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WA Election To Try Online Voting

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the opportunity-cost dept.

Government 304

AuMatar writes "According to the Seattle Times, the King Conservation District is going to allow online voting to combat chronic low turnouts. You can already view the voting portal. As a citizen of WA seriously concerned with politics, anything that completely removes a paper trail like this scares me. Luckily, this is probably the least important election in the state. I wonder if anyone will hack the election so 300% of voters vote for Firefly or Stephen Colbert or something."

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304 comments

Hmm... WA politics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35271818)

as far as the particular election goes, it may be unimportant. But, usually King County is the 800-lb gorilla for state-wide elections...

Washington really should just implement Oregon's vote-by-mail system, as it just simply works. But, instead, they have a half-assed implementation.

Re:Hmm... WA politics... (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271964)

as far as the particular election goes, it may be unimportant. But, usually King County is the 800-lb gorilla for state-wide elections...

Washington really should just implement Oregon's vote-by-mail system, as it just simply works. But, instead, they have a half-assed implementation.

Actually in Washington state, I believe what's holding up vote by mail is Pierce County rather than King.

I'm not sure what the resistance is (I live in Pierce). I mean, I personally like the experience of going to the polling place, filling out my ballot, and gabbing with the older folks who volunteer to run the place - but after missing a few elections due to work issues, I signed up for a "permanent absentee" (vote by mail) ballot a couple years ago. It's simple, you can take your time filling it out... and you can still drop it off - for free - if you don't want to spend the money on a stamp.

Re:Hmm... WA politics... (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272420)

I moved from a vote by mail state (Oregon) to a polling place state (Alaska) and I found the opposite to be true.

I hated going to an out of the way polling place, being checked twice for my ID, signing my name off a list, going into a closet and then writing crap down. Would much prefer a mail in ballot for up here.

Oregon's ballot return was pre-paid by the state, at least through 2008, so no stamp required.

Re:Hmm... WA politics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35271982)

Some counties in WA vote exclusively by mail in ballots already.

I agree that it should be statewide and not left up to the counties. However, WA also has a much larger population (nearly 75% larger) than OR and is suffering a pretty bad budget crisis, so I doubt this will happen any time soon.

Re:Hmm... WA politics... (1, Interesting)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272022)

Low turnouts are good.

It means only people who CARE about the election, and likely did actual research, are casting ballots. The rest are just re-electing the same damn idiot, because they recognize the name - like visiting McDonalds because you're afraid to try something new. (I know - I did the same thing when I was 20 and stupid.)

Re:Hmm... WA politics... (2)

dave420 (699308) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272182)

... or they are voting because they have been told to vote for a specific candidate by people they idolise, or who claim to have some authority over the people (such as ministers/other people who scare them).

It's clearly a myth that low turn-outs are good. I mean, just think about it for a second. Seriously. It's fucking retarded to claim they are somehow good. Especially for the half-assed reason you just gave.

Re:Hmm... WA politics... (1)

cheater512 (783349) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272366)

Especially when you see countries like Australia where voting is mandatory. 100% voter turn out has put us in a far better position than the US is in.

Re:Hmm... WA politics... (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272446)

I agree, low turn outs are bad, it just insures the most rabid followers of the main stream candidates and super involved special interests vote.

In the US voting should be mandatory, stack a $100 fine on it if you don't vote at the national level.

Re:Hmm... WA politics... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35272188)

elections aren't about electing the best guy. they're about stability because people are less likely to cause a fuss if they were the ones to put the bastard in power and they'll cause even less if they know they can get rid of him a few years down the line in exchange for another bastard.
high voter turnout means more people who know they themselves voted for the bastard.

Re:Hmm... WA politics... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272214)

if they know they can get rid of

All thats needed for pacification purposes is:

"if they think they can get rid of"

They'll never do it, of course, as most voters consider their political party to be an unalterable demographic, no more so than they could change their race or age. But thinking its possible is good for pacification.

Re:Hmm... WA politics... (1)

masterzora (871343) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272250)

Your naïveté is cute if you actually think your average voter has done legitimate research. I will grant you that low turnout means only people who care (either about a position or about voting in general will show up, and most of them will have a strong opinion one way or another, but the level of research doesn't tend to be beyond party lines or media favourites.

Re:Hmm... WA politics... (1)

Sparks23 (412116) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272344)

King County already has a vote-by-mail system [kingcounty.gov] in place. In fact, the last King County elections were handled entirely by mail [kcls.org] .

first (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35271822)

corrupted vote

The proper way to address low turnout... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35271824)

... is to make people want to vote.

Not to make it easy for somebody else to vote in their place.

They could start by fixing a system rigged to ensure the preeminence of two parties.

Trust the politicians to not do that.

Re:The proper way to address low turnout... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35271864)

somebody else to vote in their place

Sure, "every vote counts", but can what you are describing be done to any statistically significant extent? I would venture to say that hacked voting systems are an easier way to manipulate the system.
After all, these politicians are spending millions on "hacking" the public's opinions, hacking a computer system will probably come way cheaper.

Re:The proper way to address low turnout... (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272062)

>They could start by fixing a system rigged to ensure the preeminence of two parties.

I thought we already did that!

Re:The proper way to address low turnout... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35272232)

As someone who formerly lived in King county, I'd say this is sponsored by Microsoft - and as odd as it may sound, especially on Slashdot - that's probably the one location on Earth I would expect an online voting system to be implemented fairly. MS programmed all the traffic lights there, the cable system (though Comcast-run, its a custom guide interface that proudly displays "Enhanced by Microsoft" on it, same for signs near some traffic lights). Frankly, MS already has a monopoly, they could care less about votes, and this is a purely nerd-driven venture. Would I trust the same in Silicon Valley or anywhere else? Hell no, I've lived in both Redmond and Silicon Valley and for all the things cited as corruption within business, the former has none in their locale, save for Nintendo sitting across the street spying on the xbox lab.

Re:The proper way to address low turnout... (4, Informative)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272364)

You obviously don't know anything about the issue. The problem is that the King Conservation District is in a sort of legal loophole. It has to be funded by the conservation district rather than the state, and isn't ever on the normal ballots that are sent out. Consequently, there's only one polling place for the issue and it's hidden in a back corner of a library.

Consequently, it's the only office I haven't had the chance to vote for since I gained the right well over a decade ago. This isn't about us being progressive or trying to get more voters per se, it's about the thoroughly undemocratic way in which the positions have been filled. In a county with a million or so eligible voters, the elections tend to draw only a few thousand voters in a typical election cycle.

that's an awfully Luddite sentiment for Slashdot (0)

spazdor (902907) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271834)

If the paper trail existed, were you likely to get to verify it for yourself? I bet that most of us, in a "paper trail" verified election, are still stuck with taking someone else's word for it that the paper trail exists, and leads where they say it does.

Online voting, if it were done right, would give me much more confidence than any number of safeguards you might put on a physical chain of custody. At the bottom of it, very large prime numbers are way harder to forge than anything you might make out of paper.

Re:that's an awfully Luddite sentiment for Slashdo (4, Insightful)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271870)

I can verify the paper trail myself when I vote. I fill in a black line with a marker and put in a scanning machine. It reads it it then drops it in a tub and I get a receipt with a code on it it. I can go watch them empty the locked tubs and watch a hand recount if it want. I can also watch the locked ballets sitting in a jail cell if I wish (in the case of a recount).

Re:that's an awfully Luddite sentiment for Slashdo (2)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272204)

The PRI used paper ballots and stole election after election for eighty years in Mexico.

Re:that's an awfully Luddite sentiment for Slashdo (1)

spazdor (902907) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272246)

And there are people in Las Vegas who have built multi-million dollar stage shows out of their ability to confound the exact observation techniques you're relying on.

There is no sleight-of-hand that can solve NP-hard factorisation problems in less time than it takes to compute them.

Re:that's an awfully Luddite sentiment for Slashdo (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271910)

Online voting, if it were done right, would give me much more confidence than any number of safeguards you might put on a physical chain of custody.

No, it wouldn't because fewer people would understand how the safeguards in question work. With a "paper trail" verified election, most people can understand how the verification works. Not only that, but most people would be capable of monitoring at least a local election to see whether it was fixed. They probably wouldn't, but they could. With electronic voting (online or otherwise) a much maller group is capable of examining the verification process and determining if it actually verifies anything.

Re:that's an awfully Luddite sentiment for Slashdo (1)

commodore6502 (1981532) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272076)

>>>Online voting, if it were done right, would give me much more confidence than any number of safeguards you might put on a physical chain of custody.

Hardly.
If I wanted to steal an election, it's easier to flip a few bits and give myself 1 million extra votes, then to move around a couple thousand pounds of paper. Also the latter would probably make me get caught.

Re:that's an awfully Luddite sentiment for Slashdo (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272196)

If done right it would take a damn-sight more than flipping a few bits. That's the whole point of the part where the OP said "if it were done right". It would also be a lot more secure than bits of paper which can't be checked by the voter, and which can go missing/be replaced.

Re:that's an awfully Luddite sentiment for Slashdo (0)

spazdor (902907) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272200)

it's easier to flip a few bits and give myself 1 million extra votes
Why not learn something about some of the proposed systems which you're certain you could subvert effortlessly?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_voting#Cryptographic_verification [wikipedia.org]

Re:that's an awfully Luddite sentiment for Slashdo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35272142)

Perhaps you should read up on the problems with online voting before you make these sorts of comments.
Securing a vote is trivial, as long as you are happy that your ID is attached to the vote.
However this has the problem that you no longer have a secret ballot, apart from potential state sponsored discrimination, you can also be a victim of external intimidation, since others can see how you voted. Vote buying is also possible, since you can now prove how you voted.

If you eliminate any association of your ID from your vote, then you also eliminate you ability to verify that the vote you cast is indeed the vote that was counted.
So while you can be happy that noone can detect who you voted for, you can't in any way prevent your vote from being replaced by another similarly anonymous vote.

Any hybrid between these two extremes interposes a number of independent bodies that you must trust not to reveal a secret. The amalgam of these secrets are able to reconstruct your ID. The problem here is that you are now relying on blind trust, if the stakes are high enough, they can each be bought. And more likely over time, these independent bodies will either be omitted for cost reasons or become less "independent". Regardless, you are down to trusting that everyone will play fair. There is no way of observably proving it.

The physical chain of evidence approach works because it allows all opposing parties to observe the handling of the votes. Their free access as witnesses is a basis requirement of a fair election.

Re:that's an awfully Luddite sentiment for Slashdo (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272300)

Perhaps you should read up on the problems with online voting before you make these sorts of comments.
Securing a vote is trivial, as long as you are happy that your ID is attached to the vote.
However this has the problem that you no longer have a secret ballot, apart from potential state sponsored discrimination, you can also be a victim of external intimidation, since others can see how you voted. Vote buying is also possible, since you can now prove how you voted.

If you eliminate any association of your ID from your vote, then you also eliminate you ability to verify that the vote you cast is indeed the vote that was counted.

You need to read up on the Debian voting system and hash functions. Not Condorcet, although thats cool.

Here's the last election tally sheet:

http://www.debian.org/vote/2010/vote_001_tally.txt [debian.org]

Also there is a procedure that you can vote multiple times and only the last counts. That would seem to eliminate all but very last moment intimidation. Which can be eliminated by everyone voting at the same time, more or less. How many can realistically be intimidated by one intimidator?

Re:that's an awfully Luddite sentiment for Slashdo (1)

praxis (19962) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272234)

If the paper trail existed, were you likely to get to verify it for yourself?

I personally have only gone and observed the counting process once, when I felt it was wise to make sure there were people watching. In my community, enough people observe the official count that I don't feel obligated to do it every time. I have also once verified my ballot was counted by validating against my stub's serial number.

It is a much different situation between having a paper trail that can be verified by the average citizen observing and an electronic database.

Re:that's an awfully Luddite sentiment for Slashdo (1)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272296)

>Online voting, if it were done right, would give me much more confidence than any number of safeguards you might put on a physical chain of custody.

I agree. Not sure if it's the chain of custody that's the bigger concern or verifying identity.

I always get a warm fuzzy feeling (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35271838)

On election night, when I see TV images of overweight middle-aged women and seniors sitting around tables in school cafeterias and public libraries counting boxes full of paper ballots. Then I think, if someone wanted to steal this election, they'd better have a small army and be very, very good. Some things are best done the old way.

Re:I always get a warm fuzzy feeling (1)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272418)

Uh, you do realize that overweight middle-aged women and senior citizens are the only Americans who vote, right?

uh, oh! (-1, Troll)

cashman73 (855518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271842)

Perhaps the biggest worry here is that this is Washington State, home of Redmond, and Micro$oft. What do you think the odds are that Ballmer will want to throw his two cents (I mean, chairs) into the debate?

Re:uh, oh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35272224)

Fucking BRILLIENT, Dr. Brainiac. A "Micro$oft" / Balmer joke. You're a high school drop-out, yes?

Laziness (1)

doubleplusungodly (1929514) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271844)

How many citizens would not give enough of a shit and not go on the website to vote? In today's day and age, you need to have Facebook voting /sarcasm.

VoteBook! (5, Interesting)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271928)

I'll ignore your sarcasm and raise you total seriousness. The big problem with voting right now is we're pitted against each other in a kind of prisoner's dilemma. But if we really applied social networking (Assuming no fraud for now) we could thrash it among ourselves to organize the nation's voters, where suddenly Democrat, Republican, Tea, Libertarian, & Green ALL find themselves bewildered on the streets as a really honest smart tech president cruises into office.

Re:Laziness (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272392)

This isn't about laziness, this particular position isn't included on the normal ballot because it's paid for by the conservation district itself rather than the state. Consequently there's typically only 1 polling place which is tucked away in a downtown library and doesn't have any signs as to where to vote.

Plus it's voted for on a non-election day and I'd been voting for over a decade before I'd even heard about it.

Why the emphasis on turnout? (5, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271852)

I have never understood the emphasis on voter turnout. It is more important to have voters who understand (and care about) the issues being voted on than it is to have a large number of voters. Making it easier to vote does not improve the responsiveness of government to the voters, it actually does the reverse.
Of course if one examines the other policies supported by the "make it easier to vote" groups, one quickly realizes that they
want a larger number of poorly informed voters.

Re:Why the emphasis on turnout? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35272100)

Large groups of uninformed voters are easily controlled by fear mongering. Enter: buying votes.

Re:Why the emphasis on turnout? (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272230)

High turnout means more people have consented to be ruled. Low turnout means they've withheld their consent. It has a direct bearing on the legitimacy of the government.

Re:Why the emphasis on turnout? (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272330)

It depends on who you are trying to get elected. The higher the turnout, the harder it is to identify the dead ones.

Re:Why the emphasis on turnout? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272412)

When the average turn out for an election is less than 1% of the eligible voters, turn out becomes very important. Also, if the election were handled the way that typical elections were and mailed out to registered voters, I'd tend to agree with you. But in this case it's a sort of secret handshake deal because the state doesn't handle the election.

Re:Why the emphasis on turnout? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35272452)

The issue is that currently the difficulty of voting in some places means an unbalanced view of the electorate. For instance, it's easier for stay-at-home dad to vote than someone who is required to travel out of state on voting day and can't get to a voting booth.

Online and mail-in voting allow for anyone who cares enough to vote to do so.

Additionally, online and mail-in voting allow the voter to carefully research every single issue (if desired) before casting a ballot. This is difficult otherwise, as it's tricky to memorize what your votes were going to be. This year I moved to Colorado where we have mail-in voting, and it is the first time in my life I read the entirety of the various ballot initiatives and researched the candidates for minor offices. I think this is a good thing. I have voted in every election I have been eligible, and by virtue of allowing me to mail my ballot in, I voted in a much more educated fashion than I would have otherwise.

Best,

Estonia already has electronic voting. (1)

mardicas (1786618) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271874)

Estonia has had electronic voting for years. Local district and government voting. :-)

Imagine the worst person you know with a PC... (3, Informative)

masterwit (1800118) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271876)

From the article:

When Washington, D.C., tested an open-source electronic voting system intended for armed-forces members last year, a team of University of Michigan computer scientists hacked in and altered votes.

Each time a vote was cast, the hackers left a "calling card" on the screen, played the Michigan fight song and secretly changed the latest vote — until election officials shut down the site after two days.

"This obviously doesn't go a long way in building public confidence," Election Trust Managing Partner John Bodin said of the incident. But that shouldn't tarnish a "trusted" industry leader like Scytl, he said.

On another note:
Here is a Berkeley paper that looked at a voting system by Scytl used in Florida: http://www.eecs.berkeley.edu/~daw/papers/scytl-odbp.pdf [berkeley.edu]
They we're mixed in their findings (jump to the conclusion if your just browsing...)

I know fraud happens with paper, I know this saves money, but I'm still skeptical.

From the FAQ after the second link in TFA:

Q: How does the King CD eVoting platform provide end-to-end online balloting security?
A: Secured by Scytl USA, this solution provides end-to-end security. Votes are encrypted and
digitally signed by voters in the voters' voting devices (e.g., PCs) before they are cast. The private
key to decrypt the votes is divided in shares which are distributed to the King CD Electoral Board
(community stakeholders) before the election begins. The private key is destroyed in this process
and do not exist during the election. At the end of the election, the King CD Electoral Board
members have to meet to reconstruct the private key and decrypt the votes.

Encryption is a good start... really I have mixed feelings about this too. Any thoughts on this encryption anyone? - I would love to hear from someone with industry experience.

Re:Imagine the worst person you know with a PC... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35271960)

Really, encryption is not the problem. We have plenty of encryption algorithms that can be relied on, it's how that encryption is implemented (in software, etc) as well as everything else. If I can just hack someones desktop and get whatever their credentials are, then the encryption really doesn't matter any more.

Re:Imagine the worst person you know with a PC... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35271962)

If the private key was actually destroyed, then it cannot be recovered in the timeframe of an election unless the system itself is flawed. Someone needs to read a book [schneier.com] .

Re:Imagine the worst person you know with a PC... (1)

JonySuede (1908576) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272006)

by destroyed I think they meant splitted.

Re:Imagine the worst person you know with a PC... (1)

masterzora (871343) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272398)

Their terminology is obviously off, but their intention is clear. During the election the private key is split into chunks that are distributed among different people and they delete (securely, I hope) the pieced together version. Thus, in order to use said private key you (theoretically) either need to make a mathematical breakthrough or get all of those guys to give up their piece. After the election, these guys get together and put the private key back together. Assuming they don't screw up the implementation or leave other glaring holes elsewhere, this is an entirely reasonable scheme.

Re:Imagine the worst person you know with a PC... (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272120)

If the private key was actually destroyed, then it cannot be recovered in the timeframe of an election unless the system itself is flawed. Someone needs to read a book [schneier.com] .

That was what jumped out at me as well. If the election managers can "reconstruct" a supposed private key - how is that key considered secure? The WHOLE POINT of a private key is supposed to be that you - and ONLY you - have the ability to access it.

Re:Imagine the worst person you know with a PC... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272368)

If the private key was actually destroyed, then it cannot be recovered in the timeframe of an election unless the system itself is flawed. Someone needs to read a book [schneier.com] .

That was what jumped out at me as well. If the election managers can "reconstruct" a supposed private key - how is that key considered secure? The WHOLE POINT of a private key is supposed to be that you - and ONLY you - have the ability to access it.

Lots of dancing around to avoid using "technical terms". Go google for "Shamir's Secret Sharing" or

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shamir's_Secret_Sharing [wikipedia.org]

I am about 99% certain the Shamir in SSS and the Shamir in RSA are the same Shamir but I'm too lazy to look it up and it doesn't really prove anything other than SSS was designed by a smart guy (then again, most broken systems were also designed by smart guys).

Or more generally:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secret_sharing [wikipedia.org]

Anyway, "apt-get install ssss" on a modern system will provide many interesting and informative lab opportunities.

The idea of SSSS is private data can be made public if you can just get X number of people to agree to conspire and pool their shares, where X might be, say, 200.

Re:Imagine the worst person you know with a PC... (2)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272008)

and it was all like beep! beep beep! and it at my vote.

And it was a really good vote, too.

Re:Imagine the worst person you know with a PC... (1)

RingDev (879105) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272038)

Question though... what happens if for what ever reason the private keys are lost/corrupted?

If all it takes is disrupting the keys to prevent a specific district from having their votes counted, it could be quite damning. Even if they spread the key over every single district in the state, if any one of those key shares is corrupted/damaged/losts, would it not prevent the reading of any of the votes?

Seems like given such a system, there is almost absolutely a back door of some kind. Having an entire state lose its votes due to an individual key share holder maliciously tampering with, or having someone else tamper with their share of the key, would be a unimaginatively costly issue.

-Rick

Re:Imagine the worst person you know with a PC... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35272316)

This has been solved before take a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shamir's_Secret_Sharing

Re:Imagine the worst person you know with a PC... (2)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272444)

This has been solved before take a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shamir's_Secret_Sharing [wikipedia.org]

There are other solutions such as a public ceremony attended by the candidates where a backup of the private keys, on a flash drive, is dropped into a tub of quick epoxy, dropped into a dumpster full of cement, dropped down an abandoned mine shaft, covered with 1000 feet of gravel, capped with reinforced concrete, etc etc until everyone is satisfied but it is theoretically too expensive to easily steal.

Personally, I'd launch a flash drive to the moon. If anyone ever fetches it, send the next to Mars. You get the idea.

Re:Imagine the worst person you know with a PC... (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272052)

Encryption is a good start... really I have mixed feelings about this too. Any thoughts on this encryption anyone? - I would love to hear from someone with industry experience.

What does encryption accomplish, in this case, other than to help make sure the vote isn't altered in transit between the voter's machine and the server? That sort of vote-by-vote interference would be a very ineffective way to throw an election.

It's like bank fraud - while obviously you want your banking sessions to go through SSL, people still manage to steal credit cards by the millions due to server hacks, idiot bankers who carry customer data home on unencrypted laptops, etc.

When it comes to online voting, I simply do not trust the people in charge to make informed decisions on the best way to secure the process. I have no doubt that the decision was made by non-technical people, and at best they were advised by IT managers (who, in my experience, tend to talk a good game with non-techie folks but really don't have anywhere near the requisite knowledge to be the sole technical advisors in this role).

Re:Imagine the worst person you know with a PC... (1)

squidflakes (905524) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272094)

I'm not sure I want to trust my vote security to a company named after a character from the Dune series of books that was able to change his appearance at will and was an intergalactic espionage agent.

Re:Imagine the worst person you know with a PC... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272372)

OOh. +1 Evil Geek trivia points

Re:Imagine the worst person you know with a PC... (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272134)

My semi-educated guess here is that any sort of proprietary encryption protocol is more open to attack than a well-known publicly documented system, because once it becomes a valuable target (and public voting mechanisms are definitely high value targets) its security-by-obscurity goes away rapidly. Once security-by-obscurity is gone, then the proprietary algorithm is at a significant disadvantage just because there were fewer White Hats looking for bugs.

In other words, I won't support any proprietary protocol until Bruce Schneier and other smart folks like him have taken their stab at it.

Re:Imagine the worst person you know with a PC... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35272180)

This sounds like a form of Shamir's Secret Sharing [wikipedia.org] . However, like another poster questioned: "What happens if a key is corrupted or 'lost'?" I'm not sure if this is a case where you want the set of subkeys able to decrypt the source to be less than the total number of keys.

Click voting, like Facebook...! (4, Insightful)

urbanriot (924981) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271884)

So rather than politically engaged voters who care, travelling their voting station to cast a ballot, we can now encourage everyone to click vote, based on who has the best style, a trustworthy face and catchy slogans! Like. Comment. Vote.

Re:Click voting, like Facebook...! (1)

LetterRip (30937) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272208)

So rather than politically engaged voters who care, travelling their voting station to cast a ballot, we can now encourage everyone to click vote, based on who has the best style, a trustworthy face and catchy slogans!

Unfortunately 'those who care' don't necessarily make more informed decisions than those who don't. Probably the best solution is mandatory voting which other countries have implemented, which prevents highly motivated minoritys from dominating the political landscape.

Re:Click voting, like Facebook...! (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272402)

I have mixed feelings about mandatory voting. On one hand, I know everyone should vote, on the other I don't believe it's governments role to force anyone. Plus, those who wouldn't have voted would be voting randomly and skew the results.
Personally, I think that the right to vote should actually be a privilege to vote given to those who know what they are voting for/against. How about having a quick exam before the test to about out what candidates positions are, then allowing you to vote? (Ever listen to the Howard Dean episode interviewing people about if they supported Obama's pick of Palin as his vice president and such? All they heard was Obama and they agreed to/supported whatever came next.)

Re:Click voting, like Facebook...! (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272438)

What you're failing to grasp is that this particular position isn't handled the way that literally every other issue is handled here. We're an absentee ballot state for 100% of the other issues, but in this case you have to go to one specific voting location on a particular day, and neither the day nor the election are advertised.

I'm pretty politically engaged myself, but I was voting for a decade before I'd even heard of that particular election.

Why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35271888)

Does it matter that the apathetic / dissilusioned / lazy turn out to vote, when they have already made it apparent they don't care to take part in the current state of American politics?

What could possibly go wrong? (3, Insightful)

ravenspear (756059) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271890)

Seriously, this is just a horrible idea.

You just cannot reliably determine anyone's identity online.

There are some functions of government that can already be accessed online, like paying taxes. But that's not a problem since no one besides the taxpayer would want to voluntarily contribute money, so there is little incentive for someone to falsify their identity for that. There is huge incentive for people to participate in a free process (voting) that determines the policy course of states and nations.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272040)

But that's not a problem since no one besides the taxpayer would want to voluntarily contribute money, so there is little incentive for someone to falsify their identity for that.

I could turn it into a problem easily enough: Electronically submit a tax return for somebody who's due for a large refund. Change the place the refund is sent to go to an account I own rather than an account my target owns. I'd actually be somewhat surprised if there haven't been crooked tax preparers trying this exact maneuver.

The reasons that doesn't work have nothing to do with verifying identity online (which you correctly identify as being damn near impossible), and a lot to do with banks being smart about verifying specific transactions. For instance, they'd take note when the names or SSNs don't match up and flag it for further investigation.

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35272066)

Headline following day:
Surprisingly, the entire membership of GSLUG [gslug.org] managed a co-operative win of the contested position, garnering a 99% majority...

Re:What could possibly go wrong? (1)

Joe Jay Bee (1151309) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272216)

I wouldn't be so sure. The Electoral Reform Society in the UK conducts ballots for private organisations, for example leadership votes in political parties and unions. Twice now I've voted in one of their elections and they have a simple and elegant solution, based around snail mailing two login codes to anyone eligible to vote that can only be used once. The login codes both match, and one can't be used without the other, and it's only valid for the person casting the vote.

Again, it works remarkably well. Nobody has had cause to contest the accuracy of these ballots (as well they shouldn't, the ERS are a group campaigning for more verifiable and secure balloting).

Anonymous will see this as a challenge. (1)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271904)

I hope they accept it.

Re:Anonymous will see this as a challenge. (1)

DrStrange66 (654036) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272324)

Anonymous can add themselves as write in candidates and rule the state!

Change my name and move to Washington. (1)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271922)

Maybe I should change my name to Tom Dobbs and move to Washington.

Of course I would never tell anyone to hack the voting system, no matter how many "hack me" stickers have been put on the back of the machines.

Secrecy of the vote (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35271942)

What about the secrecy of the vote?
In the current system (assuming yours looks roughly like ours) it is hard to be forced, threatened or bribed into voting for someone else then your own choice since the ballot is filled in in private and there is no way anyone can know for sure what you put on it. There are things like voting by letter for overseas people and voting by proxy for those unable to go, but these methods are more of a hassle to arrange and would stand out if it suddenly were to happen in strange clusters (like members of a certain village, church or region)

Appart from all possible issues with the implementation, it's a bad idea in itself.

WA as in Western Australia? (2)

jaymz666 (34050) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271944)

How about a little context in the post about which WA we are talking about...

Re:WA as in Western Australia? (3, Funny)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271970)

It's the one most likely to contain the "Seattle Times" newspaper.

Re:WA as in Western Australia? (1)

LordLucless (582312) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272220)

Which is contained precisely nowhere in the headline. I made the same mistake, particularly as Australia seems to be a bit more gung-ho about its voting policies than the US.

Re:WA as in Western Australia? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35272228)

Yeah, I saw the Seattle Times bit and wondered why news about WA is being reported in the USA.

This is on the Internet right? Its being read by people around the world who don't have the insular view that addresses are given with a yankee orientation.

I know that a couple of thousand kilometers away from me is a place called WA, or Western Australia but who have no idea what little regions there are half a world away in the USA (nor do I know the context of Siberia, Brazil or in other quite large tracts of the world).

Should I assume from this article that there is also somewhere in the USA called WA?

Re:WA as in Western Australia? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35271984)

Yup. Cuz after they said Seattle, I thought to myself, "But wait! I don't remember a Seattle in Western Australia... Where could this be?!"

on line voteing can lead to you boss forcing you t (2)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#35271998)

on line voteing can lead to you boss forcing you to vote his way and he can stand right over you as you vote.

Re:on line voteing can lead to you boss forcing yo (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272072)

Can anybody think of a good "duress code" style mechanism to address this? Being able to, for instance, cast your actual vote at time A and then being able to cast further ballots at later times that are silently discarded? Some way of signalling to the web form that the ballot you are "casting" should be discarded?

Unfortunately, I can't think of anything that you couldn't also use quite efficiently for the various voter discouragement/vote misdirection tricks that are commonly deployed to suppress polling regions demographically known to favor the opposing cause...

Online voting and a paper trail (1)

Homburg (213427) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272002)

Does online voting necessarily preclude a paper trail, or is there an electronic equivalent of a paper trail? What you want is something independent of the vote counting machines, which can be reasonably secured to prevent tampering, can be used at a later date to perform a recount if necessary, and which doesn't allow anyone to prove which way an individual voted (in order to ensure the secrecy of the ballot). I don't think you can do this with paper with an online ballot; you can't, for example, have people print out a record of their vote, unless you figure out a way in which a) the validity of these paper records can be validated in the case of a recount and b) individuals can verify that the paper record accurately reflects their vote, without allowing this record to be used to prove to a third-party that they voted in a particular way. I can't think of any way to do these two things, but perhaps there is some sort of cryptographic magic that could be used.

Re:Online voting and a paper trail (1)

mlts (1038732) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272056)

Even if users print out a paper copy, how can we know if it was intercepted and tampered with before it went to the printer?

The ONLY solution to this that has any security whatsoever is a ZTIC-like device that unlocks with a PIN, and hooks up to the user's computer. This way, the user votes and confirms on the ZTIC, and the only thing the computer sees is the encryption transaction passing through.

Has Nothing To Do WIth Real Elections (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35272044)

Relax. The "King Conservation District" is some nonprofit that does plant sales and writes grants, and it has nothing to do with the elections of Washington State, King County, or Seattle. Neither does the official-sounding outfit "electiontrust.com", which looks like some ex-microsoftee's dot-bomb idea that you'll never hear of in any context other than little pretend elections for nonprofit boards or birthday party planning committees. It would be pretty funny if they got really high voter turnout though. I totally nominate Stephen Colbert for Head Gardener of the King Conservation District.

Domestic Accountability (1)

seanmcelroy (207852) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272050)

The company's software appears to be from Scytl, a company based in Barcelona, Spain.

Would anyone consider it a national security issue that public elections be held with technology either openly and freely available for review or at the very least, controlled by entities with not just a domestic presence, but a domestic registration?

I don't think I'd be okay with the 2000 election "hanging chad" ballots being counted in India, because they might have been the more cost-effective solution. Isn't it okay to be a bit nationalistic about the manner in which elections are handled?

Re:Domestic Accountability (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272170)

I would be extremely concerned about the accuracy, auditability, and freedom from coercion/tampering of a voting system.

However, I'm not at all sure that nationalism is an effective mechanism for advancing that concern(it might simply be orthogonal, it might actually be negative, by bringing the electoral system under the control of an entity with a strong domestic agenda.., or it might be positive; by bringing the electoral system under domestic scrutiny).

Nationalism, per se, is (I think) irrelevant to the matter. However, completely 'a-national' behavior is often a sign of somebody who is just buying off-the-shelf from whoever hits the best combination of flashy sales demo and low price... That is a Terrible procurement model for electoral systems. However, that applies even if the vendor thus selected happens to be as American as God, the Flag, and Mom's Apple Pie(cough... Diebold, er 'Premier Election Systems' cough...)

Treating procurement of election apparatus as identical to buying office supplies is always a dangerous mistake, and it should always be remembered that fucking it up can, in fact, make the difference between a democracy and a sham. In that sense, there is a "nationalist" component to it. That doesn't mean anything in particular about the geographic origins of the system, though...

Postal vostes bad, online even worse (3, Insightful)

whoever57 (658626) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272078)

IMHO, postal votes should be reserved for those who can't get to the polling station because of some disability or travel. The problem with postal votes is that, for a family, or anywhere that has a shared postal address, you simply don't know who is completing the ballots and returning them.

I expect that there are many households where the head of the household collects all the postal ballots, completes them, and then instructs the family member to sign (or simply forges a signature).

Online voting has the same problem, plus many others.

Well, why shouldn't the Russian mafia... (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272080)

...control "conservation" in King County?

I predict... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272098)

Very strong turnout in favor of "H3r5bal V14gR/\". I hear he really stands up for the voting man, if you know what I mean...

For a country that prides itself on its democracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35272104)

You sure do manage to screw it up in so many ways.
Australia has the population of California. Roughly. If the actual occupied areas were counted, it would probably have similar density.
So we face similar issues when it comes to voting, counting etc.
It's compulsory to vote here. If you register to vote, you have to turn up or you are fined.
If you don't register, the AEC sends letters asking you to - for years.
Anyhow, we manage something like 99% voter turn out. All the votes are counted usually within 12 hours.
Usually by the mid evening, a clear winner is known. With the exception of the last election.

There are no machines counting. There are no machines for voting. It's just a form you fill out with a bunch of numbers.
Somehow we can manage to get around 15 or so million adults in and out of schools all over the country and count the votes in one day.

What gives USA? What's the voter turn out over there? 60%? And there are massive lines. And there are masses of people turned away. And the campaigns go on for months and months before all this?

Well, good luck with the online voting. I'm sure no one will figure out how to inject SQL into the database.

people do banking online, why not voting? (1)

buback (144189) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272112)

I just don't understand the paranoia.

at the very least, let me vote at any polling location. that kind of convenience might require an ID check so they can pull up my ballot for my location, but if i don't want an ID check, i can go to my regular poling place.

Re:people do banking online, why not voting? (1)

StopKoolaidPoliticsT (1010439) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272394)

With online banking, everything is recorded and tied to the transaction for verification purposes. Most people want their vote done by secret balloting so that how they choose to vote can be tied directly to them. Any way of tying a vote to a person means that some abusive figure in their life (boss, spouse, parent, etc) can order them to vote a certain way "or else" and then verify that the vote was done according to the abuser's demands.

Once you lose the identifiying information from the transation, it's trivial to rig an electronic vote and you can't verify that your vote counted properly. That's why voting and banking are completely different beasts and why voting is a much harder problem to solve.

simplify the ballot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35272138)

Would you like to destroy the country from the:

A) Left
B) Right

Rush said it best (0)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272140)

"If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice." --Rush, Freewill

If there is a large turnout, then politicians view it as a "mandate" and proceed to use it as justification to do even more damage than usual. Look at the scary fascism of Wisconsin Governor Scott "Mubarak" Walker (R)...he got a good turnout in his election and took it as a mandate to repeal the hard-won legal rights of workers to organize for mutual benefit. His idea of progressivism is a return to the corporate-dominated "company towns" that existed a hundred years ago. Unions would no longer be able to force workers to join, and would face yearly votes to remain certified. If there had been a lackadaisical voter turnout, he wouldn't feel bold enough to lead this outrageous assault on workers' rights. A win for the fascists in Wisconsin will have consequences, as Democrats rely heavily on unions for contributions and campaign footsoldiers to stay in office. Many other states are preparing similar legislation to "Mubarak" Walker's and if we lose Wisconsin we are in for real trouble. The real victims of this sad state of affairs are the children, who have been locked out of schools as teachers take sick leave to protest instead of teaching.

Re:Rush said it best (1)

praxis (19962) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272166)

All increased turnout does is increase the accuracy of the portion of the vote one has garnered, it does not constitute a mandate. Yes, I understand that perception is not reality here.

"If there had been a lackadaisical voter turnout, he wouldn't feel bold enough to lead this outrageous assault on workers' rights."

Maybe. We don't know that. 10% of the population turning out and giving him 90% of the vote is different than 90% of the population turning out and giving him 60% of the vote.

Re:Rush said it best (2, Informative)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272218)

Governor Walker took it as a mandate because it is one of the things he
campaigned
on. And by the way, he is only doing this for public employees. Why should public employees be allowed to unionize?
So, basically, politicians who want to do what the voters want are "fascists". You apparently think it is a good idea to use government money to slant elections in the favor of Democrats. I have news for you, we are already in real trouble. Our governments are spending more money than they are receiving in taxes. Public sector workers have better job security, better pay, and better benefits than private sector workers.

Re:Rush said it best (1)

praxis (19962) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272292)

"Public sector workers have better job security, better pay, and better benefits than private sector workers."

Could you cite a source for that please? I have always thought that an equivalent, comparable job at a private sector company paid better than one in government. I'm not talking about the "complete compensation package" that includes benefits, only gross pay. My ideas about this could be totally incorrect, they're only impressions I have formed by reading non-empirical sources. You though, purport it as a fact that my impression is wrong, so I ask you to cite a source, please.

Re:Rush said it best (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35272382)

Governor Walker took it as a mandate because it is one of the things he campaigned on.

And yet he only won with 52% of the vote. Just a bit over 100,000 voters. Out of over 5 million state inhabitants.

I'm sorry, exactly why would anybody take that as a mandate?

And by the way, he is only doing this for public employees. Why should public employees be allowed to unionize?

I believe the appropriate question is "Why should we allow the government to infringe on the liberties of citizens just because they are employees of it?" as the way your question is parsed assumes that the government is in charge of allowing what organizations people form.

So, basically, politicians who want to do what the voters want are "fascists".

Politicians who want to do what some voters want regardless of how it fringes on other voters might be, though I do think fascist is such a loaded word that it's not exactly useful in a discussion.

You apparently think it is a good idea to use government money to slant elections in the favor of Democrats.

Let me turn that around: You apparently think it is a good idea to use government money to slant elections in the favor of Republicans. Or if you prefer, to slant them against Democrats.

I have news for you, we are already in real trouble. Our governments are spending more money than they are receiving in taxes. Public sector workers have better job security, better pay, and better benefits than private sector workers.

Actually, you may be wrong on that one.

This study comes to the opposite conclusion for example:

http://epi.3cdn.net/8808ae41b085032c0b_8um6bh5ty.pdf

"I'm sorry Sir, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35272268)

You have already voted"

Wait, what? When? Dammmmmmn.

Regarding Voter Turnout (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#35272448)

I would wager that low voter turnout has very little to do with the ability to make it to the polls on time, and a whole hell of a lot to do with people just feeling like their vote doesn't matter anymore. At All. Period.
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