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Why Does a Voting Machine Need Calibration?

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the to-reset-the-defrobnosticator dept.

Software 398

New submitter Shotgun writes "I heard on the radio that there were some issues with voting machines in Greensboro, NC (my hometown), and the story said the machines just needed "recalibration". Which made me ask, "WTF? Why does a machine for choosing between one of a few choices need 'calibration'?" This story seems to explain the issue."

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Not a credible source (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41859975)

TheBlaze (i.e. Glenn Beck) is not a credible news source. Please delete this article.

Re:Not a credible source (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860099)

better then MSNBC !!

Re:Not a credible source (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#41860217)

no, it actually isn't. Don't fall into the false balance thinking. i.e. if The Blaze is bad then MSNBC is just as bad. Or that they 'counter' each other.

The Blaze is horrible, and it's based on a person who is know to make things up so he can then rant about them as if they are true for weeks on end.
The Blaze is not credible.

Re:Not a credible source (2, Insightful)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | about 2 years ago | (#41860323)

Citation needed. So far many of his "preposterous" claims have come true. Arab Spring ring a bell?

One (5, Informative)

Outtascope (972222) | about 2 years ago | (#41860495)

Dec 15th 2009, claimed that Galileo proved the earth was round and that it revolves around the sun, and that the Dems/Obama are just like the evil people that tried to shut him up (I guess Obama is a Muslim Christian then, or Christian Muslim or something like that).

Two (5, Informative)

Outtascope (972222) | about 2 years ago | (#41860521)

Claimed Sean Smith was a CIA operative sent to Benghazi to cover up Obama's involvement in the Libyan uprising.

Re:Not a credible source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860543)

So you believe his prediction of the end times to be true?

*facepalm*

Three (5, Informative)

Outtascope (972222) | about 2 years ago | (#41860619)

May 26, 2009 Beck claims that Hitler's "empathy" was the cause of the holocaust.

four (5, Informative)

Outtascope (972222) | about 2 years ago | (#41860817)

In his book "Arguing With Idiots" (alternatively titled "My Inner Dialog"), Beck claims that Article 1, Section 9 Clause 1 of the constitution put a $10 entrance fee on immigrants coming to this country because the founding fathers "actually put a price tag on coming to this country: $10 per person. Apparently they felt like there was a value to being able to live here."

In actuality, Article 1 Section 9 Clause 1 was intended to prevent congress from ending the slave trade.

Re:Not a credible source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860353)

Yes, actually it is. See, I can do that too.

Re:Not a credible source (1)

broginator (1955750) | about 2 years ago | (#41860449)

than*

Re:Not a credible source (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860135)

Oh, well, so long as AC says it's not a credible source, I suppose it's not a credible source.

Re:Not a credible source (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860343)

Ah yes, with articles entitled "Shove it Up Your Ass: Beck v. Bloomberg" and "Voting is Like 'Doing It': This is Quite Possibly Obama's Worst Campaign Ad to Date" it's obvious to me that "The Blaze" is a pillar of cutting-edge investigative journalism.

Re:Not a credible source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860145)

Seconded. This is no better than putting up David Icke or Alex Jones. There is an agenda behind it and it's not backed with facts

Re:Not a credible source (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860209)

This is pure propaganda and should not be on slashdot. I thought slashdot was about technology rather than politics or pure propaganda.

Re:Not a credible source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860223)

This coming from an Anonymous Coward....

Explanation (5, Informative)

goombah99 (560566) | about 2 years ago | (#41860295)

First that letter was all about setting up a legal and public relations basis to question the election later.

Second, yes voting machines need calibration. Different types require different kinds.

For example the touchscreens, usually older resistive touch screens get mis calibrated on position. You have to remeber these things get locks in closets and sit in non-temperature controlled ware houses for a couple years at a time between elections, then they are jostled in trucks, cleaned with cleaners, and sometime run off various power sources. Empirically they do go out of calibration.

I personally have a ballot I saved from an AUtomark paper ballot printer in which all the votes are off by one oval width. that is 100% of the votes are incorrect and you can tell because a few are printed past the range of ovals.

Opscans are fairly easy to allign since they have relatively few degrees of freedom but they do get misalligned and become sensitive to printing tolerances.

Old lever machines used to have the gears wear down.

The solution to all this is not to require perfect everything but to have ways to check things. hand marked Paper ballots and some sampled recounts of those paper ballots such as is done in New Mexico is I believe the best compromise between transparency, robustness and simplicity. It's robust against human and machine errors so mere mortals can carry out very transparent elections. It's also robust against voter turnout variations too since it only takes more pencils to let more people vote, and if a machine breaks, you can still gather the ballots, so you dont get long lines at the polls.

So.. what you're saying is.. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860601)

That all voting machines are shit? Because that's the GIST I'm getting.

I'm pretty sure I could build a better voting machine in my garage for under $100, bet these things cost tens of thousands.

The solution to all this ... (4, Insightful)

Tim Ward (514198) | about 2 years ago | (#41860693)

... is, as we say every time this comes up on /., paper ballots marked by the voter with a pencil.

omg haha (2, Informative)

cultiv8 (1660093) | about 2 years ago | (#41860329)

“He played around with the field a little and realized that in order to vote for Romney, his finger had to be exactly on the mark,”

welcome to the age of tablet computing.

Not so. (2)

mosb1000 (710161) | about 2 years ago | (#41860727)

I've never had any calibration issues with my iPad. This kind of thing is a hallmark of older touch-screens, modern devices don't have this problem.

Re:Not so. (4, Informative)

fluffy99 (870997) | about 2 years ago | (#41860841)

I've never had any calibration issues with my iPad. This kind of thing is a hallmark of older touch-screens, modern devices don't have this problem.

That's because your iPad uses a capacitive screen. There are still plenty of low-end tablets and devices that use resistive type screens that are prone to this problem.

Silence, heretics! (-1, Flamebait)

dfenstrate (202098) | about 2 years ago | (#41860461)

Yes, because accusing a Chicago democrat of rigging votes is completely baseless. /sarcasm
I'm not too excited about the article, to be honest. I read it. I don't see why you're excited about it, either.

What interests me, however, is your desire to silence anything that could be construed as harmful to democrats, instead of having any sort of discussion about it.

Why do you suppose that those of us on the right want the left to keep talking, and those of you on the left want those on the right to shut up?

Re:Not a credible source (3, Insightful)

stephanruby (542433) | about 2 years ago | (#41860541)

The touch screen issue I can believe. My resistive-touch screen for my old gps unit was having the same issue (even when the unit was brand new). Some of the software buttons were working just fine, and some were not. And it wasn't a matter of re-calibration (at least, not a matter of re-calibration that I could do anything about). It was just a matter of the manufacturer using the cheapest possible hardware for the touch screen. Also, an actual picture of the screen would have been nice. I'm surprised that the voter didn't take any. Personally, I would have taken one, or I would have raised hell at the polling place itself.

In either case, whether you believe the story, or do not believe it. This story does bring up an underlying interesting issue. One of the main reasons Counties have switched from analog to digital is precisely to avoid these kinds of analog problems. But this will never be completely possible, to get rid of all the analog problems, whether it's a malfunctioning input device, or a badly designed input device, the process of converting an analog signal to a digital one will always be fraught with potential problems that won't be noticed until an election is really close and contested (just like it was with the hanging chad issue).

Re:Not a credible source (2, Insightful)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | about 2 years ago | (#41860713)

Well I gave it minus when it was still in the recent submission / firehose stage. Of course I actually looked up what "TheBlaze" was when I saw the site banner of the story and didn't recognize the source (can't bring myself to put the 'news' prefix on it). Right near the top on Google was the Wikipedia link. Yep Glenn Beck. A guy so vile even Fox fired him. People, you have to look at the source before believing shit is legit. This guy is just a slightly less fat Rush Limbaugh.

Re:Not a credible source (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860717)

sorry to say he is very credible.
and no voter id for you.
regards
mike

I actually read it a little (2)

aliquis (678370) | about 2 years ago | (#41860861)

and I wanted to write a comment that maybe they was technically, scientifically and religiously retarded but I couldn't comment without signing up so I do so here instead.

Also they wouldn't have to use touch screens. Though any switch can fail of course.

"Sir, are you sure about that?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860005)

"Is that your final answer?"
"Seriously? That douchebag?"
"Last chance to vote for someone effective."

I think it'd be neat if voting machines announced loudly to the entire room you choices, for a random 5% of voters. It'd be an interesting psychological experiment. Would it change you vote for?

Re:"Sir, are you sure about that?" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860297)

If it did change who you vote for, that would mean you are being coerced.

Re:"Sir, are you sure about that?" (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about 2 years ago | (#41860549)

If it did change who you vote for, that would mean you are being coerced.

Or that you are afraid of being coerced.... ...and just wait until the machine isn't calibrated and it loudly calls out the name of someone you DIDN'T want to get elected... or at least that's what you tell everyone else....

one reason ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860073)

because touchscreens are hard. stupid mandarin speaking atms ..

Validation, not calibration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860075)

To validate that a vote for Candidate (R) is counted twice, and vote for Candidate (D) actually counts as 3/5th a vote?

Electronic voting (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#41860085)

It should be 'calibrated' right out the window. I am very disappointed that there is so little resistance against these contraptions.

TL;DR (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860087)

Here's a recap of what the article says 'calibration' means:

The voting machines are touch screens like ATMs, and since the "Obama" and "Romney" buttons are right next to each other there have been reports of people trying to vote for one and the machine registering the touch for the other.

I don't know the story about why they're using touch screens for voting. At a first glance, I assume it's because EVERYTHING IN 2012 THAT IS TOUCH SCREEN IS HIP MODERN NEW FRESH EDGY JAZZ, but there might actually be a real reason. Seriously, I am never more than 30% sure I'm going to get the right amount of money out of the machine until I see the box light up.

Re:TL;DR (2)

skids (119237) | about 2 years ago | (#41860791)

The justification sometimes used for using touch screens is because they have the ability to scale up the screen for accessibilty for visually impaired voters.

That's probably the only passable reason for using these peices of crap, and even at that, one could be set aside per precinct for use on-request by the people that need them, while the rest of us vote on a more verifiable system.

We should not settle for anything less than hand-marked paper (computer processing of the paper e.g. opscan is ok for a first count) with mandatory random hand-count audits of a statistically sound number of machines, with an automatic trigger of a full recount if those spot checks fail.

That's what touchscreens do (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860111)

I'm speaking from a perspective of someone that regularly works as a poll worker during elections in the state of California.

One of the first things I do once our touch screen system is set up is confirm the calibration of the LCD panel. It's typical for the registration to be off by a few pixels, as our fingers are not perfect pixel-sized points. However, I have yet to experience an issue where the calibration is so bad that the wrong selection is made on behalf of the voter. Remember there are a whole host of perfectly valid reasons why this may be more of a problem for some voters than others, certainly including finger size and physical impairment affecting fine-motor skills.

If a voter did report a problem of this nature, recalibrating the touch screen would be one of the first things I would try.

Touchscreens... (3, Insightful)

Ksevio (865461) | about 2 years ago | (#41860115)

Anyone that's ever worked with touchscreens before knows that those things need frequent recalibration

Re:Touchscreens... (2, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | about 2 years ago | (#41860177)

I dunno... I haven't calibrated the touchscreen on either of my smart phones yet... 5 years and counting now. (I still use the old one on wifi... and it still hasn't needed to be calibrated.)

I do remember having to calibrate touchscreens years ago, but its about as common now as adjusting the choke to start a car.

Re:Touchscreens... (4, Informative)

cirby (2599) | about 2 years ago | (#41860279)

Different touchscreen technology.

Old-school surface capacitance touchscreen kiosks often lose calibration - or can be deliberately miscalibrated for fun and profit.

Re:Touchscreens... (-1, Offtopic)

hawguy (1600213) | about 2 years ago | (#41860231)

Anyone that's ever worked with touchscreens before knows that those things need frequent recalibration

Maybe in 1995 when touch screens were new technology.

My smartphone has no way to calibrate it because it's not necessary. I can believe that calibration-free touch screens are more expensive than cheap ones that need constant calibration.

I don't recall my bank's ATM screen ever being out of calibration either. Maybe it was calibrated at install time, but it doesn't seem to slip out of calibration.

Which ignores the point that regardless of the touch screen calibration, it's trivial to design a UI that gives immediate feedback that the correct selection was picked.

Aside from a simple check mark next to the chosen candidate's name, how about inverting the color of the entire name field making it clear which one has been chosen?

Re:Touchscreens... (2)

tnyquist83 (2720603) | about 2 years ago | (#41860539)

Most of these machines are close to a decade old, so they do use older designs that were new at the time. And it seems so me that making it strikingly clear which option was selected would be common sense, but then again people have been having problems with paper ballots for decades as well.

For the ATM, is it possible that the screen was re-calibrated each time they restocked the cash?

Re:Touchscreens... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860301)

Yeah, I noticed that 15 years ago... I remember having to calibrate my old Handspring Visor. Yet... not so much these days as I type my response from my iPad, stop to take a call on my Android phone, and help my kid load up Angry birds on her $99 HP touchpad.

If it's still a problem, fire those companies a go back to paper until someone can make a voting machine using modern tech.

FREE TABLET RECALIBRATION SERVICE (4, Funny)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | about 2 years ago | (#41860707)

If anyone wants their tablet recalibrated, they can send it to me. In my experience, the 64 gigabyte ipad 4 4g model is particularly prone to miscalibration. Typing errors can be a sign that recalibration is neccessary.

There _are_ legitimate reasons for calibration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860117)

Depends on the type of machine.

Resistive touchscreens (and certain other types) need calibration fairly often.
Scanners need calibration less often, but could conceivably need it.

But "recalibration" can also be an excuse to reprogram the vote-flipping algorithms from "Romney" to "Romney/Ryan"...
How would you know which?

AND THAT, CLASS, IS WHY WE DON'T TRUST BLACK BOXES!!!

Re:There _are_ legitimate reasons for calibration (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860455)

But "recalibration" can also be an excuse to reprogram the vote-flipping algorithms from "Romney" to "Romney/Ryan"...

For those who don't keep up with hilarious news of how rethuglicans are eating their own, he's talking about this [opednews.com] story.

More (Part 1) [themoneyparty.org]
(Part 2) [themoneyparty.org]
There's supposed to be a Part 3 forthcoming...

Re:There _are_ legitimate reasons for calibration (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 years ago | (#41860851)

Even with proof of malfeasance, what do we do with it? Shut up, I have a Dominos delivery and Real Housewives of somewhere is on.

Touchscreens? (3, Informative)

pushing-robot (1037830) | about 2 years ago | (#41860129)

Touchscreens—particularly resistive touchscreens—often need recalibration. On a poorly calibrated screen, tapping on one button could select the one adjacent. Not good in a voting machine with a column full of candidates in densely packed rows.

Note: I haven't read TFA, this is just the first thing that came to mind.

Re:Touchscreens? (1)

DigitAl56K (805623) | about 2 years ago | (#41860201)

Maybe the law should prohibit the use of electronic voting machines with resistive touch screens then, or any device that needs recalibrating too frequently based on the rate of people who are expected to use it.

Can't say I recall re-calibrating my iPad recently.

Re:Touchscreens? (1)

wchild (321327) | about 2 years ago | (#41860303)

Clark County would love to replace our voting machines with newer, shinier ones that require less maintenance. But that would require money, which is something many local governments don't have a lot of at the moment.

Maybe the law should prohibit the use of electronic voting machines with resistive touch screens then, or any device that needs recalibrating too frequently based on the rate of people who are expected to use it.

Can't say I recall re-calibrating my iPad recently.

Re:Touchscreens? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860315)

These are 10 year old devices, they did not have affordable capacitive touchscreens when these devices were built.

Re:Touchscreens? (3, Insightful)

Jeremi (14640) | about 2 years ago | (#41860565)

Maybe the law should prohibit the use of electronic voting machines with resistive touch screens then, or any device that needs recalibrating too frequently based on the rate of people who are expected to use it.

Even if/when they fix the touch screen issue, there will inevitably be other issues, some of which may not be obvious to voters.

The only reliable solution is to either not use electronic voting machines, or use them only as ballot printing devices (i.e. the voter enters his choices into the machine, the machine prints out a human-readable paper ballot with those choices, the voter reviews the paper ballot to make sure it is correct, and then either places it in to the ballot box or (if he sees an error) voids it and returns it to a poll worker in exchange for a new one).

Anything more complicated than that opens the door to errors and/or shennanigans.

In particular, electronic voting machines should NOT be relied on to hold the official voting record, as there is no layman-verifiable way to show that an electronic vote tally is correct.

Re:Touchscreens? (4, Informative)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 2 years ago | (#41860775)

This is what we do in Canada. Voting booths are cardboard and are set up on tables. Votes are cast by marking paper with a pen. The ballots are then placed in a cardboard box. Can't get much cheaper or fool proof than that. I never understood the American fascination with making things so complicated. I know that the Canadian system works because anybody can understand exactly what's going on at every step of the process. Once you introduce computers, that all flies out the window.

Re:Touchscreens? (3, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#41860411)

Voting machines shouldn't use touch screens at all. They should use pinball flipper switches. They're inexpensive, trivial to source (the button part anyway, there's just a leaf switch behind it) and highly reliable. They can be placed next to the display. I have heard the argument that if you do that then you have to worry about aligning options, but that pales compared to the complexity of the GUI systems they're probably using when they're using touch screens, with complete widget sets.

Re:Touchscreens? (4, Interesting)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | about 2 years ago | (#41860613)

speaking as someone who is 'aging' (cough), I can give you a solid data point: screens are great for *seeing* but lousy for *input*.

please don't abandon hard tactile buttons. everyone of every age can use buttons and see the screen. there's no parallax or steadiness of your hands needed for real physical buttons. its just so much more reliable and easier for people.

keep the screens. ditch the stupid idea of touching them.

I can't remember the last time I had to calibrate a button panel that had hardware switches for its input keys.

sometimes the older tried and true ways are still worth retaining.

Re:Touchscreens? (1)

skine (1524819) | about 2 years ago | (#41860621)

I remember when I first got a Palm Pilot back in the day, one was required to, when setting up the device, touch the center of about a half dozen targets to test calibration.

Perhaps it would make sense for the voting machines to perform a similar calibration for each voter.

Re:Touchscreens? (2)

cvtan (752695) | about 2 years ago | (#41860723)

Yes! I still use a Garmin iQue 3600 which runs Palm OS and it has a similar screen setup routine.

Re:Touchscreens? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860823)

Yup, my old Palm V routinely needed calibration. It was such a normal requirement that it was part of the device initialization routine.

Granted this is part of computing history now.

And the seed is planted... (3, Insightful)

RalphWigum (519738) | about 2 years ago | (#41860143)

For either/both sides to call shenanigans when the vote does not go their way. I wonder if someone has done a study on the amount of press voter fraud gets vs. party election outcome and if there is as stark of a difference as I perceive. And if people really think that one party only wins when they "cheat", does that just reinforce myopic visions of political views (i.e. Most people think the way I do and so the only explanation is fraud)?

Re:And the seed is planted... (4, Funny)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 2 years ago | (#41860229)

I swear the next person that says shenanigans I'm gonna pistol whip!

Re:And the seed is planted... (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | about 2 years ago | (#41860389)

Last election we had for governor had 4 recounts. Three went to the challenger by a 1000-1500 vote margin. The fourth went to the incumbent with a 2000 vote margin after some ballot boxes were "found" in a closet. Recounts were immediatly suspended and the election went to the incumbent. Voter fraud happens.

Time to upgrade to windows 8 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860147)

Time to upgrade to windows 8

why are the options close together? (4, Insightful)

Chirs (87576) | about 2 years ago | (#41860153)

Put one at the left, the other at the right, and make them so far apart that they CANNOT POSSIBLY BE CONFUSED even if the system is out by some number of pixels (or even some fraction of an inch)!

Why is this so complicated?

Re:why are the options close together? (2)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#41860197)

Becasue corporations are cheap, and they don't hire people to think about the interface.

Re:why are the options close together? (4, Interesting)

nonsequitor (893813) | about 2 years ago | (#41860247)

Why use a touch screen at all? They should have just made the screens have bezel keys along the sides like an ATM.

Re:why are the options close together? (1)

DigitAl56K (805623) | about 2 years ago | (#41860331)

Put one at the left, the other at the right, and make them so far apart that they CANNOT POSSIBLY BE CONFUSED even if the system is out by some number of pixels (or even some fraction of an inch)!

Why is this so complicated?

One accusation that can be made against voting machines requiring calibration is that they can be maliciously calibrated. You could calibrate it, for example, to be 1/3rd of the screen off horizontally, so that when someone touched the right-edge of e.g. the democrats side a republican candidate was selected. This would also mean if you touch the right-edge of the the republican side then no candidate would be selected, but you could posit that if no selection appeared people may be more likely to press again than if a check appeared in the wrong place (but still near your finger), and that people would be less likely to press the very right-edge of the display where the edge of the voting machine is than near the middle.

The fact is that voting machines that have these problems shouldn't be in use. In a non-cynical view, the apparent probability that this will occur during a vote should not be so high (it's made news in the last 2 elections at least now), and in a cynical view it raises serious questions about fraud and voters trust in the system. There are touch displays out there that don't constantly screw up like this.

Re:why are the options close together? (2)

JimBobJoe (2758) | about 2 years ago | (#41860443)

What do you do if you have eight choices? (That's the current Ohio ballot--7 choices plus a write-in.)

Re:why are the options close together? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860491)

Simple. The bastards who design them could care less about protecting the item ritzy of the vote or ease of use. It is about slowing things down, providing the monied with a back door, and meeting media outlet demand for data. Accuracy be damned.

Million dollar fine (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860155)

To the voting machine weasels if their machines need 'calibration' of the touch screen. That's just fucking bullshit. I repair such machines and they don't just go out of calibration without some causative factor.

A ballbat to the balls for all of the voting commissioners who do not have the vendor calibrate the machines with that million dollar dagger hanging over them.

That should be part of the contract, that it is not speaks volumes about the reliability of this electronic erosion of voting.

hmm (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#41860167)

machines used in the 04 election are giving the current president more screen space. interesting.

Based on my years of software writing This could easily just be a screen issue. Or, a user issue. I have seen many, many user claim they did something but in fact they didn't, they were mistaken.

Anyone who has knowledge of slot machine fraud, know electronic voting is pretty risky.

Re:hmm (1)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | about 2 years ago | (#41860349)

If they did the programming in AS3/Flash, there's a text field component known as .height. When selecting a text field, if you layer a tall field over another field rendered first, you can't even select the one underneath. It is possible to half way cover them too. Lots of programming languages you can have coding errors to do stupid stuff like this if you're a weak programmer.. People like to say the saying,"Don't attribute to malice that which can be attributed to ignorance" or something.

What About... (1)

broginator (1955750) | about 2 years ago | (#41860183)

... a mouse? Can we just use a mouse? If you don't understand how to use a mouse in this day and age then we probably don't need your vote.

So that you get the right result (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 2 years ago | (#41860205)

duh

10 year old touchscreen machines (3, Informative)

wchild (321327) | about 2 years ago | (#41860219)

Needs to be calibrated sometimes. I work elections for Clark County, Nevada. I've worked every election the last 10 years. And yes, the touchscreens can fall out of calibration and make it difficult to select the correct candidates. I can't speak to other election districts, but here in Clark County we're trained on how to perform this calibration on site (it's very simple) so that any problems reported by voters can be handled right away.

Touchscreen (2)

arielCo (995647) | about 2 years ago | (#41860243)

It usually refers to the coincidence between what the coordinates reported by the digitizer (touchscreen) as the center of the contact area, and the display coordinates underneath it:

“He played around with the field a little and realized that in order to vote for Romney, his finger had to be exactly on the mark,”

Still, the piece is biased starting with the title ("MORE ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINES CHANGING ROMNEY VOTES TO OBAMA"), and the issue could be down to the active rectangle being different from what's displayed:

Nancy wrote in an email. She said “the invisible Obama field came down about 1/4 [of an inch]” into what should technically have been the Romney area. In a phone interview with TheBlaze, she explained further that her husband said he felt the area on the touchscreen that could be pushed to vote for Obama was larger than that for Romney.

We have to tell the machine which one paid us. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860255)

duh....

Why are you asking a questrion (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 2 years ago | (#41860263)

that you answer in the description?

Just crappy resistive touchscreens (4, Insightful)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about 2 years ago | (#41860273)

Even before reading the article, I knew what the answer was. This is because at my workplace (a public library), we deal with a very similar thing on a regular basis. We have several self-checkout units at each branch, which are basically all-in-one Windows PCs running special software. They have RFID pads for scanning the books, and they take input via a touchscreen. The capacitive touchscreens on tablets and smartphones are generally of good quality, but these are different. They are crappy resistive touchscreens, designed to keep costs down. Accuracy is poor, and a calibration utility must be run regularly or the screens will start to drift. Calibration entails running a program designed for that purpose, then touching targets displayed in each corner of the screen in sequence.

If calibration on a low-quality resistive touchscreen is off, then the mouse click may register at a location as much as 1 full inch away from where the user pressed. I have personally seen this happen many times on our self-checkout units. So if you hear a story that someone on a voting machine pressed the box for the Democratic candidate and it checked the Republican, or vice versa, I'd be willing to bet money that this is what happened. If they were deliberately tampering with the votes, why would they show that to the user?

There are indeed serious concerns with the lack of source availability for voting machines, and the ownership of voting machine companies by individuals with partisan ties. But calibration is not some kind of conspiracy – it's the inevitable result of using cheap touchscreen hardware.

Touchscreen Calibration (2)

StarWreck (695075) | about 2 years ago | (#41860291)

A lot of these voting machines still run on Windows CE, similar to Siemens WinCC Flex HMI. They typically come with calibration software built in, once you launch the calibration you have to tap on several cross hairs that appear one after the other. The touchscreen is measuring resistance, when you run the calibration software it adjusts the amount of resistance it looks for to determine where you're tapping on the screen.

Voting machines are actually very vulnerable (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860293)

If you want some reputable and interesting information about voting machine tech Princeton University did a study exposing how easy it is to hack them (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4KxLmIVyKo).

As for the allegations in the article, The Blaze is not a viable news source it's a GOP propaganda blog that exists in a reality vacuum.

No need for touch screens (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860299)

So why use touchscreens in the first place if they need calibration, what's wrong with half a dozen buttons with small LCD screens under them (some fancy ass keyboards have them) saying "Obama" "Romney" "Jesus" "Hitler" "Bob the janitor" "The creepy guy who lives over the road who keeps watching you through a crack in his curtains"?

Seems like a touch screen makes it more expensive, less reliable and less accurate.

FUCKING MIT Create machines for them, and be done (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860305)

Let the fucking MIT create voting machines for those Dumb asses, and be done with this fucking issues.
It is 3rd elections where this shit is happening. It needs to stop.

Here's why... (3, Funny)

dbitter1 (411864) | about 2 years ago | (#41860391)

WTF? Why does a machine for choosing between one of a few choices need 'calibration'?

Because Rich Daley is not on the Chicago ballot anymore for mayor.

Resistive touch screens suck (1)

Megane (129182) | about 2 years ago | (#41860423)

They constantly need recalibration, and can even break internally to the point where it's impossible to calibrate them properly. And they don't do multi-touch, though that's not really important for voting machines.

Why are they used? Because they're cheap and the voting machines are already designed and built, and because capacitive touch screens are too new to have gone through the certification process in significant numbers so far.

Wait--Which Field? (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about 2 years ago | (#41860439)

FTA:

“He played around with the field a little and realized that in order to vote for Romney, his finger had to be exactly on the mark,” Nancy wrote in an email. She said “the invisible Obama field came down about 1/4 [of an inch]” into what should technically have been the Romney area.

I can vote for Invisible Obama? [twitter.com]

Why trust touchscreens? (2)

tnyquist83 (2720603) | about 2 years ago | (#41860507)

As soon as I read the title, I knew this had something to do with touchscreens. My question is, or something as important as voting in an election, why would anyone trust something as inaccurate as a touchscreen? Wouldn't it make more sense to just list the names with a physical button next to each, similar to what you'd see on many ATM's?

As for many people here saying they never need to re-calibrate their modern phones and tablets, is it possible that they do some type of self-calibration upon startup? I have an old, old Nexus One and on occasion the touchscreen will begin behaving erratically. Simply pressing the power button to lock the screen, then unlocking again resolves the issue.

Re:Why trust touchscreens? (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 2 years ago | (#41860663)

That only works if the number of candidates stays a constant number. I'm sure they would like to provide only two choices every year, and have pencil-drawn buttons for non R D parties.

Re:Why trust touchscreens? (1)

tnyquist83 (2720603) | about 2 years ago | (#41860777)

I think 2 columns of 10 rows would cover most situations (except for maybe the 2003 California recall). If there are more than 20 candidates, maybe have a message stating there are multiple pages that you need to acknowledge before making a choice?

Re:Why trust touchscreens? (2)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#41860815)

It's possible to put more than two buttons on a device, and if for some reason even that is not enough just arrange the candidates on pages and use the last button for 'next page'.

Each their own (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860511)

Give each candidate their own iPad! solved

fuck electronic voting (4, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 2 years ago | (#41860519)

we should always use paper ballots

you can cheat with paper ballots, but it's hard and you need a lot of effort and cooperation between many saboteurs

with electronic voting, magnitudes of order more attack vectors are introduced, because it's more complicated, unnecessarily. and one well-placed hacker can untraceably and silently cheat in milliseconds over a broad swath of votes

if people don't believe their government represents the popular will, then we have all sorts of problems

so paper voting only. now and forever, no matter how rich or technophilic the society. the voting in finland should be the same as in bangladesh as in brazil as in the usa: paper ballots only. to preserve the integrity of the process, people trusting their vote matters

To balance the vote (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860537)

They have to balance the amount of votes they add to each candidate based on the expected votes. If it's off, the election will appear to be rigged.

Whats wrong with paper and pencil (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860599)

Why have a touchscreen voting machine in the first place. Wh not go back to a piece of paper and a pencil where you put a cross py the candidates name. You could then get a machine to count the crosses on the paper and still have the origonal vores to check against.

Make casting your vote as low tech as possible so that you can do it under the following conditions:
No mains electricty (there is a high chance that at least one polling station will get a power cut in normal bad weather)
No UPS (in case the power cut is longer than a UPS battery can last)
No generator
Limited transport

I think paper and pencil (or ma be pen) is the lowest tec method pratical.

Why touchscreens? (2)

Psychotria (953670) | about 2 years ago | (#41860603)

Why not have physical buttons displayed down the left (or right, or top, or wherever makes sense) that correspond to the location of the screen next to them?

Re:Why touchscreens? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860737)

There are also low-resolution grid touchscreens. They never need calibration (absolute position) and they can give you 3/16"-1/4" resolution easily. We use HMI screens that have them and they'd make great voting interfaces. I prefer scan-tron type ballots personally, as they can be reliably recounted.

Easy way to fix this on the cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860651)

Take a raspberry pi, lock it up in a small cashbox, write a simple linux os that sends the user comifrmation email of the vote and make sure the sd card data is only read by secured readers and independently verified companies.
I think that is simple and hdmi+usb touchscreens must be cheap to manufacture by now if they don't already exist for cheap .
Anyone want to develop it?

Re:Easy way to fix this on the cheap (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 2 years ago | (#41860719)

If I can confirm to another person what I voted, I can sell my vote (or be coerced into voting a certain way).

ummm (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41860755)

how about something like,

"you have selected . confirm."

WHOA THAT WAS HARD.

Data registers need to be aligned with gigabytes (0)

kawabago (551139) | about 2 years ago | (#41860783)

Data registers need to be aligned with induction core modules. Input parameters must also be marshaled against erroneous corruption by transitory memory flux. There is so much to do I don't know where to start!
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