Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Input Devices Government Politics Technology

French Voting Machines a "Catastrophe" 259

Posted by kdawson
from the nous-ne-nous-tenons-pas-dans-les-lignes dept.
eldavojohn writes "The electronic voting machine has soured another election. Some French voters have reportedly turned away in disgust after facing up to two hours in lines to use the machines. Further, the article reports, 'Researchers at Paul Verlaine University in Metz said that trials on two of the three machines used in France showed that four people out of every seven aged over 65 could not get their votes recorded.' This article concentrates primarily on usability and efficiency, but surprisingly mentions little (aside from user trust issues) about the security embodied in the machines or whether it was satisfactory. I think all three aspects are important to anyone aiming to produce voting machines. The manufacturer of these particular machines is France Élection."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

French Voting Machines a "Catastrophe"

Comments Filter:
  • More Info (Score:5, Funny)

    by Philotic (957984) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:22AM (#18850989)
    More information on the French machines can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guillotine [wikipedia.org]
  • by stox (131684) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:26AM (#18851019) Homepage
    that what should be the a simple implementation in modern technology is an unmitigated train wreck? Is there a single current voting machine that is considered reliable? Now for the scary thought, the people we trust to chosse are voting machines are making decisions about far more complex issues on a daily basis. I hate to say it, but we're doomed.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by will_die (586523)
      If you skip this summary and read the articles the problem was there were not enough machines that is what everyone was primarily complaining about hte long waits. This was caused primarily by a large amount of people voting. Any problems with machines is not getting any reporting.
      That said there have been major fights leading up to the election about the electronic voting machines with multiple law suits from some parties while other political parties are saying they are great and bringing out scientists
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by OriginalArlen (726444)

      [why is it] that what should be the a simple implementation in modern technology is an unmitigated train wreck?

      Three reasons:

      • Voting is a lot more complex than it appears at first glance.
      • Many computer and system programmers, developers and PMs are idiots. They don't have the resources to do a good job.
      • Ballot boxes are a terrible, terrible mechanism or device to try to replace with a computer. There is absolutely no reason whatsover to switch from a bit of paper with 3" of pencil on a bit of string. However politicians (like most of the rest of the population) have gradually come to believe that Computers ==
      • by necro81 (917438)
        I ask this on every eVoting story that appears on Slashdot, I never get an answer. Why on earth would you WANT to replace a bit of paper and a pencil, with a computer?

        I could think of two reasons why one might want to have computerized voting (or computer-assisted paper ballot filling):

        1) You are incapable, physically, of using a pencil and paper. You may be blind and unable to read the ballot. You may be paralyzed or have a neurodegenerative disease that keeps you from gripping the pencil. In bot
    • by Zeek40 (1017978)
      Because governments award contracts to the lowest bidder, not the lowest bidder capable of doing the job correctly.
    • The voting machines in India work well. They are simple machines, simple to use, and simple to verify. And as the world's most populous democracy, they really understand the issues of getting a lot of votes processed in a reasonable time, in multiple languages. They have big buttons, clearly labeled, and no fancy "screens" or bells and whistles.
  • by Timesprout (579035) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:28AM (#18851037)
    In the highest turnout since the sixties are unhappy with the machines. Quelle Surprise. Strangely enough none of the main stream media seem to have noticed this 'Catastrophe'.
    • by medoc (90780) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:43AM (#18851113) Homepage
      No mainstream media. Yeah Right.
      http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-823448,3 6-900258@51-898967,0.html [lemonde.fr]
      It's not the parties who polled badly which complain, it's the electors. I am a Sarkosy elector (polled nice, thanks), and I can tell you I'm not happy with the queuing.

      I'll just translate the last phrase from the article:
      A 20 h 45, les derniers électeurs du bureau 5 font encore la queue derrière la grille. Les derniers ne verront pas le soleil se coucher.
      At 8 45 PM [poll supposedly closed at 8], the last voters from poll place 5 are still queuing behind the closed doors. The last ones will not see the sun set.
      • So it was a bit slow. How is this a catastrophe? You may recall the recent US presedential election there was also a very high turnout and extensive queues, 5-6 hours in some cases and polling station hours were extended in places to cater for the delay. Not all these polling stations were using machines either. This should have been the end of the world as we know it if a couple of hours is a catastrophe.
        • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

          The difference is that, in Florida, at least, the polling stations had delays due to deliberate underprovisioning of the machines - poor people vote democrat and there's a definite republican bias in the Florida executive branch.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by sumdumass (711423)
            The delays had nothing to do with the parties in charge. Why do people think that they repeat this enough someone will believe them? The country addresses the amount of voters and supplies the machines to record the votes. It was the county that screwed it up. the county board of commissioners and board of electors designate polling precincts and what to equip them. It is in law 101.001 and similar. You can easily find this in any law site following Florida law or you can goto the state website itself. Furt
            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by SailorRipley (1090471)
              sure,

              let's not forget the almost 100.000 people that weren't allowed to vote (although they should have been), of which more than 90% would have voted democrate.

              or the fact that the machines that returned your ballot (so you could redo it) in case it wasn't entirely correctly punched or whatever, were mainly distributed to (richer white =) republican counties and the machines that simply ate defected ballots and not even gave a warning were sent mainly to (poor black/hispanic=) democratic counties...
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by medoc (90780)
          I agree that calling it a catastrophe is pushing it. But people are complaining not just because they had to wait but because the queues can't be explained by the high turnout. They put one machine in places where there had been 4 voting booths previously. And voting with the machine is *not* faster. The problem with this is that some people probably just gave up (which had no effect on overall turnout *this time* because the machines are still sort of experimental and installed in few places).

        • by 246o1 (914193)
          And you may recall that the US election was widely regarded as a catastrophe.

          Of course, part of that was due to the clearly rigged nature of the voting machine shortages (Democratic neighborhoods in Ohio, etc.), rather than just the fact of (unconscionably) long waits.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by sumdumass (711423)
            I'm starting to see a trend here. Do you realize the county offices decide were the polling places are and what to staff them with? Most of these problems in both the Florida and Ohio elections were in places were democrats controlled the counties. Florida does the same in leaving the polling places and what to equip them with to the counties too. Of course both state government decide what is able to be used as a voting machine, the hours and what propaganda can be on the walls and such.

            But this trend seem
            • by 246o1 (914193)
              Ahh, sumdumass, you are right! It WOULD make sense for the Democrats to deliberately disenfranchise their own voters in an extremely close election in the hopes that the media would trumpet their cause! This is especially wily of them, considering that the Democrats were blatantly disenfranchised in the previous election as well, besides winning the popular vote, and the media gave it only a passing glance. Clearly they knew that in 2004 the media was bound to report in detail on the election, a judgment
  • by ratbag (65209) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:29AM (#18851041)
    The turnout was reported at 84% - a post-war record and considerably higher than past elections. It could just be that capacity planning was to blame, rather than the voting machines.
    • by patio11 (857072) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:53AM (#18851191)
      ... people turn up and try to vote. The nerve of them.
      • by tbone1 (309237)
        Remember the good old days when you could just buy the votes and they'd stay bought?

        Sincerely,
        Mayor Richard J. Daley

    • by phayes (202222) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @03:51AM (#18851557) Homepage
      I waited for a half an hour because I went in at 8 AM. Going in early also meant that I was called on to count the vote.

      Our polling station still uses paper ballots, so the time it took depended on the turnout & not on any machines. As we let everyone vote who was in line at 8 PM, we had to wait until 10 PM to start counting. While waiting, I asked the president of the polling station what the average time was. His answer: 90 minutes on average.

      A +2 hour wait was not exceptional.

      The major time consumer when waiting is, as always, the verification of the voting rolls which is done by reading a long listing of registered voters. It can take them up to a minute to find your name when you forgot your voters registration card.

      As there is no paper trail & the code is not open sourced I wouldn't want to use the machines they used in the areas around Paris where they used electronic voting machines. However, the wait had nothing to do with their use or non-use.
      • by lovebyte (81275) *
        >The major time consumer when waiting is, as always, the verification of the voting rolls which is done by reading a long listing of registered voters. It can take them up to a minute to find your name when you forgot your voters registration card.

        Not anymore! While queuing on sunday to vote on one of those stupid machines, I noticed that people took from 15 to 45 seconds to vote on them. That compared to 1sec to drop an envelop in a box!
        So it takes longer to vote for everyone, it is less safe, costs m
      • I didn't have my registration card (moved), they had to look it up for me in the Returned to Sender Stack, signed it.

        What took the longest was picking up each of the 16 ballots. Shitty recycled paper sheet stuck together -- except Sarko's, which kinda looked like someone stepped on it.
    • by makapuf (412290) *
      Sure, but replacing 5 polling booth with 1 machine is not a good way to shorten queues ...
    • by Antity-H (535635)
      I for one would be very interested to see a comparison of the abstention rate in machine equipped voting office versus paper based voting offices...then compare the abstention rate for the same sets of voting offices in previous years.

      This should make it quite clear if the machines led to any significant vote drop-out or not.
    • by Demerara (256642)
      The turnout was reported at 84% - a post-war record and considerably higher than past elections. It could just be that capacity planning was to blame, rather than the voting machines.

      All elections planning must assume 100% turnout - otherwise, you're planning for disenfranchisement. Typically, over 100% paper ballots will be allocated to polling stations, to allow for spoiled papers etc.

      But, I've never, ever encountered an election where they only catered for some percentage above the previous election's t
      • by mpe (36238)
        All elections planning must assume 100% turnout - otherwise, you're planning for disenfranchisement. Typically, over 100% paper ballots will be allocated to polling stations, to allow for spoiled papers etc.

        Far less of a problem to have too many ballot papers than too few. Paper/card is also recyclable/biodegradable/usable as fuel...
      • by ratbag (65209)
        Having thought about this for a little while, I agree with you (which probably means I'll be kicked off Slashdot...)

        Rob.
  • if it's hard to use (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nanosquid (1074949) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @02:49AM (#18851155)
    then it's probably very secure :-)

    Seriously, developers of security-related software often neglect usability, either making their systems insecure because people just disable or work around security, or making their systems unusable by many people.
  • What use is security if there's nothing to secure?
  • by cuby (832037) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @03:02AM (#18851253)
    You can call me old fashion but I am against all kinds of voting machines.
    Democracy works when free elections can be held and its results checked by any common citizen.
    I don't know in the US, but in Europe, any participant in the elections has the right to a representative in all the pooling stations. Any common person can count the votes and confirm its results. When voting machines exist there's no real way for this kind of direct check.
    First, because even if the code is open source, only programmers can check it. This is unfair to any other kind of citizen.
    Second, popular participation. The mobilization of thousands of people in election days, counting the votes is a blessing and a grant of democracy. I've been a representative in several elections and I tell you, people enjoy being there helping and feel proud of it.
    Democracy is the power of the people not the machines.
    • by QuantumG (50515)

      even if the code is open source, only programmers can check it. This is unfair to any other kind of citizen.
      You're so right..

      It is unfair that only the mathematicians can check the counting.

      It is unfair that only the literate can read the ballot.

      Perhaps programming should be taught in public schools.

      Oh wait.

      • by mpe (36238)
        It is unfair that only the mathematicians can check the counting.

        You just need someone with basic numaracy to check ballot counting. It's a matter of are there X bundles containing Y ballot papers marked in the same way . (Where Y is some constant.)

        It is unfair that only the literate can read the ballot.

        If people can recognise a logo, photograph, etc they don't need to be able to read in order to either vote or count ballot papers.
        It is also perfectly possible to design a fairly dumb machine (the dumb
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "Once men turned their thinking over to machines in hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them." -- Frank Herbert, 1965
    • by MORB (793798) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @05:37AM (#18852127)
      I really don't see what was wrong with the old system in france.

      The old system was simple and foolproof when it came to counting etc. Take an envelope, one vote bulletin from each candidate, go in the voting booth, put the bulletin you want in the envelope, then you just held in above the slot while the guy pulls the lever and let it fall in.
      The box was locked and made of transparent plastic.

      Then to count the votes, they enlisted volunteers (people at your local voting facility often nagged you to come help after the poll, so it wasn't exclusive in any way shape or form) to count the votes.
      Unlike the old american system with punch cards, counting the votes was easy and straightforward, and performed by humans.

      Double checking the counts by recounting the piles of the various bulletins was also easy.
      Given all that, I fail to see why they felt the need to move to electronic vote, which is much harder to get right, and can never get as transparent.

      Anyone can understand how counting papers work and how the design of the old system was secure, whereas with an electronic system, you have to be a computer scientist with some knowledge of computer and network security to have a chance to know if it's secure.

      And even then, you can't assess if the actual system is deployed in a secure way just by looking at the physical installation.
    • by mpe (36238)
      You can call me old fashion but I am against all kinds of voting machines. Democracy works when free elections can be held and its results checked by any common citizen. I don't know in the US, but in Europe, any participant in the elections has the right to a representative in all the pooling stations. Any common person can count the votes and confirm its results. When voting machines exist there's no real way for this kind of direct check.

      You need as much transparancy as possible. There are ways to use
  • by ex-geek (847495) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @03:08AM (#18851291)
    I don't really see the benefit of these machines. Sure, you get the results a little bit earlier, but that's hardly important. So why are some countries adopting voting machines, while others don't even think about it?

    What is the TCO of these things anyway? These machines are used maybe once a year. Will they still work in ten years down the line? Lots of motherboards don't due to failing CMOS batteries for example. It seems to me that given the rapid pace of changes in the field of computing and networking, it would be very difficult to maintain such a system over decades. Do voting machines use modems? What if everybody uses VoIP and cell phones in ten years?
    • There's no fucking point to this machines, esp. not in France, where we only have ONE question per vote, not 200 initiatives like in California. It's a highly parallelizable process. 90% of precincts had preliminary results before many electronic precincts had even finished /polling/, due to delays.
    • I don't really see the benefit of these machines. Sure, you get the results a little bit earlier, but that's hardly important. So why are some countries adopting voting machines, while others don't even think about it?

      One selling point is that the machines can be adapted for people with disabilities. The iVotronic, apparently the machine in question here, has a headphone jack so that a blind or vision-impaired voter can use the machine without getting assistance from a sighted person to cast his/her vote

  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @03:13AM (#18851333)
    Some French voters have reportedly turned away in disgust after facing up to two hours in lines to use the machines.

    In other words, they threw up their hands and surrendered.
    [Their place in line, of course.]

    Quelle surprise!

  • I voted on the good ole paper & ballot box system, it took a whole 1 min.

    My cousin, in another part of the country, had to vote on a machine. He protested to the head of the polling station, who laughed it off (after all, what does he know about machines, he's just an average electrical engineer), cause, you see, it's been validated by the ministry of interior.

    Who's the minister of interior? Oh, that's right, that fascist hugging, Microsoft cocksucking, software patent supporting son of a motherfucking female dog (my apologies to our canine friends). [grioo.com]
  • by Dobeln (853794) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @03:22AM (#18851375)
    One word: Paper ballots.
    • by kiddailey (165202)
      With counting like that, the paper vote tally will be just as incorrect as an electronic one!

      (sorry, you handed it to me and I had to take it)
  • by yogikoudou (806237) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @03:45AM (#18851517)
    Nedap [wikipedia.org] is. They had to change their machines in the Netherlands after the group Wij vertrouwen stemcomputers niet [wijvertrou...ersniet.nl] demonstrated flaws, especially with the LCD screen - it was possible to detect the selected vote remotely using a Tempest-like effect, if I understand correctly).

    Anyways, I voted on such a machine, and saw how old people had trouble using it. It is also the first time I had to wait to vote (15 minutes instead of less than one), because their was only one machine and many people had to be told how to use it.

    Two of the main parties called for their removal; I hope this is going to happen.
  • by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @03:48AM (#18851547) Homepage Journal
    or at least, it should be

    check marks on a piece of paper, that can then be scanned optically, is no more complicated than voting should ever get. it's not a prolem that needs to be solved more efficiently. the more important consideration when it comes to democracy is legitimacy, trust. and if you can't feel it taste it touch it, if it's a voting machine contraption, or an electronic doodad, trust goes down

    and for good reason: all voting mechanisms are prone to tampering. even with paper ballots, boxes of them can get lost, they can be scanned improperly, etc. but the point is, the more complicated the process, the more attack vectors you present. KISS: keep it simple stupid. a valuable concept in programming, a valuable concept when considering the voting process

    the problem with people, especially on slashdot, is technophilia: we are always trying, almost fetishistically, to mechanize processes, even if they don't need to be. in most cases, this fetishism is harmless. but when faith in democracy is on the line, our technophilia needs to take a hike
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Fruny (194844)

      check marks on a piece of paper, that can then be scanned optically, is no more complicated than voting should ever get.

      It's even easier than that. You have paper ballots, each bearing a single name. You choose one, put it in the provided envelope and then drop it in the (transparent) ballot box. Counting is done manually, with ballots being opened by one person, read aloud by another and checked by a third. Two independent tallies are simultaneously made, each with one person counting and one monitoring.

    • by robably (1044462)

      the problem with people, especially on slashdot, is technophilia: we are always trying, almost fetishistically, to mechanize processes, even if they don't need to be. in most cases, this fetishism is harmless. but when faith in democracy is on the line, our technophilia needs to take a hike

      No, the prevailing view of electronic voting machines on Slashdot is that they are defective by design; that they are inherently insecure and the results cannot be checked and verified. I appreciate that you were trying

  • Any electronic voting procedure is a cathastrophy. Plain simple as that. A electronic voting machine is a black box and it is impossible to verify the correctness of the result. Votes have to be counted in public! Nothing less. An electronic voting machine can help to get a faster estimate of the result but without paper ballots being produced and without paper ballots making the only official result a election is worthless. Plain simple as this. Any objection? - Martin
    • by vtcodger (957785)
      ***Any electronic voting procedure is a cathastrophy. Plain simple as that. A electronic voting machine is a black box and it is impossible to verify the correctness of the result.***

      There are a variety of systems that actually allow a recount (hanging chads anyone?). I agree that any system that doesn't allow later recounting the votes is unlikely to be a good idea.

  • by the_masked_mallard (792207) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @04:36AM (#18851819)
    In India, we have been using voting machines for quite some time. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_voting_machine s [wikipedia.org]
    Probably no election in the Western world can compare with the muscle power, booth capturing and other illegitimate means used in India. A number of people are illiterate and yet there have been no concerns raised about the machine's usability.
    It has been used in difficult inhospitable terrain, using batteries where electricity is not available. Perhaps the mindset needs to change to accept this new mechanism of voting.
    • In France, as in several other countries, the law requires that the voting (the order of actions - checkings and such - to do to introduce the ballot. Not what the person actually wrote when in the booth) and counting process can be controlled and supervised by any citizen.

      If you want, you as an individual can stay in the voting room to be sure that the correct procedure is followed, and then can look at the counting and check if everything went normally.

      To do so, the needed skill are literacy and some basi
  • by dark-br (473115)
    Yes, really, KEEP IT SIMPLE.

    The problem with all this e-voting revolution we see now on First World Countries is the obscene amount of money they have at their disposal to develop such technology.

    Too much money in this case has been translated into touch screens, fancy hi-tech networked machines that simply have no focus on usability. Take the Brazilian example in contrast, the first country to have a fully electronic election (2000): No money, no touch screen, no networked machine == No problems! 100.000.0
  • by Attila the Bun (952109) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @05:23AM (#18852029)

    Here in France, a "Catastrophe" is something which is mildly irritating, like a crack in the pavement. So for example,

    "Sacré bleu, c'est pas possible! Merde alors, c'est le fin de la civilisation! Il nous faut encore un révolution. Quelle catastrophe."

    translates into UK English as

    "Oh!"

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      Here in France, a "Catastrophe" is something which is mildly irritating

      Tell me about it. I work for Thales in Australia. Words which are close enough to the English meaning get used enough to create all kinds of confusion. Normally is a good one. In English this refers to something which happens every morning, or every time I start my car, etc. In French it means something which should happen, regardless of if it did or not.

  • Voting? (Score:2, Funny)

    by IHC Navistar (967161)
    French voting..... .....As well engineered as the Maginot Line!

    "Not to worry, Mr. De Gaulle. The Germans will never come through the forest."
    • French voting..... .....As well engineered as the Maginot Line!

      The illustration was an ES&S iVotronic machine, designed in Omaha, NE, USA, with hardware and embedded software work farmed out to Lenexa (USA) and Taiwan. Assembled in the Philippines.

  • Farmers running their bulldozers into McDonalds? Flaming cars? No? Then it's of no consequence. To the French, a catastrophe is when you personally are inconvenienced 30 seconds and everyone else is dropping dead.
  • by jopet (538074) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @07:50AM (#18852873) Journal
    I do not see the advantage.

    As the original article and many others show, there are lots of disadvantages though.

    But there is one big advantage to the traditional paper and pencil voting that nearly never is mentioned:
    Everyone can immediately understand how it works. Everyone is directly and without additional knowledge able to understand the procedure, to control it or take part in its control, and to immediately understand any tinkering or irregularities that could happen. This is not at all the case with ANY electronic system. Nearly nobody of the voters will understand the ways how the system could fail, could be manipulated etc.

    I think that the traditional system where many many helpers are needed to make elections work is an actual plus: all these people are witnesses of and active contributors to the democratic process, and they are actively supporting it (at least in my country, those "election helpers" are all working on a voluntary basis).
    If you replace these people by a black box, you take away an important democractic element.

    Again I ask: what for?
    • by will_die (586523)
      Everyone can immediately understand how it works.
      You have never seen the results of people filling in paper ballots or surveys. Say you have a box next to the select along with instructions and pictures showing people how they should put an X in the box. While the majority of people will do it correctly you will get a significant number that have circled the box, but a check mark in/out of the box, underlined thier selection,etc. That does not even could the number of people who make multiple selectio
  • by Svenheim (723925) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @08:12AM (#18853073)
    In my country (Norway) all votes are still counted manually. You go into a booth, and there you choose between lists for each party, one sheet pr party. So you just gotta take the right piece of paper, put it in an envelope, leave the booth and drop it into an urn. It's cheap, it's easy, and it's reliable. The only thing one has to make sure about is that there are enough lists for each party, which is a fairly simple deal. Counting is done manually, but it's done quite fast, since you can immediately tell which party the vote has been cast for. Now, in our system there are a list of people in the priority the party has put them in that district (we have a representative system, not one-man constituencies), and you can shuffle the order of the names and even strike out some names if you want, but that can be done after the ballots have been sorted per party, so the election result is pretty much clear a few hours after the polls have closed. I remember I was shocked witnessing the hopeless ballots from Florida in the 2000 election, with our system a recount couldve been done in a few hours.
  • "Catastrophe?" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Guppy06 (410832) on Tuesday April 24, 2007 @03:38PM (#18860171)
    Yeah, those backwards, undemocratic Frenchies only had an election turnout of around 85%. Clearly they're not fit for US-style democracy.

"Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago." -- Bernard Berenson

Working...