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April 10, 2006

“How To Steal an Election”
Posted by Patrick at 03:43 PM *

Vegas slot machines are better monitored and regulated than America’s voting machines.

Comments on "How To Steal an Election":
#1 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 03:58 PM:

heh. that's a frame that's hard to beat.

#2 ::: Michael ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 04:02 PM:

It's also a frame that's been out there (BartCop, anyway) for years. I'm happy the WaPo is waking up, but what the F took so long???

#3 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 04:12 PM:

As the bumper sticker says, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention."

Other possible explanations:

"If you're not outraged, you assume EVERYONE is a crook"

"If you're not outraged, you're one of the people who programs voting machines"

"If you're not outraged, you've given up"

"If you're not outraged, you're in some kind of chemically-mediated alternate reality"

and

"If you're not outraged, you're clinically depressed" (Been there, myself)

#4 ::: Sandy B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 04:18 PM:

My first gut reaction was "That's a false parallel." It took me a minute to figure out why.

I mean, I agree that voting machines should be regulated and transparent and they are not.

But slot machines operate in a different fashion. They're public and testable.

Assume that your view on technology, as a user, is "Innocent until proven guilty."

For a slot machine, you can try it, see the results, and repeat the experiment hundreds of times until you get good statistics*.

Voting, you do once and you don't have any way of checking if it worked or not. No way of disproving it.

Voting machines get the benefit of the doubt.

I'd like to see Diebold, and their machines, investigated in depth and detail. I don't care what it costs, I don't care if they scream- if you're going to make a machine that controls my future, you better believe I'm going to take a look at it. Maybe their machine is just fine. In fact, I'd rather believe that 51% of crucial voters thought Bush was a great guy. But the last time I said "I hope I'm wrong" was when they invaded Iraq. And I wasn't.


*In fact, they had a "Slot machine world championship" or some such idiocy, and they tweaked the machines to produce a larger payout [for more drama/advertising] and they screwed it up. And they got lower payouts. And the expert slot machine players [...] could tell, because the payout didn't feel right.

#5 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 04:39 PM:

How much more will the people of the United States put up with before there's some sort of violent rebellion against those in power? I wonder about that. I guess people aren't willing to take that risk for fearing "losing everything." (myself included...I have kids). Still, what happen to student protests? I guess the immigrants have it more together than the left these days...

#6 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 05:08 PM:

Randall P asks: How much more will the people of the United States put up with...

I've pretty much got outrage overload. Nothing that the Chimp-in-Chief and his cronies do can surprise me. Serious talk about nuking Iran is just about the only thing that's gotten me worked up lately.

I'm convinced that our elections are now Soviet style shows, except where ballots are paper and audited. If it's electronic, it's the all GOP pinball machine.

And I have no idea what I can do about it.

#7 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 05:09 PM:

"How much more will the people of the United States put up with before there's some sort of violent rebellion against those in power?"

What a terrible thing to idly wish for. Violent revolutions are sometimes necessary, and always dreadful.

It would be nice, he said not idly, to have a discussion of the voting-machine problem that didn't immediately devolve into despondency and/or fantasies of violence. Surely this crowd is smarter than that.

#8 ::: rjh ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 05:15 PM:

Also, there is a large experience difference. Slot machines are used 24/7 365 days a year. Voting machines are used for about 12 hours every 2 years.

Nonetheless, the voting machine process could be immensely improved by copying procedures from the slot machine industry.

#9 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 05:21 PM:

Good Lord, Patrick...I don't wish for that even remotely. I just wonder whether this type of thing will build and build until it finally just explodes. I think the general public is either repressing a lot or just doesn't care. My apologies about the perception that I came off as advocating violence. That was not the intention...but how in the world does one fight against the select few that have power when there are situations like this with the voting machines?

This could be my lack of education, but is there some sort of parallel in history that we can draw with the times that we live in today? What would be the historical equivalent of the Bush administration and what did those people do to change the situation?

#10 ::: Nathan Williams ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 05:32 PM:

I'm a bit hesitant to take some of these technology comparisons at face value. The worst culprit here is actually one that was used to drive the adoption of direct-entry electronic voting machines (DREs) - the comparison to an ATM. That comparison is flawed. ATMs do things that are, by design, personally identifiable and logged; an implication of this is that if there is a screw-up, it can be unwound and corrected. This means that the machines themselves can be held to a relatively low standard.

Slot machines and other electronic gaming devices are a pretty good comparison. The difference in usage rates (both for the user and the machine) is important, but the issues of user trust and non-reversability are similar. An interesting difference is the profit motive of the casino versus the quite mild interest of the government in getting out the vote.

Certainly, all of the certification, spot-checking, and manufacturer review procedures seem applicable. An interesting effect would be if the requirements were sufficently onerous that they caused DREs to fall out of favor versus paper ballots (okay, perhaps optically-scanned paper ballots).

#11 ::: Electric Landlady ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 05:34 PM:

I have to admit that until the whole 2000-election-hanging-chad business I had no idea there were such things as voting machines, and the notion of local officials designing the ballot boggled me. In Canada we use pencil and paper, and the design of the ballot is standardized by law. I think we may use all hand counting, all the time, too. (Checked: yes, and any candidates or their representatives can watch, and if there aren't any candidates or representatives around, at least two voters have to watch.) And the Chief Returning Officer gets ticked if there are voting irregularities.

Of course, our population is a lot smaller; I don't know, realistically, if the U.S. could ever go back to a pencil-and-paper system. But surely it should be possible to build in more safeguards.

#12 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 05:43 PM:

Not being allowed to vote in the US, the whole furore confused me, as in the UK elections are conducted with hand-counted paper ballots. These are practical to count quickly, as they have just one contest on, so you split them into votes for each candidate, and bundle them up in hundreds. Then you line them up along a long table and get a live histogram while you count them.
The US mechanised elections with punched cards years ago, and get stuck with the multiple-ballot feature creep. Digitising the process needs to step back to previous principles.

#13 ::: Electric Landlady ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 05:45 PM:

Thanks, Kevin -- I keep forgetting about the multiple-contests-per-election thing, too. We do have that in municipal elections but that's about it.

#14 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 06:04 PM:

Nathan --

Canadian ballots are logged. Your ballot paper has a serial number, and this is removed -- torn off at the perforations -- by one of the returning officers before you put the thing in the box. So they have no way to tell how you voted, but they can tell to the minute when you voted, and from what block of long, complex id number ballots. (The numbers are neither sequential nor random, and blocks of ballots are assigned to polling places which are assigned by first letter of last name. So someone who wants to add a couple thousand votes has to solve all the sequence puzzles and subborn twenty or thirty people to make handwritten false entries in the per-name-range numbered poll registers. Not utterly impossible, but challenging.)

Adding serial numbers isn't hard to do; it's however quite useless with electronic voting machines, because those have the votes flying around as electrons between when you punch the button and when the vote is recorded on some (hopefully fixed) medium. That transition can never be made secure. (In ATMs, the folks with control of the hardware have a huge incentive to make it as secure as possible; this isn't true of voting machines.)

This is the considerable superiority of the pencil-and-paper ballot; there's no mediation between your decision and the fixed medium.

Patrick --

If the votes aren't being counted, and this cannot be advanced into a court of law as a complaint, the only recourse left is forceful overthrow.

It might be the kind of forceful that involves having a complete parallel fair paper system ready to go on voting day, accompanied by prompt destruction of the entirety of the voting machines, but in a case like Ohio -- where the decision to investigate the obvious corruption rests with those who benefit from the corruption and is not made, and no member of any opposition party can plausibly expect to be elected to redress this, what precisely is left as a means of redress which is not force?

#15 ::: Jeff ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 06:15 PM:

I work in the casino gaming industry, and can attest that the opening statement is definitely true.

There are $everal rea$on$ for thi$, and they all $tart with MONEY. The casino doesn't want to give away money, but they don't want to alienate their customers by blatently ripping them off. More importantly, the jurisdictions want to protect their citizenry by making sure the games fairly take the patrons' money, so there are various independent testing organizations and regulatory bodies that spell out how the games must behave in certain respects. All machine events, from bill insertions to game play to the opening of doors, can be logged. There are physical and electronic counters for all sorts of things. And slot machines, both physical and electronic, have been around for a quite a while.

I, personally, given a reasonable amount of money, could collect a crew and design and build a secure, auditable, and fully functional electronic voting machine, after first getting good solid requirements in writing. It's not a difficult problem - it merely requires sufficient motivation to do it fairly rather than to do it how it's been done.


If

#16 ::: Scott ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 06:21 PM:

Graydon says:
what precisely is left as a means of redress which is not force?

The incorrect assumption here is that "voting irregularities" can cover any loss with a win and the winners will be able to get away with it. The more irregular the voting is, the more likely an organization of voters will be able to convince other people (e.g. the state supreme court) to invalidate the election without the winners investigating themself.

There are also non-violent forms of coersion (e.g. bureaucrat/technocrat walkout) that can probably get proper behavior out of the not-actually-elected officials, in ways that are largely preferable to violence.

So, what's the redress? When the corrupt not-actually-elected officials lose badly enough they will have to leave power. Which is to say, when people stop voting for the cheaters, the cheaters lose.

#17 ::: MaryR ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 06:30 PM:

I must confess when this thread popped onto my Bloglines screen I read it as "Vegan slot machines" and wondered what sort of slot machines are made with animal products. (Must face up to the fact that I am now older than my mother was when she got reading glasses.)

If I find someone who isn't outraged about the voting machine situation in this country, I assume they are part of the conspiracy.

#18 ::: Anna Feruglio Dal Dan ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 06:55 PM:

The very very depressing thing is that idiots can vote for totally, obviously, tangibly, apallingly inept and incompetent administrations (let alone evil ones) even when there are simple, easily checkable paper ballots.

Even worse, my friend who's just come back from his turn as a poll officer tells me an amazing number of people got their votes invalidated because the concept of "cross out ONE, I mean, ONE symbol, just ONE, you got that?" is apparently too complicated to be grasped. Despite having been repeated in suave tones about fifty times a day on every TV screen. We're talking significant numbers, and all on one side. So it appears that you can either believe that the most catastrophically inept administration in the history of a notoriously not terribly well-run country has actually "made Italy respected and strong abroad" (AH! AH! AH! AH! Stop please! I'm choking!), and so reveal to the world your somewhat endearing but alas damaging stupidity, or be abysmally stupid in a completely different way and cross out two symbols because you're not sure which one is the one you intended to vote in the first place.

How did we ever survive hunting in the savannahs?

(This is not to say the bastards didn't steal your elections. They very probably did. We on the other hand have only ourselves to blame.)

#19 ::: Mike Bakula ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 07:04 PM:

Patrick says, in part:
It would be nice, he said not idly, to have a discussion of the voting-machine problem that didn't immediately devolve into despondency and/or fantasies of violence. Surely this crowd is smarter than that.

Living in DeLand, FL (which is within Volusia county), I've been concerned about this in both the tacical and strategic senses. Tactically, I spoke against the purchase od DRE machines at the county council meeting where the critical vote on purchasing them was taken. Since the purchase was made here anyway (due to a clever convergence of state and federal mandates), I'm now volunteering to be a poll worker.

If I can't eliminate the risks of this technology, I can at least reduce the risk as best I can within the limits of my power.

Strategically, I'm still trying to figure out what kind of system would generate the benefits of fair representation we seek and yet be attractive enough some other way to compete with the foolish technologies we're being sold now. It seems like an "OpenSource vs. Microsoft" type fight to me, where the competition is for credibility, and the challenge is to get the commercial interests' thumb off the scale. Do we seek The Cathedral and the Bazaar for voting technologies?

#20 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 07:29 PM:

It's not really true that the only form of redress left if votes aren't counted correctly is violent overthrow.

First of all, democratic mechanisms in the US have not broken down completely, and in a functioning or even semi-functioning democracy there are always mechanisms for expression of the popular will other than elections. (Digression: that's how you can tell that countries like Iraq are not genuine democracies: none of the machinery of democracy is there except for voting, and voting has never been enough.) Some of the other mechanisms we have include the press; the legal system; non-government institutions like civic groups, political parties, and unions; and citizens directly talking to their representatives. None of the democratic institutions in the US are as healthy as I would like, but none are completely broken.

Second, even if you accept that democracy in the US has completely failed (I think that's false, but let's accept it for the sake of the argument), it still isn't true that armed revolt is the only option. Historically, there have been lots of cases where democracy has been established or reestablished without violence. Two examples: the democratic reforms in Britain over the course of the 19th century, and post-Marcos politics in the Phillipines.

#21 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 07:37 PM:

I have nothing to add that Matt Austern didn't say directly above. Exactly right, every word.

#22 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 08:22 PM:

Matt --

Yup, that's all true; there are other responses, and other, informal means of redress. All of them depend on the rule of law holding, and that isn't true in the US anymore.

Expressions of the popular will are (often) enough to deal with corruption; enough to deal with common-or-garden venality. They're not enough to deal with the situation where neither votes nor the courts are redress, and the construction of legitimacy in use by those holding power specifically holds that popular will is meaningless.

Nor are those relatively informal mechanisms enough to deal with a coup; there are rare cases where those conducting the coup concluded they couldn't govern, but generally there isn't any peaceful answer to a willingness to have blood run in the streets so long as power is maintained. (The Katrina body count in Louisiana strikes me as a solid equivalent to having blood run in the streets.)

Defeat, just like political legitimacy, happens in human minds; so far as I am able to observe, the Dominionists and the ... whatever Cheney is; the autocratic corporatist faction, call it, aren't going to give up for anything, and it sure looks like they've got well over the 10% of the population that it takes to make an unrepresentative government stick.

#23 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 09:19 PM:

Matt: While I agree with your premise (and would point to places like Poland and the former Czechoslovakia) I don't think the Philippines, over the past 20 years, is a great example, because there have been a couple of coup attempts (I forget if one of them was successful), and the apparent picture is that the gov't is replicating, albiet on a smaller scale, the Marcos model.

#24 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 09:27 PM:

Here in CA the 'punch card' ballots have serial numbers. (They're actually now 'punch an ink-spot onto the card' so there's no chad involved, but then chad wasn't much of a problem before either.) I don't know if the numbers are logged as they're handed out, but I get the top of the ballot with one copy, and piece with the other copy and the votes goes in the box. It's about as manual as most these days.

I think someone who deliberately builds voting machines that can be manipulated by programming a miscount (or by some other method) should be thrown in jail: it isn't different from any other form of voting fraud, even if it's done by the manufacturer.

#25 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 09:30 PM:

Meanwhile, in Florida: (courtesy of Slashdot)
Government-Aided Phishing
"A Florida county is posting the Social Security numbers, bank account info and other sensitive data of hundreds of thousands of current and former residents on its public Web site..."

Open records laws cut both ways, it seems. Naturally, slashdot nerds have provided more than enough technical detail to fully exploit this...ah...vulnerability. Apparently the db includes the personal info of politicians as well, supporting the hypothesis that stupidity is a more efficient explanation than malice.

Regrettably, this is only tangentially related to the thread. Maybe I could draw some connections between the lack of insight in posting the information and the lack of insight in mandating electronic voting machines?

-r.

#26 ::: jane ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 09:53 PM:

We could always dress like conservatives and throw the voting machines in Boston Harbor.

Two years ago David and I bumped into a Scottish computer scientist on the streets of St Andrews, who when we discused this very problem, said succinctly, "I wouldn't vote on a machine I programmed myself."

And yes, whispers of this have been around since before the last election, but the fact that the WPost has taken an actual print interest is, in itself, interesting.

Jane

#27 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 10:05 PM:

"The very very depressing thing is that idiots can vote for totally, obviously, tangibly, apallingly inept and incompetent administrations (let alone evil ones) even when there are simple, easily checkable paper ballots."

Anna, how's it going? The NYTimes hasn't announced any results. How long does it take to count the votes?

Be of good heart, no matter how godawfully stupid things get.

#28 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 10:12 PM:

Jane, I wish I could have heard David on the subject.

Here's what I know: in the runup to 2000, I started seeing articles about how of course everyone knows that exit polls are unreliable. I was uneasy. I'd never heard that before. Exit polls have always been the way to check for vote fraud. When we're overseeing elections in other countries, we use exit polls as our standard checking device.

I saw another wave of those articles in 2004.

If I had access to the lexis and nexis and all that jazz, I'd have it search for mentions of the unreliability of exit polls, year by year, going back as far as the records are searchable. I'll bet I know what it would find.

The other thing I know is that if exit polls are unreliable, they ought to be comparably unreliable from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Their unreliability ought not vary with the voting machines used.

#29 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 11:58 PM:

We could always dress like conservatives and throw the voting machines in Boston Harbor.

Um, if it wouldn't be too painful... the clothing, I mean. I don't think I own the right shoes. How the hell would one, if one were a conservative, accessorize appropriately for throwing things in Boston Harbor? Visions of Laura Bush...

#30 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2006, 11:58 PM:

TNH: And in one of the off-year elections (was it 1998? 2002?), the League of Women Voters' exit polling collapsed completely, nationwide. (Something about the software, no less.)

Now that was frightening.

#31 ::: Christopher Davis ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2006, 12:13 AM:

By way of Terry Karney's mention of the Philippines, I am reminded of the fact that, while there are many airports around the world named for murdered politicians, only one that I know of is named after a politician who was murdered at that airport.

#32 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2006, 12:25 AM:

Re: Italy, the Guardian says that Prodi has claimed victory in the lower house with a vote of 49.8% to Berlusconi's 49.7% - and La Repubblica is also printing that as fact. It sounds a little precarious to me. The salient fact here, though, is that whichever coalition wins the popular vote gets given 55% of the seats, so I'm hoping it is accurate.

Berlusconi has a one-seat majority in the Senate, but the overseas votes (accounting for six more seats) have not yet come in. La Repubblica (again) seems to be anticipating that they will be evenly split, although the idea is raised that the senator from Latin America might join the leftist coalition. My Italian is a bit rusty, though, especially, when it comes to electoral jargon, so I may be misrepresenting the situation.

If the two houses are opposed it may mean a real deadlock. Then again, a one seat majority is pretty vulnerable, so progress might not be impossible. There are accusations, too, that the electronic voting machines which Berlusconi installed are producing suspicious results (although I haven't seen any specific allegations yet).

The turnout was 87%, apparently. I'm stunned.


#33 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2006, 01:03 AM:

It's not really true that the only form of redress left if votes aren't counted correctly is violent overthrow.

Agreed. It's just that the thing everyone learns in American history is the American Revolution, the shot heard round the world, the minutemen, the well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, and so on. It gets to the point that one wonders how conscious the effort is to ingrain in our psyche that the only solution for any problem is force. And for some reason, this seems to be getting translated of late into brute force, beligerent force, applied sloppily in shotgun pattern with eyes closed. And more specifically, the ones who generally forward this notion and advocate it the most strongly, often seem to be the least likely to have ever had to kill someone in combat or seen their friends die in combat by their side.

To quote Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, the third American General to call for Rumsfeld's resignation, the decision to invade Iraq "was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions or bury the results."

(Maj. Gen. Paul D. Eaton and Gen. Anthony C. Zinni being the first two to call for Rumsfeld's head on a stick.)

#34 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2006, 01:33 AM:

Hey, it's making it into the public consciousness. This is great! Now, how to push it along and into action... Dare we hope for other substantive electoral reforms alongside technical improvements?

"How much more will the people of the United States put up with before there's some sort of violent rebellion against those in power?" Depends what you define as violent rebellion; you could say that some violent rebellions have already taken place. I see no indication that the US public is up for more than small-group violence, however; terrorism, in other words. Let's not wish for that.

#35 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2006, 01:40 AM:

For an article on a technical subject, it's unusually good. Short, even.

The striking difference between the slots and the voting machines, which hasn't been mentioned yet in this discussion (I think), is that the State of Nevada obviously doesn't trust the casino operators. All of the rules in the article safeguard the public from being defrauded by crooked slots.

Trying to have similar protections for voting machines poses the question of what organization could do it. My feeling is that we could trust the monitor's integrity, or their ability to do the job, but not both at the same time. In other words, this argues for a decentralized solution, with multiple monitors auditing the elections and each other. All we have to do is make sure we don't enact any misguided national standards and allow a corrupt and unaccountable private corporation to establish a monopoly. Oops.

#36 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2006, 01:41 AM:

Dare we hope for other substantive electoral reforms alongside technical improvements?

Hm, Diebold replaced with trusted voting machines, and the electoral college replaced with the Condorcet method?

Dare to dream, I say.

#37 ::: Jesurgislac ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2006, 08:07 AM:

Historically, there have been lots of cases where democracy has been established or reestablished without violence. Two examples: the democratic reforms in Britain over the course of the 19th century

You need to study British history in more detail if you think that the democratic reforms were accomplished without violence: from the Reform Riots (and some conservative responses) to the Manhood Suffrage Riots, and yes, I'd include the Swing Riots and the Rebecca Riots: though not directly concerned with suffrage, they were a violent response to unjust laws from those with no other means whatsoever of protesting. Historically, the century of reform that established universal suffrage in the UK, from 1832 to 1929, was begun in violence and continued with the threat of violence, though ultimately it was accomplished without revolution, by democratic vote in Parliament.

It's conceivable that the US can have honest elections again, but I think it unlikely so long as most Americans are comfortably persuaded that dishonest elections happen elsewhere. It is still regarded as outright heresy in some circles to point out that Bush lost the election in 2000, even though that at least is backed up by hand-counted votes: it is regarded as outright fantasising to point out that we don't know who won the election in 2004, but that by the exit polls, it was John Kerry.

#38 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2006, 08:56 AM:

The British Reform Acts were passed without violence, only because everyone knew it would be violent if they weren't passed.

Bevan (and other parts of the Labour Party at that time) thought that the Reform Acts, the Parliament Act, and Atlee's Labour Government counted as a revolution just as much as Lenin's. Really quite interesting stuff.

Agreed. It's just that the thing everyone learns in American history is the American Revolution, the shot heard round the world, the minutemen, the well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, and so on.

The silly thing about this is that these days, provided the Army went with the govt, then even machine guns wouldn't help. It'd be like David and Goliath, but Goliath also has ten of his buddies along. The weaponry mismatch is so glaring that I don't see how people argue, with a straight face, that they could overthrow the govt with their rifle.

#39 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2006, 09:26 AM:

The weaponry mismatch is so glaring that I don't see how people argue, with a straight face, that they could overthrow the govt with their rifle.

the only problem I have with that is that a bunch of Iraqi's appear to be proving it wrong, or at the very least, proving it not entirely right.

#40 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2006, 09:44 AM:

My area has been using the mechanical voting machines for as long as I can remember--these are certainly fiddleable, but not with the ease of electronic machines. This year, the City of Pittsburgh is switching to electronic machines despite the fact that the mechanical ones work just fine.

All this means to me is that I have to find out where to get a write-in ballot before the primary in May.

#41 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2006, 11:15 AM:

Here's what I know: in the runup to 2000, I started seeing articles about how of course everyone knows that exit polls are unreliable. I was uneasy. I'd never heard that before.

Exit polls got a bad rap because someone used them to call Florida prematurely in the 2000 race. The problem with the call wasn't necessarily in the exit polls, but that someone called the state of Florida pretty much based on the returns from the pro-Democratic southern portion of the state, without waiting for returns from the more conservative panhandle. (And even then, 3,000 voters in one county would have given exit pollsters the wrong answer, because the butterfly ballot led them to mistakenly vote for Pat Buchanan...which as we all know now was about ten times as many votes as needed to reverse the outcome.)

Otherwise, what Nathan said about the difference between Vegas and our government. Without sufficient oversight, the casinos might lose money...and that's important.

#42 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2006, 11:47 AM:

"The weaponry mismatch is so glaring that I don't see how people argue, with a straight face, that they could overthrow the govt with their rifle."

I have a guy on the phone, says his name's Jack Kennedy and he very strongly disagrees with you.

#43 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2006, 12:18 PM:

rjh: Also, there is a large experience difference. Slot machines are used 24/7 365 days a year. Voting machines are used for about 12 hours every 2 years.

It's not that bad. I need to go and vote today for the third time in 3 months (by-election, state- and county-level primaries, and primary run-offs), and municipal elections are next month.

#44 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2006, 12:20 PM:

Ajay: No offense or anything, but are you seriously claiming that the assassination of JFK cause the American government to fall? 'Cause if you are, I've got a guy on the phone for you, says his name's Lynne Johnson or something like that...

#45 ::: Lowell Gilbert ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2006, 04:03 PM:

TNH said: The other thing I know is that if exit polls are unreliable, they ought to be comparably unreliable from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Their unreliability ought not vary with the voting machines used.

Both of those things may be correlated with other, less-than-obviously related factors. Low-income and minority voting equipment tends to be considerably older than average. The voters from such areas might also be less cooperative with pollsters than those in other areas.

If the correlation continues to hold with fancy, new (but suspect) voting technology, that would be much more of a smoking gun.

#46 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 11, 2006, 11:24 PM:

the only problem I have with that is that a bunch of Iraqi's appear to be proving it wrong, or at the very least, proving it not entirely right.

Remember what happened to the Iraqi museums? Now consider that it also happened to the Iraqi military machine, and think of who would have been involved and what they'd do -- e.g., many IEDs are ]liberated[ artillery shells. The triumvirate's assumption that everybody would just fall over when the U.S. said "Boo!" has set us up for a war of attrition; there's no central authority to surrender, as in the WWII cases they were dreaming of.

And note that they've pushed the U.S. to talk about withdrawing from a country 5000 miles away. A U.S. government-by-force wouldn't have any place to withdraw to, and if it reached that stage it would no longer care about anyone who complained of brutality.

#47 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2006, 01:33 AM:

Actually, Iraq would be a good point in favour of my original position. After all, very few Iraqis want us in their country; most of them want us gone; and a sizeable amount are willing to use violence. Overall, the Iraqis want America gone more than America wants to stay.

That would be a far more favourable line up in favour of the insurgents than would ever happen in the US, and the insurgents still haven't kicked the US out.

#48 ::: netsqueech ::: (view all by) ::: April 12, 2006, 03:37 PM:

Re the unreliability of polls: I recall that there were several referendum questions on the ballot in Ohio last election, the Reform Ohio Now questions, on which the returns announced were massively at variance with the previous polls. One question was polling at two to one in favor, and the vote was recorded at two to one against.

Granted this hasn't been reported very widely, how can anyone that does know this have and confidence in our electoral procedures?

#49 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 03:24 AM:

But were they exit polls, reporting what voters said they'd done, or prospective polls, asking what voters think they'll do?

There's often quite a big difference in the results, especially these days, when it appears that some are 'gaming' the poll-takers.

#50 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2006, 07:31 AM:

I don't see how people argue, with a straight face, that they could overthrow the govt with their rifle.

Perhaps they can't overthrow the government, but they can certainly make the country ungovernable.

#51 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2006, 01:08 AM:

Perhaps they can't overthrow the government, but they can certainly make the country ungovernable.

Oh, yes. They could make, say, New York City ungovernable in the way that Iraq is now. Or, depending, Texas. But they couldn't get rid of the govt, and, when the govt really wanted to do anything, they couldn't stop it.

But then, this is all very hypothetical, and let's hope it stays that way.

#52 ::: fidelio considers spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 02:45 PM:

There's no link, and the grammar isn't appalling, but it's repeated, and not directly relevant, except in a vaguely metaphorical way (if you're very imaginative) to the post topic.

Could it be a feeler post?

#53 ::: Cassy B. spots waxy spam buildup ::: (view all by) ::: November 21, 2013, 07:59 AM:

@53

#54 ::: Carol Kimball spots fish spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2013, 02:19 PM:

needs a comment? Here's your comment...

#55 ::: Benjamin Wolfe sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2013, 12:29 AM:

It's extra special gambling spam! Shame on you, spammer, for taking advantage of Gnomish inebriation!

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