snopes.com  


Go Back   snopes.com > Urban Legends > Fauxtography

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 19 April 2011, 09:29 PM
Not_Done_Living's Avatar
Not_Done_Living Not_Done_Living is offline
 
Join Date: 02 September 2006
Location: Markham, ON
Posts: 3,735
Default Programmer under oath admits computers rig elections

This isn't a photo, but a video.. it popped into my mailbox today, and was loaded onto Youtube on the 18th.

Just wondering if this is real, what the context of the conversation is and if it IS real, and it IS in the proper context, whats going to be the fall out?

Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 19 April 2011, 09:39 PM
BoKu's Avatar
BoKu BoKu is offline
 
Join Date: 20 February 2000
Location: Douglas Flat, CA
Posts: 3,817
Default

Here's the Wikipedia article on Curtis:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clint_Curtis

It lines up pretty well with what is alleged in the video. As to whether the allegations have merit, that's a different thing.

Thanks, Bob K.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 19 April 2011, 10:48 PM
Avril's Avatar
Avril Avril is offline
 
Join Date: 07 August 2002
Location: Princeton, NJ
Posts: 10,495
Default

I've been saying for years that computerized voting is a Very Bad Idea. This is one part of life where I want a paper trail. We could still do computerized voting, so long as people also had a paper receipt or something, that would serve as a backup for a recount. But I feel that the potential for voting fraud has always been too high with computerized voting.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 19 April 2011, 11:48 PM
Beachlife!'s Avatar
Beachlife! Beachlife! is offline
 
Join Date: 22 June 2001
Location: Lansing, MI
Posts: 28,018
Default

I haven't seen the code which runs voting machines, but as a programmer, I have to believe it has plenty of checks, cross checks and audits to avoid being so easily changed.

I can think of a couple very easy to implement systems which would make the code he vaguely describes absolutely unusable.

I would also bet that gaining access to update the source code is very, very difficult. I could write a piece of code to make slot machines payout everytime. But that by it's self does me very little good.

According to the Wired News article on Curtis, he never had access to the source code and the code he speaks about was trivial and virtually useless.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 20 April 2011, 12:07 AM
Johnny Slick's Avatar
Johnny Slick Johnny Slick is offline
 
Join Date: 13 February 2003
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Posts: 11,628
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Avril View Post
I've been saying for years that computerized voting is a Very Bad Idea. This is one part of life where I want a paper trail. We could still do computerized voting, so long as people also had a paper receipt or something, that would serve as a backup for a recount. But I feel that the potential for voting fraud has always been too high with computerized voting.
No offense, but I worked with a guy who insisted that we should move away from computerized voting and was always frothing at the mouth about Diebold and... it's just Neo-Luddism IMO, sorry. You can rig elections just as easily without a computer as with one. In fact, it's probably easier to rig them when you don't have a computer system in there providing some sort of overall quality control to the process.

I have to admit, too, that it always makes me feel a little squeamish when a paper-ballot race gets really close because in those cases it always seems to come down to whichever side can produce more ballots in "their" districts. Sometimes that goes the Democrat way, as happened in Washington in 2004, sometimes, as happened in Wisconsin just a couple weeks ago, it goes for the Republican. It's basically a coin flip at that point, or at least it ought to be, but there is at least the appearance that it's a coin flip mixed in with whichever side is slightly better in the area at small-scale corruption. Completely computerizing the counting process, I would think, ought to eliminate a lot of that.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 20 April 2011, 12:36 AM
BBVD Fan
 
Posts: n/a
Default

I work elections locally and I can't speak for other places but there are many many checks and balances in place when paper ballots are manually counted. There are also checks and balances in place for sealing and dropping off the ballots (requiring members of opposite political parties to go together to the drop off site, seals that show tampering and signatures over the seals as well) and when the items are received and processed it is another very involved process with multiple oversights and controls to prevent tampering and falsifying of ballots/results.

I have no issue with computerized ballots and I think there can easily be systematic/program wide checks and balances to assure the accuracy of the data but I also don't think paper is that easy to tamper with if proper procedures are put in place.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 20 April 2011, 02:01 AM
Not_Done_Living's Avatar
Not_Done_Living Not_Done_Living is offline
 
Join Date: 02 September 2006
Location: Markham, ON
Posts: 3,735
Default

I know how easy it is to make a computer system do what you want. But it has to do it from the begining.

In review of the video, it would seem that he is saying that this code is buried within the source. It is designed from the very begining to create the reality they are looking for. Basically, no matter what button YOU press, it records where it wants, gaurenteeing one side gets at least 51% of the votes. The system could print out water paper trail it wanted. It could hand the voter a slip that was accurate, it could store a slip that was modified, and send the modified vote to the collection database. its simple. It is also simple to have a routine which would patch the code out of itself..

I just don't see it happening.. I was really just surprised that this could have been said without a huge deal being made of it .... but apparently there was.. and i jsut missed it.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 20 April 2011, 02:10 AM
Avril's Avatar
Avril Avril is offline
 
Join Date: 07 August 2002
Location: Princeton, NJ
Posts: 10,495
Default

My problem is the lack of any physical evidence of the vote. I favor scantron-type systems myself--electronic counting; ballots never actually examined unless necessary. They use this system in Oklahoma (where I am from) and it's not really disputable. The machines count the votes; the count is matched against the book where people sign in to vote.

Call me all the names you like. I'll still be against computerized voting systems that leave no paper trail whatsoever. I am aware that this will not eliminate voter fraud, but I like to be able to see the voter fraud.

Punch ballots, on the other hand, are an abomination.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 20 April 2011, 02:34 AM
Johnny Slick's Avatar
Johnny Slick Johnny Slick is offline
 
Join Date: 13 February 2003
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Posts: 11,628
Default

1. I'm not calling you names. I'm calling your rationale names. People ought to be respected. World views do not require the same level of respect.

2. If what you're saying is that we need more evidence that a person voted than a tick left on a computer, I agree with that much. I don't know of many people who disagree, actually. That's why there are still people at the voting booths (in states who still do voting booths - Washington went to mail ballots a few years ago and our voting percentages has gone quite a bit up) to ensure that you are really who you say you are (and the equivalent level of control with mailed-in ballots). That sense of need doesn't go away when you go electronic.

I think the neo-Luddism comes into play when people think that it would actually be easier to commit electronic voter fraud in this day and age than it would be to commit manual voter fraud. Sure, you could theoretically write a program which randomly switches some (D) votes into (R) votes... and then whomever does quality control for the state finds what you're doing and you go to jail. Maybe I'm being naive here but it's just not that easy to insert a routine into a program that does this without people noticing. What looks like a black box to the end user still requires code.

I guess it *is* a problem - and maybe this is an issue Curtis is highlighting - if there isn't that level of QC or that programmers aren't required to submit their source code to the state. That is a very tricky problem which could be trickily solved by... requiring any programmers to submit their code for something like this to the state. I'd go so far as to publish the code on a state website for any interested programmer to look at, but at the least you'd want to have a couple guys debugging it. These languages may look tricky, but they're really not. They are made, by and large, to be as non-tricky as possible. Even the older languages which are still used like C++ are pretty straightforward once you 'get' why they do what they do. Writing a program which shunts votes over to someone else would be a little like writing a contract with some of the boilerplate in Italian - it only works until someone catches you, and then you're done.

The real neo-Luddism of this is the desire to turn the clock back, as though this is a desire which will ever have any realistic chance of being carried out. I'm sure the original Luddites had some points when they talked about how much better off people were farming rather than working in the factories of England in the early Industrial Revolution. However, much, much larger forces were at play there, and workers' movements would give employees more rights but there was no way they were ever going to un-industrialize the world economy. Similarly, we *are* digital now, we were digital 5 years ago and we will be even more digital in the future. Even staying away from the relative environmental impacts, we are going to be moving further and further away from outright paper balloting and manual counting of paper ballots. We need creative responses to this new technology, not cries to tick the clock back.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 20 April 2011, 06:22 AM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
Join Date: 04 November 2005
Location: Borlänge, Sweden
Posts: 11,580
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beachlife! View Post
I haven't seen the code which runs voting machines, but as a programmer, I have to believe it has plenty of checks, cross checks and audits to avoid being so easily changed.

I can think of a couple very easy to implement systems which would make the code he vaguely describes absolutely unusable.

I would also bet that gaining access to update the source code is very, very difficult.
In an ideal world, yes, but, as a programmer, I've seen lots of botched code due to unrealistic deadlines, bad programmers, bad management who don't understand the process of software development and plain laziness. I've also seen source code management being run without proper security routines in place, where everybody in the company has access to everything because it's easier.

In short, I have no problems believing that such code can slip through.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Avril View Post
My problem is the lack of any physical evidence of the vote. I favor scantron-type systems myself--electronic counting; ballots never actually examined unless necessary. They use this system in Oklahoma (where I am from) and it's not really disputable. The machines count the votes; the count is matched against the book where people sign in to vote.

Call me all the names you like. I'll still be against computerized voting systems that leave no paper trail whatsoever. I am aware that this will not eliminate voter fraud, but I like to be able to see the voter fraud.

Punch ballots, on the other hand, are an abomination.
I like our system.

Paper ballots stuffed in envelopes, different ballots for each party, differently colored for each election (national, regional, local), each in their own envelope.

The ballots are counted three times in each district. If there is any discrepancy between the counts, even a single vote, three new counts are made. This process is continued, presumably under closer and closer supervision, until all three counts match perfectly. The count is made by a group of trusted people, according the lines of "one person holds up the ballot, tells what it says while the others are looking, then hands it to another guy to double check". This is the process that's repeated three times.

The ballots are kept, so the process can be checked again later.

Also, all the ballot boxes are sealed and uniquely identified, and counting is not done by the people manning the voting facility (although they make a preliminary count).

I think I got all the details right, but I might be off on some minor detail, as the routines occasionally change a bit.

I also think, but I'm unsure, that the public is allowed to watch the preliminary count.

Sure, errors can probably find some way to sneak in, but it's very hard to manipulate the system in any systematic way, and a suspect result can always be checked again. With computerized voting, it's a very realistic risk that someone can add code that systematically skews the results, say, for example by introducing code that registers a certain percentage of random votes on another party.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 20 April 2011, 04:31 PM
Lainie's Avatar
Lainie Lainie is online now
 
Join Date: 29 August 2005
Location: Suburban Columbus, OH
Posts: 73,386
Default

I suspect there are a lot more voters here than there are in Sweden (even counting only the ones who actually bother to vote).
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 20 April 2011, 04:38 PM
hambubba's Avatar
hambubba hambubba is offline
 
Join Date: 30 June 2000
Location: Gonzales, LA
Posts: 10,715
Default

As far as our presidential races, ballot boxes are meaningless. It's still up to the Electoral College, which usually votes the right way, but they honestly don't have to.

Everything else, well, the software in the election boxes has to work correctly. If there was a bias built in, you would see it on every box for it to work properly. If it wasn't there to cheat the election we would never see it.

Honestly, though, I still haven't met anybody in this state who admits voting for Al Gore. Maybe that's just embarrassment.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 20 April 2011, 04:53 PM
lord_feldon's Avatar
lord_feldon lord_feldon is offline
 
Join Date: 08 August 2007
Location: Ohio
Posts: 12,369
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Troberg View Post
Paper ballots stuffed in envelopes, different ballots for each party, differently colored for each election (national, regional, local), each in their own envelope.

The ballots are counted three times in each district. If there is any discrepancy between the counts, even a single vote, three new counts are made. This process is continued, presumably under closer and closer supervision, until all three counts match perfectly. The count is made by a group of trusted people, according the lines of "one person holds up the ballot, tells what it says while the others are looking, then hands it to another guy to double check". This is the process that's repeated three times.
In 2010, there were 20 different races on the ballot in November where I live. In 2008 there were 26 (with 71 total in the county, which is responsible for counting votes). That's a lot of envelopes and colors.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 20 April 2011, 06:41 PM
ASL's Avatar
ASL ASL is offline
 
Join Date: 04 July 2003
Location: Norfolk, VA
Posts: 5,214
Icon101

Quote:
Originally Posted by hambubba View Post
As far as our presidential races, ballot boxes are meaningless. It's still up to the Electoral College, which usually votes the right way, but they honestly don't have to.
You don't suppose this push towards digitalization will some day result in modifying the curriculum at the Electrical College to be more electronics oriented, do you? Would that require an amendment to the Constitution, or are we good as long as we don’t officially change its name to the Electronics College since the Constitution itself is somewhat vague on what the curriculum ought to consist of? I can hardly imagine, for instance, that current residents are receiving the same sort of silk cloth and glass rod electrical theory training that the Founding Fathers envisioned when Ben Franklin demonstrated that lighting was just a form of natural electricity with his famous kite experiment, for instance. Surely by now they’re teaching things like Ohm’s Law, the nature of the electron, and perhaps even some electrical safety, wouldn’t you think?

I know, I deservie it, but it was sooo worth it.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 20 April 2011, 06:50 PM
hambubba's Avatar
hambubba hambubba is offline
 
Join Date: 30 June 2000
Location: Gonzales, LA
Posts: 10,715
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by ASL View Post
I know, I deservie it, but it was sooo worth it.
Q. What's black and hangs from the ceiling?

A. An amateur electrician.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 21 April 2011, 03:00 AM
Michael Cole's Avatar
Michael Cole Michael Cole is offline
 
Join Date: 09 July 2005
Location: Victoria, Australia
Posts: 772
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by lord_feldon View Post
In 2010, there were 20 different races on the ballot in November where I live. In 2008 there were 26 (with 71 total in the county, which is responsible for counting votes).
Obvious solution - reduce the number of races. Start appointing Judges and Police Chiefs and school administrators etc.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 21 April 2011, 03:36 AM
lord_feldon's Avatar
lord_feldon lord_feldon is offline
 
Join Date: 08 August 2007
Location: Ohio
Posts: 12,369
Default

I'm not sure that major changes to the structure of government are an obvious solution to a hypothetical problem of how to color-coordinate ballots. ETA: Not that I personally see any sense in electing the county engineer or having every single alcohol sales license go up for a vote

Last edited by lord_feldon; 21 April 2011 at 03:43 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 21 April 2011, 07:15 AM
Richard W's Avatar
Richard W Richard W is offline
 
Join Date: 19 February 2000
Location: High Wycombe, UK
Posts: 25,194
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by ASL View Post
You don't suppose this push towards digitalization will some day result in modifying the curriculum at the Electrical College to be more electronics oriented, do you?
Well, wasn't the rationale behind the Electoral College that it was too far for actual voters to go to Washington on the roads of the time? As well as your proposal, I think you need a constitutional amendment that weights each state's votes according to the available broadband speed and uptake.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 21 April 2011, 07:33 AM
lord_feldon's Avatar
lord_feldon lord_feldon is offline
 
Join Date: 08 August 2007
Location: Ohio
Posts: 12,369
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard W View Post
Well, wasn't the rationale behind the Electoral College that it was too far for actual voters to go to Washington on the roads of the time?
I don't think so. The electors don't meet in Washington. They meet in the various state capital cities and mail (literally*) each state's result to the Vice President. ETA: Also, in the early days of the country, there wasn't necessarily an expectation that electors would be selected based on a popular election. Several states just let the state legislature pick them. (South Carolina persisted until the 1840s IIRC.)

*According to the federal government, they should be sent as soon as possible so they don't get delayed by Christmas cards. Seriously.

Last edited by lord_feldon; 21 April 2011 at 07:47 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 21 April 2011, 06:30 PM
Richard W's Avatar
Richard W Richard W is offline
 
Join Date: 19 February 2000
Location: High Wycombe, UK
Posts: 25,194
Default

Well, if all they were doing was mailing the votes, then the rate of information transfer is even more relevant! The faster the upload speeds, the more votes you can send.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On

Forum Jump

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Computers are Racist Jenn Fauxtography 4 13 August 2009 06:41 AM
Christmas Essay Was Not His, Author Admits snopes Glurge Gallery 1 08 January 2009 06:00 AM
Are Computers Men or Women? Capri Humor 12 27 April 2007 10:07 PM
Governor admits Arizona UFO was real Hypno Toad Spook Central 6 25 March 2007 11:23 PM
‘Monkey Fishing’ Author Admits to Falsehood snopes Urban Legends 1 15 February 2007 04:58 AM


All times are GMT. The time now is 01:18 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.