Escape from voting machine Hell

As the US presidential election finally arrives, we're hip deep in horror stories about voting machines run amok.

One day, just one more day, and it will all be over.

I'm talking about the US election, of course. (And if you just said to yourself, "What election?", please hold still while I smack you with this sock full of manure.)

Today's hot topic is voting machines. It seems the doyenne of daytime TV, Oprah Winfrey, voted early in Chicago last week and ran smack into a touch-screen voting machine that didn't want to cooperate. She pressed the screen next to You Know Who's name, but nothing happened. One can only imagine the theatrics that ensued in the polling station, but you can watch a video of the world's wealthiest entertainer describing it here.

My point: If it can happen to L'Oprah, it can happen to you. Heck, it even happened to Homer Simpson.

Votes have been flipping like pancakes on electronic voting machines in Colorado, West Virginia, Texas, and Tennessee, among other places. When voters press the touch screen, it either doesn't record their choice (a la Oprah) or it records it for the wrong candidate. And in most cases there's no paper trail, which means there's no way to verify the machine accurately recorded your vote, even if it displayed correctly on screen.

It's not just tree-hugging, tin-foil-hat-wearing Probama voters who've had this problem. In Tennessee, three voters complained their McCain votes were being recorded for The One. Several states have responded by decertifying machines and going back to paper ballots, but more than a third of the US will vote using one of these gizmos. E-voting experts are keeping a watchful eye on several states, including Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

That doesn't mean there's a vast conspiracy and the fix is in. It may be user error, combined with a badly designed GUI, badly calibrated machine, and/or buggy code. Regular readers of this column will be extremely familiar with those kinds of problems.

The Brad Blog, which eats this kind of stuff for breakfast, has compiled some handy tips if you see your votes being flipped or encounter other gremlins living inside an electronic voting machine.

Brad Friedman (aka the Brad blog) also suggests we use a mobile phone camera to capture video of anything irregular and upload it to VideoTheVote or YouTube. I'm not sure how much the blue-haired ladies overseeing the election in my precinct will like that, but hey, it's a free country. At least, for the time being. You can help keep it that way by voting.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags cringelye-voting

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert X. Cringely

InfoWorld
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?