM EST

Soldiers tend to be more pro-war? Where do you get that idea. I served in the military and I certainly never preferred war to peace, nor was that the case for anyone I served with that I know of.
The same goes for you pro-fascism claim.

I am certainly more right-wing then many, and anti-left as a consequence. But these attitudes were not forged by my military service, nor did I choose to serve in the military due to my right wing tendencies.

Your contention that soldiers somehow were involved in "stealing" the election for President Bush is just so wrong on so many levels. Whether you like it or not, Al Gore lost the election. Bush won the election in full accordance with the laws of the land.

[ Parent ]
huh? (none / 1) (#58)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 09:17:49 AM EST

First, in the USA, active duty soldiers are banned from publicly endorsing particular political parties or positions - especially when in uniform.

This is for the very good reason that the military should not be permitted to influence the democratic process.

Second, all the states have laws requiring that their electoral representitives to vote the way the state's voters tell them to.

I've never known a weasel to lie to me, whore himself out for money or pretend that the weasel competing with him is hungrier than he is. Goddamn it, w
[ Parent ]

All states - really? (none / 1) (#72)
by lugumbashi on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 01:25:05 PM EST

Second, all the states have laws requiring that their electoral representitives to vote the way the state's voters tell them to.

Not true. Electors have voted against the state majority several times. In 2000, one of Gore's voters cast a blank ballot as a protest. You would think that the near disaster of the 2000 election would be an impetus for reform of the electoral college. Sadly, people rarely react until there is an actual disaster.
-"Guinness thaw tool in jew me dinner ouzel?"
[ Parent ]

Well, it didn't change the outcome (none / 1) (#74)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 01:52:38 PM EST

I bet no one bitched because it didn't change anything. I could be wrong, but I'd be surprised to hear of a state that doesn't have such a law on the books.

I've never known a weasel to lie to me, whore himself out for money or pretend that the weasel competing with him is hungrier than he is. Goddamn it, w
[ Parent ]
Unclear legality (none / 1) (#76)
by aphrael on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 01:56:50 PM EST

It's unclear if such laws are constitutional. States may not direct their Congresspeople to vote in certain ways - the rationale behind this was that a state could not tell a federal officeholder how to perform his duties. The same rationale would apply to electors.

[ Parent ]
Interesting point. (none / 0) (#83)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 03:29:25 PM EST

And I remember the same rationale was used to strike down state-legislated term limits for their congressmen.

I was watching the convention when suddenly this guy jumped a wall and tried to attack Dick Cheney. The Secret Service was totally unprepared - they di
[ Parent ]
similar rationale, at any rate. (none / 0) (#106)
by aphrael on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 02:27:23 AM EST

that one was that a state could not unilaterally alter the qualifications for a federal office.

[ Parent ]
2000 wasn't a disaster?!? (none / 0) (#210)
by HardwareLust on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 07:05:50 PM EST

Are you saying 2000 wasn't a disaster???

If the 2000 election isn't the very definition of an "actual disaster", then I don't know what else could be construed as such.


If you disagree, POST, don't moderate!

[ Parent ]

Oh, didn't you hear? (none / 1) (#89)
by imrdkl on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 05:45:29 PM EST

That law was cancelled by Paul Wolfowitz on August 2nd. So, no military were allowed at the Democratic convention, since that was before August 2, but there's actually about 3% of the delegates at the RNC who are active duty.

Now, what was that very good reason?

[ Parent ]

You need to work on your reading comprehension. (none / 0) (#114)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 10:13:42 AM EST

  1. That reference, to a directive, not a law, simply means that the page you refer to replaces the old directive.
  2. The new directive still bans active duty personnel from participating in partisan politics.
I saw all the blogs claiming that the GOP was bragging about active duty military acting as delegates at the convention. It is important to note that "active duty" does not include the reserves or the national guard.

I was watching the convention when suddenly this guy jumped a wall and tried to attack Dick Cheney. The Secret Service was totally unprepared - they di
[ Parent ]
Sorta. (none / 1) (#121)
by aphrael on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 12:28:56 PM EST

It explicitly allows active duty personnel not in uniform to attend partisan political conventions. If the old rule didn't allow that, and the rule was changed between the two conventions, then something sleazy is going on.

[ Parent ]
It does seem that way. (none / 1) (#138)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 09:13:16 PM EST

That part he's right about. The new regs say that they can only attend as "spectators" though. If 3% of the delegates are really active duty (that would be, what 3% of 5000, 150 men and women?) then that could be a big deal. It could be a nasty scandal.

I'm surprised the press didn't jump on it, although supposedly extremely few journalists ever served in the military so they might not realize what it means.

Hey, it could be a SBVFT opportunity for the Democrats.

I was watching the convention when suddenly this guy jumped a wall and tried to attack Dick Cheney. The Secret Service was totally unprepared - they di
[ Parent ]

So that did actually change? (none / 0) (#147)
by aphrael on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 03:29:14 AM EST

I haven't seen the old directive.

Yuck. That's *exactly* the kind of partisan gamesmanship the regs were designed to prevent.

But then again, not caring about rules like this is one of the defining characteristics of this adminsitration. Feh.

[ Parent ]

The original regs said (none / 0) (#151)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 08:43:40 AM EST

no attendance at all. The new ones say as "spectators only" and "not in uniform".

It's an interesting question - since the winner-take-all system of primaries means that delegates don't actually matter anymore, are they really more than spectators?

Still, it's a surprising screw up. If the bloggers like Daily Kos had any sense, they'd do what Captain's Quarters and Instapundit did to Kerry - research it thoroughly, present proof and force the Bush campaign to respond. I doubt they will, though.

That's one of my complaints about the American Left - they think "Fuck You" is a stunning rhetorical victory and don't seem to realize that convincing people that they are right isn't that simple.

I was watching the convention when suddenly this guy jumped a wall and tried to attack Dick Cheney. The Secret Service was totally unprepared - they di
[ Parent ]

Fear not (none / 0) (#168)
by imrdkl on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 12:04:00 PM EST

I am on the case.

[ Parent ]
The Left (none / 0) (#170)
by aphrael on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 02:43:54 PM EST

If I may generalize for the minute - many on "the Left" doesn't understand the importance of persuading people who don't agree with them. Conservatives are *much* better at this.

[ Parent ]
Exactly. (none / 0) (#191)
by porkchop_d_clown on Sat Sep 04, 2004 at 09:22:55 AM EST

They have that  whole "we shall overcome" attitude - that you can win simply by being self-righteous enough. They think they're doing what their forebears did during the civil rights movement.

This is not only a misunderstanding of why the civil-rights marches of the early 60's worked, it's a fundamental perversion of it.

It's the difference between calmly standing against injustice - even when they send troops after you - and throwing a temper tantrum.

I was watching the convention when suddenly this guy jumped a wall and tried to attack Dick Cheney. The Secret Service was totally unprepared - they di
[ Parent ]

Check the queue (none / 0) (#175)
by imrdkl on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 04:42:49 PM EST

I think it's passable. I may add your point about the delegates though.

[ Parent ]
Silly me, I must be blind (none / 0) (#122)
by imrdkl on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 12:41:40 PM EST

The previous directive (you'll forgive the misstatement, I trust) stated that active-duty members may not:
1. Participate in partisan political management, campaigns, or conventions, or make public speeches in the course of such activity.

2. Attend, as an official representative of the Armed Forces, partisan political events, even without actively participating.

3. Make campaign contributions to a partisan political candidate.

The new directive (which Wolfy signed and which went into effect earlier this month, just in time for the RNC), states that an active duty member may:
1. Attend partisan and nonpartisan political meetings, rallies, or conventions as a spectator when not in uniform.

2. Make monetary contributions to a political organization.

Now, to me, it seems like the New and Improved directive specifically overrides two or three of the most important and fundamental prohibitions of the previous version. And just in time for the RNC, where there are to be found, as I've stated, 3% of the delegates which are active duty, and at least 15% of the delegates which are reserves/retired.

Deny it all you like, but the facts bear me out, lad. Now, again I ask, why do you think this is a bad thing?

[ Parent ]

Like I said. (none / 0) (#123)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 01:58:52 PM EST

Work on the comprehension. If that 3% figure is right, then the RNC is still violating that reg. "Delegates" are not "spectators".

As for what that previous directive actually says - can you provide a link? Because the link you give only goes to the new version.

I was watching the convention when suddenly this guy jumped a wall and tried to attack Dick Cheney. The Secret Service was totally unprepared - they di
[ Parent ]

It's not my comprehension that needs work (none / 0) (#125)
by imrdkl on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 03:52:17 PM EST

But rather, your blind faith. :) Here's the AP article, which was up on the RNC website along with lots of other places which places the figure at 3%. It has since been taken down from the RNC (and a bunch of other places) but it's still in Googles cache for all of the major outlets. Given that the RNC posted it on their own website, you must certainly believe it, yes? As to the previous (version of the) directive, you can easily find it on google. I haven't misquoted it.

The fact that monetary donations are now allowed, whereas they were not before should clue you in pretty quick as to the big chunk of the motivation behind this - but the fact remains that the Republicans are, once again, playing with our most fundamental principals of liberty and democracy for their own benefit.

Now, for the last time, Do you understand why that is the case?

[ Parent ]

LoL. Sure (none / 0) (#126)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 04:20:00 PM EST

Okay, first, again, still, and always: any active duty personnel serving as delegates are violating the regs - both old and new. Nothing in the new regulations affects this. On the other hand, reserves are not subject to these regulations and never were.

As for the money thing - what, you seriously think they're expecting to rake in big bucks from Pfc. Joe Bloggs? Or do you think General Franks was pulling in so much money they had to force him to retire?

Also, I have to say, that I remember being permitted to make donations when I was in the service (briefly) during the 80's. Consider this: If the old regulations were so much stricter, how did Kerry get away with actively campaigning against the Viet Nam war while still in the Navy Reserves?

Seriously, put your tin-foil hat back on and calm down. Active duty personnel do not earn enough money to make that big a difference and active duty personnel publicly endorsing a candidate is still a violation of federal law. Which part of that do you not understand?

I was watching the convention when suddenly this guy jumped a wall and tried to attack Dick Cheney. The Secret Service was totally unprepared - they di
[ Parent ]

You need to check your sources better, too. (none / 0) (#127)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 04:29:55 PM EST

According to this government site, the previous version of the regs also permits monetary donations - which is exactly what I remember.

Here's another government article, from March, that says the same thing.

Oh, wait, here's a copy of the original regulation. It also says you're allowed to make monetary contributions.

So much for "changing the rules just in time for the convention".

But, on the other hand, the old version do explicitly prohibit active duty personnel from attending conventions at all - so don't feel too bad, you're still half right.


I was watching the convention when suddenly this guy jumped a wall and tried to attack Dick Cheney. The Secret Service was totally unprepared - they di
[ Parent ]

Heh (none / 0) (#128)
by imrdkl on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 04:43:50 PM EST

I notice how you completely avoided comment on the AP article which clearly states that 3% of the delegates are, in fact, active service. That's the most important bit here, as you must recognize in spite of your hemming and hawing.

I admit I got it wrong about the updates w.r.t. donations. I was referencing a copy from 1997. I'm going to take a look at your more recent copy, and see just exactly what's changed, and why Wolfy's timing was so deliberate.

Your tinfoil hat dismissals and LOLs are really nothing new, but I'm not ready to write this one off as a coincidence just yet.

[ Parent ]

Avoided it? Do you read english? (none / 0) (#137)
by porkchop_d_clown on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 09:06:07 PM EST

What do

Okay, first, again, still, and always: any active duty personnel serving as delegates are violating the regs - both old and  new. Nothing in the new regulations affects this. On the other hand, reserves are not subject to these regulations and never were.

and

the old version do explicitly prohibit active duty personnel from attending conventions at all - so don't feel too bad, you're still half right.

actually mean to you? Because, to me they sound like "yes, you're right - active duty personnel are not permitted to be delegates""

Jeez, dude.

I was watching the convention when suddenly this guy jumped a wall and tried to attack Dick Cheney. The Secret Service was totally unprepared - they di
[ Parent ]

Not quite (none / 0) (#109)
by SanSeveroPrince on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 07:02:16 AM EST

1) Not anymore.

2) Never really happened.

----

Life is a tragedy to those who feel, and a comedy to those who think


[ Parent ]
The US Voting System (3.00 / 4) (#51)
by wiredog on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 08:42:51 AM EST

In many countries, the same names and issues are on each ballot across the country, resulting in a similar ballot from province to province. In the US you vote in elections at 3 or 4 levels at once:

The Presidential race, 2 main party candidates and 0 to n minor party candidates. Which minor party candidates are on the ballot, and which order they are in, is determined by which state you vote in.

State ballots. May or may not include the governor's and legislature's races. Will usually have some state bond issues, and may have various amendments to the state constitution. Differs from state to state.

County elections. County council, bond issues, some county laws, county sherrif. Differs from county to county.

City elections. Mayor and city council, local bond issues, some city laws. A city may be part of a county.

So, in the worst case, you are voting for President, House of Representatives, Senate, Governor, 2 State legislators, State bonds, State constitutional amendments, County Supervisor, County Council, County bonds, County laws, Mayor, Sheriff, city bonds, city laws. And your co-worker in the next cubicle, who lives in another state, is voting in a completely different (except for President) election.

Absentee ballots. You may not be voting in the state you live in. If you are in the military your residence, for tax and voting purposes, may be Fairfax County Virginia, but you may be stationed in Nome Alaska. Or Kabul Afghanistan. So the system is: You contact the Registrar's office in Fairfax County and ask for an absentee ballot. They check your name against the voter registration rolls, determine that you are a resident of Fairfax County, and send you a ballot. One day a thick envelope arrives in the mail and you find someplace private to open it, fill out several pages of ballot, stick the ballot in the return envelope, and mail it back. The guy next to you may cet a small book from California, and your platoon leader may get one from NYC.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

Speaking of insecure/bogus elections... (none / 1) (#57)
by porkchop_d_clown on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 09:12:22 AM EST

Here's a much bigger deal: New Mexico completely lost several hundred votes during the 2000 election.

How? Apparently a configuration error of electronic voting machines by the election staff. Why were the votes completely lost? No permenant record.

I've never known a weasel to lie to me, whore himself out for money or pretend that the weasel competing with him is hungrier than he is. Goddamn it, w

Why this is such a big deal: (3.00 / 8) (#64)
by zenofchai on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 10:40:57 AM EST

Let's say a state, let's call it "M", is expected to be won by candidate "A" by a margin of less than few thousand votes.

By spoiling a few hundred ballots here, refusing access to a few hundred voters there, getting a few hundred fraudulent votes here, miscounting a few hundrer votes there, supporters of candidate "B" can actually swing the election not only in state "M" but in the whole country, depending on the number of electoral votes belonging to state "M".

This is a brittle system, but fortunately it has an easy fix which does not even require a Constitutional amendment or even a single federal law or agreement. It doesn't require the abolition of the electoral system, it doesn't require "fancy" voting systems like approval or Concordet. The only change necessary is for each state to determine the placing of its electoral votes according to the relative margin of victory within that state.

For example, if Californians vote 60%-40% in favor of Kerry over Bush, give 60% of California's electoral votes to Kerry and 40% to Bush. If Texans vote 60%-40% in favor of Bush over Kerry, give 60% of Texas's electoral votes to Bush and 40% to Kerry.

As it stands, as few as 1 (one) fraudulent vote can change the outcome of the United States presidential election. We can do better than that. We can turn a brittle system into a robust one with this single, easily implemented change. A few thousand fraudulent votes would then have the effect of at most changing 1 electoral vote, instead of 20.

We hopefully don't build cars such that if the power windows stop working, the car explodes. This is essentially the brittle system we have in place today. It is of course important to keep voter fraud and defraudment low -- it is important to keep the power windows of your car working as well. But there is no need for a failure of relatively minor importance in the larger picture to derail the entire process.
--
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph

Ok then... (none / 1) (#81)
by The Amazing Idiot on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 03:00:34 PM EST

Why hasnt this been introduced, or accepted for that matter?

It would do nothing but benefit both sides... either by getting more votes than they WOULD get (0) or lost them votes they would normally get (%/all).

And of course, you could have the president "go for fairness" and go doa votegrab.

[ Parent ]

exactly (none / 1) (#86)
by zenofchai on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 04:26:26 PM EST

What would an opponent to this solution say? Opponents could clearly be labeled as people who want to be able to rig elections.

As to why it hasn't been proposed more publicly, more than likely I am overlooking something big, and/or people just don't care.
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The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]

feel free to correct me... (1.00 / 2) (#90)
by The Amazing Idiot on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 05:46:20 PM EST

But it seems Democrats are more likely to rig and gaff elections.

Im thinking of the Florida issue back in 2000. Gore wouldnt let up aboyt him losing Florida. Then you hear about all the Dem's doing things to "get votes" for Gore.

[ Parent ]

hm (none / 0) (#118)
by zenofchai on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 11:13:21 AM EST

I didn't say Republicans were more likely, did I? I think whomever thinks they can (a) get away with it and (b) will benefit from election fraud are more likely to do it. This will vary from state to state, year to year, candidate to candidate. As a cost-benefit analysis, right now the benefit can be very large to rigging as few as 1000 votes, and the perceived risk for such a small sample seems to be low.
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The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]
Some counterarguments (none / 1) (#100)
by roystgnr on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 11:42:11 PM EST

If all 50 states do this, then an extremely close election would require recounts in all 50 states, not just a swing state or two like Florida.

If just a few states do this, then in a game theory sense they're handing most of their voting power to the remainder of the states.  A vote in a state with electors that partially cancel each other out will be significantly less likely to change the outcome of the election.

[ Parent ]

counter-counter-arguments ;) (none / 0) (#104)
by The Amazing Idiot on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 12:51:21 AM EST

---If all 50 states do this, then an extremely close election would require recounts in all 50 states, not just a swing state or two like Florida.

Whenever an election is "close", there's almost always a recount. Here in Indiana, a mayor was elected by a 3 vote margin. If I remember correctly, a recount is done when the election is decided by less than 1% of total vote.

Be aware, thats not official, but the usual here in Indiana. The counters prepare for that.

[ Parent ]

interesting (none / 1) (#117)
by zenofchai on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 11:10:21 AM EST

If all 50 states do this, then an extremely close election would require recounts in all 50 states, not just a swing state or two like Florida.

I don't follow this -- recounts would still only be necessary in states with very close margins of victory w.r.t. an electoral point. This would depend on the number of votes cast (among other factors). Say in California, with 54 electoral votes, the final tally gave 30 votes to Kerry (55.5%), 20 votes to Bush (37%), and 4 votes to Nader (7.4%). If 10 million votes cast in the state, then an electoral vote represents about 18,500 votes. So unless you think the state's count is off by 18 thousand, why recount?

If just a few states do this, then in a game theory sense they're handing most of their voting power to the remainder of the states.  A vote in a state with electors that partially cancel each other out will be significantly less likely to change the outcome of the election.

States shouldn't have "voting power". They should represent the "voting power" of their citizens. A state would have the same number of electoral points, but instead of being taken for granted by whatever politician had a clear lead (60/40 or so) it increases the state's clout in that the leading politician is no longer getting 40% of the state's votes "for free".
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The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]

Voting math (none / 0) (#130)
by roystgnr on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 06:07:42 PM EST

I don't follow this -- recounts would still only be necessary in states with very close margins of victory w.r.t. an electoral point.

What is your definition of "very close"?  Let's take the standard of "recount if a 0.5% error might have changed the results" that IIRC Florida law includes, and apply it nationally.  I'll assume the rule is "if you have more votes than the number of voters * (N-.5)/M, then you get n of the states m electoral votes".  In that case, any time Bush or Gore had more than a ((N-.5)/M)-0.005 fraction but less than a ((N-.5)/M)+0.005 fraction of the vote, the state would have needed a recount.  There are M such full intervals from 0 to 1, so the probability of needing a recount is approximately 0.01*M, or M%.  By contrast, the odds of needing a recount under the current system (under the "0.5% is too close" rule) are just 0.01, or 1%.

It's more complicated than that, but I'd be willing to bet that the exact odds aren't much different: if your state has M electoral votes, it's probably about M times as likely to need a recount in a close race.  Half of the states have 8 or more electoral votes.

States shouldn't have "voting power". They should represent the "voting power" of their citizens.

When I talk about a "state's voting power", what I really mean is the voting power of an arbitrary voter in that state.

A state would have the same number of electoral points, but instead of being taken for granted by whatever politician had a clear lead (60/40 or so) it increases the state's clout in that the leading politician is no longer getting 40% of the state's votes "for free".

You're right that this system would solve the problem of candidates ignoring non-swing states, but even for non-swing states it wouldn't be much of a solution.  Effectively the state's clout would be proportional to the number of swing voters in that state.  So, although it's true that neither Kerry nor Bush are fighting hard for Texas's 34 Bush electoral votes now, I wouldn't expect them to fight very hard for Texas' 2 undecided electoral votes either (unless most of the other states were using proportional voting schemes too).  Moreover, while those 5% of undecided voters might be flattered to receive more attention, the 58% of Texans voting for Bush would never support a plan that generates a 6 Electoral Vote Bush lead instead of a 34EV lead.

That's why people won't want to support proportional electoral votes, in a nutshell: by definition it reduces the state's ability to help elect the candidate who is supported by the largest plurality of voters in that state.  From my perspective (and that of the other 37% of Texas voters who would prefer Kerry) that might be a good thing this year, but we're outnumbered, and those of us who aren't diehard Democrats would be wary of the future implications (Texas' 6 million voters shouldn't have less effect on an election than Oklahoma's 1 million...) too.

[ Parent ]

individual voting power - from zero to equal (none / 0) (#135)
by zenofchai on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 08:49:40 PM EST

When I talk about a "state's voting power", what I really mean is the voting power of an arbitrary voter in that state.

In most states, between 40% and 49% of the populace have ZERO voting power. So half of the "arbitrary voters" in that state have vastly increased voting power (there is no factor of improvement since zero times anything would stay zero). As it stands, in any given state, half of the voters not only have zero voting power, they may as well stay home or leave their presidential vote blank. The go from having zero voting power to having equal voting power with every other person in the country (disregarding the "senatorial" electoral vote imbalance). This gives every single citizen of the country equal voting power (again -- have to disregard the "senatorial" electoral votes here which serve to give smaller states more voting clout than they would normally have).

So individual power for half the population goes from zero to equal. Sounds like a pretty good thing to me.
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The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]

tyranny of the majority and equal protection (none / 0) (#136)
by zenofchai on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 09:04:15 PM EST

the 58% of Texans voting for Bush would never support a plan that generates a 6 Electoral Vote Bush lead instead of a 34EV lead.

You've hit the nail on the head -- this is a prime example of the tyranny of the majority and how it leads to the disenfranchisement of the political minority. You end up with a minority of 40% who have zero presidential voting power, and this is how it shall remain so long as the political majority elects to keep its monopoly on electoral power.
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The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]

The majority doesn't have to elect do to anything (none / 0) (#171)
by roystgnr on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 02:49:14 PM EST

The majority will always have a monopoly on electoral power because that's the definition of how a democratic vote between two candidates works.   Either the majority-preferred candidate is chosen (which might suck for a minority of voters) or the minority-preferred candidate is chosen (which might suck for a majority of voters).  That's not a "tyranny of the majority", that's an inescapable consequence of having two candidates and only one presidency.

Now, let's consider some possible ways by which New York, for example, might choose to change how its electoral voters are chosen this year.  New York is going to vote roughly 60% for Kerry and 40% for Bush.  Now, they can:

A. Vote the status quo, in which case they add 31 electoral votes for the candidate that most of their population prefers.

B. Vote proportionally, in which case they add 19 EVs for Kerry and 12 for Bush.

C. Decide that they just aren't an important enough state to contribute 31 EVs, have 7 electors vote for Kerry, and let their other 24 electors stay home and get drunk.

Do you see that options B and C are mathematically identical?  That both of these "plans" would reduce the effect of New Yorkers' votes on the selection of the President?  And consequently, that a majority of New Yorkers might reasonably be opposed to reducing the influence their votes have?

If we want to change the way electoral votes are distributed in a two-party race (obviously in larger races where "plurality" wins instead of "majority" there are other problems which can be fixed), the only reasonable way to do so is with new national rules which affect every state at once.  Otherwise, the game theoretical way for a state to maximize the probability of its voters changing the outcome of a presidential election in their favor is for that state to send all of its electors to vote for the majority winner in that state.  Any other scheme, even other schemes which might be more fair if implemented for all 50 states, would be political self-castration if implemented by only a few states unilaterally.

[ Parent ]

disagree and agree (none / 0) (#172)
by zenofchai on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 03:15:28 PM EST

Do you see that options B and C are mathematically identical?

They are not. It is required to win a certain number of total electoral votes to win the presidency, and thus there is a difference between 19 EVs and 7 EVs as they contribute to that system.

The majority will always have a monopoly on electoral power because that's the definition of how a democratic vote between two candidates works.   Either the majority-preferred candidate is chosen (which might suck for a minority of voters) or the minority-preferred candidate is chosen (which might suck for a majority of voters).  That's not a "tyranny of the majority", that's an inescapable consequence of having two candidates and only one presidency.

Absolutely wrong, consider the most recent (2000) presidential election. The majority-preferred candidate (w.r.t. total votes) was not chosen. So obviously we have a system which escapes this inescapable consequence . I just think we can do a better job still, by preserving the voting power of state populations and granting equal presidential voting rights to all citizens regardless of what political party they support and what state they live in.

the only reasonable way to do so is with new national rules which affect every state at once.

I think I am beginning to strongly agree to you at this point, but perhaps it doesn't have to be some sweeping federal law, but rather states collectively getting together and making the state laws on their own as the right thing to do -- as you and others have pointed out, the "first state" to start doing this is going to be in effect penalised w.r.t. their relative power. But it might take a federal law, and there have been arguments for such a thing on not just 'we want a better voting method' grounds but 'equal protection' grounds as well.
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The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]

welcome to the prisoner's dilemma! (none / 0) (#179)
by bobsquatch on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 06:17:52 PM EST

It is required to win a certain number of total electoral votes to win the presidency...
That is only true if you assume every elector votes.

The fundamental test is simple majority, so if 24 New Yorkers stayed home, the "certain number of total electoral votes" would go down by 12, cancelling the effect of 12 lost votes on each side.

As to the voluntary association of states idea, good luck. Because there is such an advantage for a state majority to control 100% of the state's delegates, there is an advantage to not join the association. Really, what would be the pitch? "Join us and your state can be less relevant? Hooray!"

I could see how that might be attractive to the more liberal and "fair-minded" electorate (Berkeley folk would probably eat that shit up) but it won't play in New Hampshire. It's gonna take some dad-gumbed federal gub'mint messing with our soverign states to get that passed everywhere. It'll probably take a Constitutional Amendment, since the Constitution clearly gives the states power to choose their own electors.

[ Parent ]

whoops, double check... (none / 0) (#183)
by bobsquatch on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 10:05:25 PM EST

Simple majority of electors isn't the whole story. M'bad. From the 12th amendment (italics added):
The person having the greatest number of [electoral] votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote; a quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice.
So 24 New York electors staying home would only have an effect if the "winner" "won" by less than 12 votes, in which case the House could vote Bush, Kerry, or Nader (if he gets an elector) into office. If every state did that, it's doubtful that any candidate could reach a majority of electors+stayathomes.

In this discussion, however, the analogy would still hold if we ignored this technicality (and in any analogy we ignore differences designated irrelevant, so no big deal), since we're really comparing scenarios where everybody is sent. So the original "Why would NY choose to nullify 24 of its electors?" point is still as valid as any other argument by analogy.

Yawn.

[ Parent ]

why indeed? (none / 0) (#186)
by zenofchai on Sat Sep 04, 2004 at 12:45:28 AM EST

"Why would NY choose to nullify 24 of its electors?"

To better reflect the vote of its citizens?
--
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]

that's silly! (none / 0) (#187)
by bobsquatch on Sat Sep 04, 2004 at 04:22:52 AM EST

Why would the Republicans want to "better reflect" the votes of New York's Democrats? Or vice-versa?

Come on, now; you don't want the bad guys to win, do you?

[ Parent ]

Re: disagree and agree (none / 0) (#195)
by roystgnr on Sat Sep 04, 2004 at 01:40:20 PM EST

They are not. It is required to win a certain number of total electoral votes to win the presidency, and thus there is a difference between 19 EVs and 7 EVs as they contribute to that system.

You're right; I had assumed that within the electoral college the system was "plurality wins", not "majority wins, or handoff to the House".  You can still see that both B and C would reduce New York's influence on the election outcome, though, right?

The majority will always have a monopoly on electoral power because that's the definition of how a democratic vote between two candidates works.   Either the majority-preferred candidate is chosen (which might suck for a minority of voters) or the minority-preferred candidate is chosen (which might suck for a majority of voters).  That's not a "tyranny of the majority", that's an inescapable consequence of having two candidates and only one presidency.

Absolutely wrong, consider the most recent (2000) presidential election. The majority-preferred candidate (w.r.t. total votes) was not chosen. So obviously we have a system which escapes this inescapable consequence.

I'll repeat the consequence which wasn't escaped:

or the minority-preferred candidate is chosen (which might suck for a majority of voters).

Although I originally intended this clause to apply to the selection of a president within a single state, it applies just as well to the selection at a national level.  In the 2000 case, the majority of voters wanted a different candidate to win.

I just think we can do a better job still, by preserving the voting power of state populations and granting equal presidential voting rights to all citizens regardless of what political party they support and what state they live in.

I agree completely.  If a sudden gestalt of wisdom simultaneously pervades all US voters and influences them to ask me to redesign the electoral system tomorrow, then "replacing the electoral college with a popular vote" will be on my list right behind "replacing plurality with Condorcet voting" and "replacing inaccurate or insecure voting methods with cryptographically secret but verifiable receipts" (ooh, look, I'm almost back on topic!).  The electoral college was an attempt to make sure that presidential candidates couldn't just ignore smaller states' concerns, but it has backfired and made sure that candidates can just ignore the concerns of their opponents "safe" states (and to a lesser extent the concerns of their own "safe" states) instead.  

If someone wants to remove the electoral college just in the particular state I'm living in, however, I would be opposed to it unless it was part of a very broad effort to do so in many states at once.  A law which said "We will appoint electors proportionally to the popular vote" I would oppose, but a law which said "We will appoint electors proportionally to the popular vote in any presidential election where x% of the other states are following similar laws" I would support, and strongly support if x was above 50 or so.  If everybody felt that way, such a conditional law could be passed safely and only take effect at a point where its negative consequences would be minimized.

Of course, if x was above 70 or 80, it would be easier to just get a constitutional amendment instead of a bunch of weird conditional laws.  An amendment would be more effective, too, since it could get rid of the electoral college entirely, whereas even 50 state laws would still be subject to EC effects from rounding error and the additional EC votes that smaller states are given.

[ Parent ]

Push it hard as grassroots and alternate... (none / 0) (#208)
by Gooba42 on Mon Sep 13, 2004 at 05:06:53 AM EST

Sell this voting system to the Democrats when there's a Republican to beat and to the Republicans when there's a Democrat to beat.

It's underhanded but it's not really that shady.

Anything to reduce the power of the two big parties and make individuals feel more empowered. Bush doesn't have to fight for electoral votes in Texas because the active voters are in favor of him. God only knows what would happen if we ever had anything close to 100% voter turnout.

[ Parent ]

Third Parties (none / 0) (#91)
by jameth on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 06:43:26 PM EST

This also starts opening up the avenue for third-party growth because they could reasonably get a percentage of a state large enough to have an impact.

Third parties weaken both of the major parties.

[ Parent ]

game theory says it will never happen. (none / 0) (#108)
by aphrael on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 02:31:06 AM EST

How electors are allocated is decided on a state-by-state basis. District-based allocation dilutes each individual state's influence and importance in the election, and so unless all states do it, there will be significant resistance to it on the grounds that it reduces the power of the state doing it, which it does.

[ Parent ]
no it doesn't (none / 0) (#116)
by zenofchai on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 10:56:03 AM EST

there will be significant resistance to it on the grounds that it reduces the power of the state doing it, which it does

I don't follow this. The state's total number of electoral votes remains the same. If anything, this actually might encourage more consideration for states which divide their vote, because say for each 10,000 people in that state you get to vote for you, you not only get an additional electoral point, you take one away from your rival.
--
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]

it's all about influence. (none / 0) (#120)
by aphrael on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 12:27:12 PM EST

If a candidate knows that by winning in the state of California he'll get 53 electoral votes, he's more likely to campaign here than if he knows that by winning in the state he'll get 28. This is even more pronounced for places that have smaller numbers of electoral votes.

A state makes itself more attractive to the candidates by lumping votes together the way they do now, and any state which unilaterally ceases to do so will be at a disadvantage.

[ Parent ]

in theory it could benefit one-sided states (none / 0) (#131)
by Delirium on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 06:38:09 PM EST

States that almost always go one way by a large margin are typically ignored because they're all wrapped up; they could get more attention if there were at least a minority of the electoral votes to fight for. But, of course, these states wouldn't do that, because if 70% of your population supports one side, why would they support a change that would give away 30% of their electoral votes to the other side?

[ Parent ]
reasons why (none / 0) (#156)
by zenofchai on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 09:12:33 AM EST

if 70% of your population supports one side, why would they support a change that would give away 30% of their electoral votes to the other side?
  1. because it's the right thing to do. if those 30% of people were black, should the 70% majority of white voters be able to silence the minority so utterly?
  2. peer pressure. the more states that commit to such a change, the more pressure for other states to follow suit.
  3. (and I hate saying this) federal law. it could be argued that this is an equal protection issue.

--
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]
eh, I don't see that (none / 0) (#165)
by Delirium on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 10:39:34 AM EST

The same arguments could be made for why it's immoral to have our Congress at all, and why the federal government should mandate a proportional-representation Parliamentary system. After all, if 5% of the people were hardcore environmentalists, should the 95% majority of non-hardcore-environmentalists be able to silence the minority so utterly? Equal protection...

[ Parent ]
not quite the same (none / 0) (#167)
by zenofchai on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 11:25:48 AM EST

There is a granularity level discussion here. A congressperson's vote for or against a bill is necessarily and unchangeably binary (okay you could also 'abstain' but hey). A state's electoral votes are not necessarily a binary event, they are maintained artificially as a binary event, to the defraudment of the voting rights of the minority.

Although you bring up an interesting point. Perhaps when a congressperson votes on a bill they shouldn't have to vote "Yea" or "Nay" but rather a percentage or fraction. "Four Fifths Yea".
--
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]

I wasn't referring to individual votes (none / 0) (#176)
by Delirium on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 05:04:59 PM EST

I was referring to having first-past-the-post congresspeople at all. If a state has to split its electoral votes proportionally, shouldn't they have to split their congressional votes proportionally too? I.e. If the Green party wins 5% of the vote, they should get ~27 seats in Congress, rather than the current 0.

[ Parent ]
Here's a suggestion (none / 0) (#184)
by The Muffin on Sat Sep 04, 2004 at 12:31:02 AM EST

Move to Europe. Specifically France, because I think they currently have the best government in the world, at least in theory.

They do many of the things you suggested.

- This is the end.
[ Parent ]

some alternative ideas (none / 1) (#87)
by zenofchai on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 04:31:49 PM EST

Since electoral votes for a state are based on the number of electoral districts (varies by state) plus the number of senators (2), here is an alternative to the strictly percentage-based electoral vote distribution in the state.

Each district is a winner-take all electoral vote. Win a district, get its electoral vote. The winner of the statewide vote gets the 2 senatorial electoral votes.

Or you could simply reserve the 2 senatorial electoral votes for the statewide winner, and divide the remaining votes by the percentage of the statewide votes. This would help avoid a 'winner take all', brittle approach to properly securing elections in a district, yet still reward those candidates with broad statewide appeal.
--
The K5 Interactive Political Compass SVG Graph
[ Parent ]

One word (none / 1) (#99)
by roystgnr on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 11:37:58 PM EST

Gerrymandering.  It's bad enough that US Representatives can be elected from squiggly districts drawn by whichever party is in power at the moment; at least the President's electors still come from fixed boundaries.

[ Parent ]
defense in depth is our friend /nt (none / 0) (#154)
by skyknight on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 08:54:09 AM EST



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Not any better, necessarily. (none / 0) (#202)
by Elembis on Sun Sep 05, 2004 at 02:38:38 AM EST

A single vote would still be able to change the outcome of the entire election, but in an indirect way. Candidate A might be winning 269 to 268, lose the last vote, and have the House of Representatives vote for the other guy. However, this idea is a good one, and might be an improvement over our current system if the Constitution were amended to require a mere plurality in the Electoral College. Out of curiosity, I went through the 2000 numbers to determine who would've won if it'd been used.

First, dividing the electoral votes based on the nation-wide numbers, rather than on numbers for individual states, would result in Gore having 260, Bush 258, Nader 15, Harry Browne 2, Pat Buchanan 2, and Howard Phillips 1. No majority there, so the decision would be punted to the House of Representatives. The same thing would've happened if this system had been in effect for the 1992 and 1996 elections.

Doing it properly and dividing the votes on a state-by-state basis results in more for the Big Two and fewer (or none) for everyone else. Done this way, Bush gets 265, Gore gets 264, and Nader gets 9. The House still decides, but note that Bush wins the electoral vote despite having lost the popular one - sound familiar? (Naturally, some of the numbers didn't round perfectly. A state with 7 votes up for grabs might have Gore deserving of 3.31, Bush of 3.17, and Nader 0.34. In this case, Gore and Bush would each get 3, and Nader would get 1 - I think that's the only fair way to do it.)

As long as our elections are neck-and-neck, the only accurate way of reducing hundreds of millions of votes to 538 is to do it on a nation-wide basis.

[ Parent ]

Blunt is one of the candidates! (2.83 / 6) (#71)
by yet another coward on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 01:23:46 PM EST

Missouri Secretary of State Matt Blunt, the one proposing the plan, is the Republican nominee for governor in Missouri. He is changing the rules for the election in which he is running. I cannot believe that these facts were not highlighted in the newspaper article or on here. Is anyone else unhappy that a candidate is changing the rules two months before the election?

A Non Solution for a Non Problem (2.33 / 3) (#82)
by thelizman on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 03:13:06 PM EST

This is a terrible idea. A better idea would be to allow the votes to be cast via e-mail provisionally, under a scheme in which the e-mail must be received by the date of the election and the actual physical ballot must be sent seperately and received no later than the date of the final canvass of votes.
There are two problems with this.
  1. The system does not provide any safeguards against soldiers being sanctioned for how they have voted. They are still sending an e-mail, they are still facing the alleged danger
  2. The transmission method is still inherently technically insecure.
So having created a problem, then failed to address it with an adequate solution, let me calm your fears and say that a) the given method is no more or less secure than any other balloting method used in the civilian world, and b) the officer corps could give a shit about how enlisted men vote, as long as they vote. The mindset of anyone in the miltary (rightly so) is to mind your own business, becausing knowing more than you should is just a pain in the ass in the longrun.
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
No (3.00 / 2) (#88)
by Peaker on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 05:18:19 PM EST

a) the given method is no more or less secure than any other balloting method used in the civilian world

A vote cast in a closed envelope, thrown down into a big pile of closed envelopes is more secure than an email, assuming the email links the name of the voter with the vote itself.

and b) the officer corps could give a shit about how enlisted men vote, as long as they vote.

Care to place your democracy where your mouth is? Besides, if a soldier wants to vote for one of the "extreme" options (Not sure how many of those exist there), he should be free to do so without raising any eyebrows and attracting attention/suspicion.

The mindset of anyone in the miltary (rightly so) is to mind your own business, becausing knowing more than you should is just a pain in the ass in the longrun.

Hyper-generalization.

Besides, you have not addressed the issue of vote forgery, which seems to be trivial here: At least for the person[s] controlling the email server or any of the nodes the emails pass through (and that includes internet nodes, and the human processing of the emails).

[ Parent ]

Disagree (none / 0) (#94)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 08:39:38 PM EST

You're far too trusting.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
Irony eh (none / 0) (#119)
by GenerationY on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 12:20:31 PM EST

He's so pro-military that he is prepared to argue for soliders being treated like second class citizens whose right to privacy and a free vote count for nothing.

Alas, with voting, the point is not what will happen (I agree actually that it is unlikely for votes to be rigged, noted etc.), it is all about perception.  Its a matter of principle. People serving in uniform deserve better than is being offered by this plan.

[ Parent ]

I can't agree with proposition one (none / 0) (#107)
by aphrael on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 02:29:39 AM EST

I'm somewhat intimately familiar with the way ballots are handled in the civilian world; this is not equivalently secure. It's significantly less secure than the systems used in the county i've had experience with.

[ Parent ]
Should soldiers be voting in the first place? (1.00 / 13) (#96)
by the ghost of rmg on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 09:28:38 PM EST

From the article:

I'm in favor of helping soldiers vote; this is a democracy, everyone should be able to vote.

Really? I'm not so sure. For one, military folk tend to vote Republican, making an already bad situation worse. There's such a thing as taking the idea of "supporting the troops" too far.

More than that, these are people who have been away from the country for as much as three years on tour participating in George W Bush's military misadventures. Of all people, they are probably least qualified to make decisions concerning the domestic issues that will be central in the upcoming election.

Finally, though we like to tip-toe around the point, most service men and women are enlisted due to a lack of other options. That is to say, due to a lack of education and financial solvency forced upon them by "compassionate" policy makers and other bourgeois influences. Ironically, this very same exploitative élite has managed to ingratiate itself to the armed forces through years of lip service and "manly man" overtures. In other words, we're talking about allowing uneducated, quite possibly brainwashed individuals participate in one of the most important elections since... well, ever.

I commend the author for the effort, but really... It's time to give this whole absentee ballot issue a fresh look taking modern realities into account.


rmg: comments better than yours.

Excellent Post (none / 0) (#124)
by BuddasEvilTwin on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 02:34:22 PM EST

I haven't read something as wonderfully contrarian on K5 as this in a long time.

Keep up the good work.

[ Parent ]

-1, offensive troll (2.00 / 3) (#129)
by mcgrew on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 05:37:54 PM EST

...lack of education and financial solvency...

Financial solvency? Then you would take the vote away from my cousin, who borrowed a million dollars to buy a railroad. He's the least solvent (for now) person I know. I guess that takes the vote away from anyone with a car loan, mortgage, or credit cards, too.

Mind explaining why "financial solvency" should be a prerequisite for voting?

Now as to education, you can't join without a GED at minimum. How much education would you mandate? Would my Batchelor's do, or would I be disqualified because only PHDs are educated enough?

Why stop at education? My oldest daughter is mentally retarded. She's voting for Kerry, who are you voting for? You would take her vote because she only has a measured IQ of 65?

Why stop there? You, with your almost average IQ, are to her as I am to you (Mine has been clocked at 142). I say make that the cutoff, if you can't score at least 140 no votes for you. This would disqualify all but less than 5% of Americans, including the sitting President (who is closer to my daughter's IQ).

Hell, lets just make Bush dictator and be done with it. With morons like you (who, incidentally, sound much stupider than my daughter) voting, our nation is in deep shit.

Now go away and die, you God damned elitist asshole.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie
[ Parent ]

That depends entirely upon (none / 1) (#132)
by the ghost of rmg on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 06:51:16 PM EST

What school the PhDs in question attended.

My IQ has been clocked at a rather slow 87, which is an amusing statistic to trot out at the trustee cocktail parties, I can assure you.


rmg: comments better than yours.
[ Parent ]

-1, quoting IQ score as if it were a useful number (none / 1) (#153)
by skyknight on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 08:50:25 AM EST



It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Not to disagree too much (none / 0) (#158)
by Nursie on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 09:19:42 AM EST

But it is a valid measure of something, usually some sort of math/spatial/reasoning function it's just not something that's useful in real life AFAICT.

Meta Sigs suck.

[ Parent ]
Mostly... (none / 0) (#161)
by skyknight on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 10:10:58 AM EST

It's a test of how well you can take a particular IQ test. Mind you, I have received good scores on IQ tests, the SAT, the GRE, etc., and I still think they are largely bullshit. It's too easy to prepare for them (as a point of honor, I didn't take any prep courses), and thus their conclusions are suspect. The difference between such tests and real life is the difference between a SWAT team practicing on a mocked up building 1000 times and going into a novel building after no more preparation than looking at the blueprints for an hour.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
No vote for you either (none / 1) (#157)
by Nursie on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 09:18:04 AM EST

I'm making the cutoff 144, as it's a nice number (122) and I've been clocked one higher.

IQ is a stupid measure. I do like the principal of a meritocracy of some form, bur raw intelligence numbers aren't useful. I know some incredibly stupid really clever people. I probably am one.

Meta Sigs suck.

[ Parent ]
Rigging the election results (none / 1) (#97)
by Armada on Wed Sep 01, 2004 at 09:34:43 PM EST

I have been approached by someone regarding rigging the state vote in the state of Arizona (I do not know why, it's not my home state). They didn't want me to do it as much as they wanted to know how it could be done (which leads me to believe it was a journalist). In case anyone here is SS: no I did not keep logs, and if approached I'll deny it and say I made it up just to seek fame on K5 (which, btw, I *am* doing, so excuse me if I laugh aloud), so questioning me is useless. Not only would I never consider such a thing, but I didn't even offer information regarding how it could be done. Others here have alluded to how it could be done, however, not necessarily in this post, but in others. I can't believe the US is actually going through with these electronic votes, anyone with a ComSec rating would clearly say this is not the time.

Still, if someone is intent on rigging a state election (they didn't specify which state), it makes me wonder how many of those with far more skill in hacking may have been offered money to rig a national election. I wouldn't put it past either of the two major parties to do such a thing. Nor would I put it past a few security professionals I know to take them up on it, if the price was right.

(No, my vote is not going to either of those two parties. And no, I will not talk to a journalist about the situation, I listed everything I know here.)

BTW, I'm drunk as of writing this, so I'm totally making this up. Rate me down, please. I'm obviously making this up.

I used this URL in choosing Arizona as the particular state that I claim is the reason they approached me:
http://www.azcentral.com/news/election/articles/0719coverstory.html

So, there.

MS Access (none / 0) (#133)
by jaeson on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 07:01:44 PM EST

Well if you would like to change the votes from a Diebold voting machine, all you would have to do is open their "proprietary" database format using a copy of MS Access, and then alter the votes.

Of course I didn't tell you that, you heard it from someone else.

[ Parent ]

hmm (none / 0) (#142)
by Armada on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 12:15:28 AM EST

I think using arp cache poisoning might be a better idea, esp for absentee ballots in foriegn countries or something, depending on the method of transfer for the votes.

[ Parent ]
secret ballot (none / 1) (#134)
by fhotg on Thu Sep 02, 2004 at 07:26:18 PM EST

I am somewhat stunned that the problems with ballots routed via email and fax through ones employer raises some eyebrows, nobody however seems to see a fundamental problem here.

Where I am coming from, and in every democracy I have heard of, elections have to be held by secret ballot. This requirement for democratic elections mostly has constitutional rank.

I know, the US are a bit different ... but did they never have this, or did they just change it b/c of the terrorists, or what ?

Military mail is subject to inspection (none / 0) (#141)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 12:12:08 AM EST

In any case, even paper mail to & from active military personnel is subject to inspection.

I'd be surprised if it's different in any other country.

I was watching the convention when suddenly this guy jumped a wall and tried to attack Dick Cheney. The Secret Service was totally unprepared - they di
[ Parent ]

aha (none / 0) (#146)
by fhotg on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 03:18:45 AM EST

We're talking about ballots, not mail, yes ?

In case you don't see the difference: Ballots go to a determined super-official destination. And thy are the single kind of communication which defines democracy.

Mail that needs to be inspected goes to potential spies or people who might use info about mil. operations to tarnish the reputation of our heroic armed forces who risk their life to defend the civilized world against the child raping barbarians.

[ Parent ]

No, we're talking about absentee ballots (none / 1) (#150)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 08:38:27 AM EST

which are mailed through the regular postal system.

What, I can't pack my sekret spy plans in an envelope marked "Absentee Ballot"?

I was watching the convention when suddenly this guy jumped a wall and tried to attack Dick Cheney. The Secret Service was totally unprepared - they di
[ Parent ]

alright (none / 0) (#163)
by fhotg on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 10:17:27 AM EST

I suppose it is ok to insist on delivery of the ballots through the regular postal system if it gives you an excuse to take away a fundamental democratic right.

But maybe I'm just paranoid. Probably the US military just has not the resources or logistical skills to set up a safe delivery channel.

[ Parent ]

A safe delivery channel?!? (none / 0) (#169)
by porkchop_d_clown on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 12:37:46 PM EST

You really didn't pay attention to the explanation.

A safe delivery channel to whom?

In the US ballots are managed by the counties. There have to be upwards of 1,000 counties in the US, each with potentially different rules for requesting, receiving and mailing back absentee ballots.

The military has no legal authority to force its procedures on them.

I was watching the convention when suddenly this guy jumped a wall and tried to attack Dick Cheney. The Secret Service was totally unprepared - they di
[ Parent ]

No, but they have all the guns... (none / 1) (#173)
by skyknight on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 04:19:50 PM EST

All other arguments are merely academic. :-)

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Hey, I thought it was my turn (none / 1) (#194)
by porkchop_d_clown on Sat Sep 04, 2004 at 01:19:13 PM EST

to channel the ghost of Mao!

You can be Mao next week.

I was watching the convention when suddenly this guy jumped a wall and tried to attack Dick Cheney. The Secret Service was totally unprepared - they di
[ Parent ]

No, it's my turn this week... (none / 0) (#198)
by skyknight on Sat Sep 04, 2004 at 03:41:26 PM EST

You be Stalin, and we'll trade next time.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Oh, all right. (none / 0) (#199)
by porkchop_d_clown on Sat Sep 04, 2004 at 04:59:25 PM EST

But I hate that stupid mustache.

I was watching the convention when suddenly this guy jumped a wall and tried to attack Dick Cheney. The Secret Service was totally unprepared - they di
[ Parent ]
Well, sure... (none / 0) (#200)
by skyknight on Sat Sep 04, 2004 at 05:53:06 PM EST

but I think that you get to kill more peasants than I do.

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
hmm (none / 0) (#178)
by fhotg on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 05:10:12 PM EST

The military has no legal authority to force its procedures on them.

hopefully. Of course it would be duty of the legislative to set up appropriate rules for that. A temporary federal office for dealing with it for example. Or just make the county officials receive a bulk delivery of envelopes from camouflage clad types, its not that complicated. I you are going to tell me now that in the US the federal government has not the power to set procedural standards for presidental elections, you won.

...rules for requesting, receiving and mailing back absentee ballots
What, you cast your vote and get it back after, really ?

[ Parent ]
Federal control of county ballots would be illegal (none / 0) (#190)
by porkchop_d_clown on Sat Sep 04, 2004 at 09:16:33 AM EST

unconstitutional, even. Again, by design, the election process is controlled by the states and most of them delegate responsibility to the counties. Congress may not interfere.

As for that last sentence, are you just trolling or what? Soldier requests absentee ballot. Soldier receives absentee ballot. Soldier fills out absentee ballot and mails it back.

I was watching the convention when suddenly this guy jumped a wall and tried to attack Dick Cheney. The Secret Service was totally unprepared - they di
[ Parent ]

ok (none / 0) (#196)
by fhotg on Sat Sep 04, 2004 at 03:06:13 PM EST

so the constitution in effect lays the control for the process of the presidential elections into the individual hands of a gazillion major-status - like offices. Maybe good if you don't trust congress not to pull a Putin. And on the other hand has no provision against publishing what individuals vote.

"democracy" is just ill defined I guess.

As for that last sentence, are you just trolling or what?
no, I mistranslated "ballot" to the filled out, vote-carrying piece of paper instead of just the form which might or might not be filled out.

[ Parent ]
I'm amazed that the fax is so used in general... (none / 1) (#152)
by skyknight on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 08:47:05 AM EST

If I want medical records released, I can send a fax to a hospital. This is supposed to be secure?

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
Well all in all (3.00 / 4) (#149)
by GenerationY on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 08:10:47 AM EST

I hope Iraq and Afghanistan will be able to spare electoral observers this time to help America finally make the transition to free and fair elections and a representative democracy.

Hah (none / 1) (#180)
by aphrael on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 07:09:21 PM EST

As a side note, conservatives are in an uproar about there being international election observers at all.

[ Parent ]
I think its the name (none / 0) (#189)
by GenerationY on Sat Sep 04, 2004 at 06:27:53 AM EST

I can see why the use of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) might be a bit of wind-up to some. But thats what you get for shunning the UN I suppose.

Still to paraphrase much of the right's own rhetoric; its only an issue for those who are guilty or have something to hide.

[ Parent ]

How dare you (none / 0) (#174)
by Begbie on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 04:41:11 PM EST

How dare you question the method of how we allow our brave soldiers to vote in this great democratic nation of ours! Those soldiers are fighting the evil terrorists of the world who would destroy our freedom to vote and eat apple pie!!

Jesus is very ashamed of you. And so am I.

Incorrect (1.50 / 2) (#177)
by kurtmweber on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 05:10:12 PM EST

The US is not a democracy--it is a republic. That is, the US is under rule of law, not rule of mob. Want an example of democracy? How about gang rape? "OK, the decision is five to one in favor of screwing you. Sorry, but it's a democracy--them's the shakes."

Kurt Weber
Any field of study can be considered 'complex' when it starts using Hebrew letters for symbols.--me
You're right, but (none / 0) (#193)
by porkchop_d_clown on Sat Sep 04, 2004 at 01:17:11 PM EST

it's a moot point. It's like trying to convince people that hacking is good that the bad people are supposed to be called crackers.

I was watching the convention when suddenly this guy jumped a wall and tried to attack Dick Cheney. The Secret Service was totally unprepared - they di
[ Parent ]
Did you get your political knowledge form Civ? (none / 0) (#205)
by squigly on Mon Sep 06, 2004 at 09:07:38 AM EST

The US is a representative democracy.  The fact that it is not a direct democracy doesn't mean that it is not a democracy.

[ Parent ]
Typical dem paranoia (1.00 / 3) (#182)
by sellison on Fri Sep 03, 2004 at 08:23:11 PM EST

The military has no interest in rigging the election.

We know Kerry will lose the military vote bigtime anyway, no one in uniform is going to vote for John Fonda Kerry, duh!

People risking real Purple Hearts everyday have little patience for a man who fakes them!

The time to investigate will be if more than a few % of military vote goes to Kerry, then we'll know some traitor dem chad handlers have been at it again!

"No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered as patriots. This is one nation under God."- George H.W. Bush

Ah (none / 0) (#188)
by GenerationY on Sat Sep 04, 2004 at 04:38:38 AM EST

but they all fake them as well. And they are cowards and war criminals and liars. The lot of them. Well, any of them that tries to enter politics and oppose the Republican party will be anyway.

[ Parent ]
Kerry actually went to war (nt) (none / 0) (#203)
by OneEyedApe on Sun Sep 05, 2004 at 11:36:29 AM EST



[ Parent ]
this election (none / 0) (#212)
by aphrael on Fri Oct 01, 2004 at 12:00:19 AM EST

the military has no interest in rigging this election, i'll grant ... but there's no guarantee that it will always be so; and historically speaking a surprising number of democracies have turned themselves into military dictatorships.

[ Parent ]
The Problem with Bush's democratic State (none / 0) (#197)
by Hawking on Sat Sep 04, 2004 at 03:09:57 PM EST

Look, the problem is not around if the soldiers have the right to vote or not because they are soldiers, the problem is that Internet is not the most secure way of voting. You know that you can change whatever you want in the Net, even what e-mails say.

However, Bush has already done something like that in the past, and he can do it again. In 2000 elections, American soldiers in any place of the world were made voting... 2 days later. And most of them voted for Bush.

What I try to say is that the way that soldiers vote is very risky for a clean election. I agree with what you say aphrael.

BL


"As well as the iron himself oxidizes for lack of use, also the inactivity destroys the intellect." - Leonardo da Vinci

Am I the only one? (none / 0) (#201)
by codejack on Sat Sep 04, 2004 at 11:24:53 PM EST

Does anyone else see the potential for future elections to be decided by which side has the better hackers? I am not, incidentally, suggesting that this is an inferior system by which to determine political office, but the results might tend to be... quixotic. I'm not sure how prepared the guy who dresses up like mickey mouse is to hold the highest office in the nation, but I'd rather him than bush, and could probably be persuaded without too much trouble that he would be superior to kerry, as well.

As far as emailing votes, what's to stop someone from email bombing the pentagon and thus preventing, or at least inhibiting, their ability to count the ballots? Or any of the other "conspiracy" prophecies that conservatives of all stripes like to paint as imaginings of the foil hat brigade? Yet another terrible idea from the producers of "Iraq: The Liberation!" and "Afghanistan: The Liberation!" Keep an eye out for their forthcoming distractions: "France: The Liberation!" "China: The Liberation!" and "California: The Liberation!"


Please read before posting.

Matt Blunt (3.00 / 3) (#204)
by meta4 on Sun Sep 05, 2004 at 08:03:06 PM EST

Matt Blunt, Missouri Secretary of State, has enormous influence on the rules of the upcoming election, and he just happens to be running for office in that same election. He is also the person who made the decision to allow these email absentee ballots.

Many of the non-profit groups that do voter registration in Missouri (Voting Is Power, America Coming Together, etc) have noticed that the rejection rate for Voter Registration cards is much higher in historically Democratic areas than in Republican areas. For example, the rejection rate in St. Louis city (historically democratic) is much higher than the rejection rate in St. Louis County (historically Republican). Matt Blunt is the person who should be noticing this and taking action.

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you...

Insecure elections marching ever closer | 212 comments (209 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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