Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Fix is In

OK, I'll be the first to break the story: Colorado (or at least Larimer County) has a serious flaw with its electronic voting machine setup that will ultimately be of great benefit to the Democratic Party. It's very difficult to get the machine to register a vote for the Republican candidate for either president or for the House of Representatives.

In case you couldn't tell, I voted today, taking advantage of the early voting period that began Monday. I was given a choice of electronic or paper ballot, and I chose electronic, as I found it a heck of a lot more convenient in my old home of California when they switched over. The poll workers seemed a bit shocked that I selected electronic, probably given all the bad press electronic voting has gotten since it came on the scene. The poll location had a grand total of two electronic voting machines, but they were setup with roughly 50 of those little folding booth things for filling out paper ballots.

The guy gave me the quick training on the specifics of this machine (a Diebold, which are supposed to be rigged to fake votes for Republicans, if you believe the MSM), and I was off and voting. With the heady rush of voting for president in a swing state for the first time ever (prior to solidly-Democratic California, I was a resident of equally solidly-Democratic New York), I surveyed the first electronic page of the ballot, found my man at the top of the list, pressed firmly on the touch screen for the check box for John McCain, and the machine registered a vote for Barack Obama (who was the candidate on the line under McCain).


I clicked on John MacCain again, and it beeped at me. Poke, poke, poke, braaap, braaap, braaap.

Hmmm...Where is the clear button? There is none.

Ah, here's the "Back button". I hit back, it takes me back to the intro page, I hit "next" and it takes me back to the presidential candidates with my vote for Barack Obama registered.

So I poke some more, and eventually I find that if I press a little lower on the screen, I can uncheck Obama, and all the check boxes on all the candidates return.

So I much more carefully poke at McCain, using just the tip of my finger to make sure I don't hit both McCain and Obama at the same time. I land right directly on the McCain check box, and my vote is recorded.

For Obama.

Seriously. I'm not making this up.

I poke at it a couple times to get it to clear Obama again, and this time I start at the very tippy top of the screen, in the line that says "President of the United States", and I start poking, getting braapped at, and then poking again a tiny bit lower. I worked my way slowly down until, right on the dividing line between the "President of the United States" box and the "John McCain" box, it actually selects McCain.

Now, as you all know, I am a reasonably bright individual. I work in the high tech field. I work on a computer all day long. I have a PhD in electrical engineering. And it took me three tries and about 30 seconds of farting around in order to be able figure out the trick to get the machine to allow me to vote for the guy I actually wanted.

Well, feeling a great deal of success, I punched the "next" button and got for vote for my congressperson. My candidate was in slot one, and once again, my vote was recorded as for slot two. Having learned the trick, I quickly cleared the result and voted by pressing the line above my candidate rather than the checkbox for her.

None of the other pages of the electronic ballot had this problem. I believe this was because the remaining pages had more than one line of "header" text, so the first voting line was lower on the screen.

I think what was going on here was a parallax problem. "The apparent displacement of an observed object due to a change in the position of the observer." The screen was a pretty tall screen, and rather than being upright, it was laid down at perhaps 45 degrees. The end result being that I was looking at the screen from a significantly off-perpendicular angle (similar to sitting on the floor and looking up at a TV from a close distance), with the angle being worse the farther up the ballot screen I was looking, and thus parallax would cause me to perceive the check boxes as being lower on the screen than they actually were when putting my finger on them. This error would get worse as the viewing angle got worse. I'm 6' tall. This problem would be even worse for shorter people.

At least, I hope that parallax was the case, and it wasn't an intentional misprogramming of the touch screen to make it hard to vote for Republicans.

It'll be interesting to see how the third guy on the ballot (Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party) does. It'd be hard to detect a small amount of accidental vote switching between McCain and Obama since it's a pretty tight race here and from the looks of things, most people are expected not to vote electronically. But if Baldwin does mysteriously a lot better than expected, and it just so happens that all his votes come from electronic machines rather than the paper or mail-in ballots, well now then we'd have something to talk about.


ellie said...

Sue them!

Anonymous said...

I hope you reported that...We don't need innocent people voting for the wrong candidate now, do we?

Anonymous said...

I think that's known as a sign from God. :)

And parallex, ahhhh, this explains why I always get $40 from the bank when I think I've hit $100 when I'm driving the very tall van. Now I can mutter and swear using the proper terminology.

Hey, I like this new comment format where you can see the post - how do you change it?

CherkyB said...

Whose god?

I didn't change any of my settings, and I don't see any change in what you can/cannot see while commenting. Did you bang your head again?

Unknown said...

this is unbelievable!
pisses me off right before bed.

Anonymous said...

Your google ad sense is trying to sabotage you . .

Anonymous said...

What a travesty! What a sham! As soon as I am able to depart my bed-chamber with the assistance of my man-servant, I will ride my horseless carriage to the estate of the local magistrate, and lodge a formal complaint. Is this the now acceptable decorum of today's people. Dear Lord, I ask for Providence to interject a healthy sense of deliverance to correct this wrong, and deliver justice to these poor and soiled, yet cute and huddled masses.