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Lessons From the Papal Conclave About Election Security

timothy posted about a year ago | from the ok-who-dropped-the-black-ball? dept.

Security 183

Hugh Pickens writes "The rules for papal elections are steeped in tradition. John Paul II last codified them in 1996, and Benedict XVI left the rules largely untouched. The 'Universi Dominici Gregis on the Vacancy of the Apostolic See and the Election of the Roman Pontiff' is surprisingly detailed. Now as the College of Cardinals prepares to elect a new pope, security people like Bruce Schneier wonder about the process. How does it work, and just how hard would it be to hack the vote? First, the system is entirely manual, making it immune to the sorts of technological attacks that make modern voting systems so risky. Second, the small group of voters — all of whom know each other — makes it impossible for an outsider to affect the voting in any way. The chapel is cleared and locked before voting. No one is going to dress up as a cardinal and sneak into the Sistine Chapel. In short, the voter verification process is about as good as you're ever going to find. A cardinal can't stuff ballots when he votes. Then the complicated paten-and-chalice ritual ensures that each cardinal votes once — his ballot is visible — and also keeps his hand out of the chalice holding the other votes. Ballots from previous votes are burned, which makes it harder to use one to stuff the ballot box. What are the lessons here? First, open systems conducted within a known group make voting fraud much harder. Every step of the election process is observed by everyone, and everyone knows everyone, which makes it harder for someone to get away with anything. Second, small and simple elections are easier to secure. This kind of process works to elect a pope or a club president, but quickly becomes unwieldy for a large-scale election. And third: When an election process is left to develop over the course of a couple of thousand years, you end up with something surprisingly good."

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183 comments

This is blindingly obvious (5, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#42994913)

Anyone who has had a group of friends vote on whether to eat Chinese or Italian knows that a group who all know each other can hold a secure vote immune from multiple votes or outsiders voting too. Its also obvious that this is not scalable beyond a group in which everyone does recognise everyone else

Re:This is blindingly obvious (4, Insightful)

bondsbw (888959) | about a year ago | (#42994949)

Elections for high office should always be completely verifiable, and the identity of those who cast their ballot should be without doubt. In my opinion, the verification process for very important positions should be automatic and involve multiple competing groups.

Re:This is blindingly obvious (-1, Flamebait)

starworks5 (139327) | about a year ago | (#42995001)

I cant for the life of me figure out why POTUS always appears to be either a cleverly disguised sock puppet or marionette, I don't know if its just me going crazy or if the rest of the world is blind.

Re:This is blindingly obvious (4, Insightful)

starworks5 (139327) | about a year ago | (#42995023)

If the pope is the representative of god on earth, I am assuming that the cardinals are all praying to god for guidance, therefore there shouldn't be any competing groups, assuming that we can verify that god exists.

Re:This is blindingly obvious (4, Funny)

jamesh (87723) | about a year ago | (#42995075)

If the pope is the representative of god on earth, I am assuming that the cardinals are all praying to god for guidance, therefore there shouldn't be any competing groups, assuming that we can verify that god exists.

I assume this is why they are all looking over each others shoulders too - you wouldn't want to be the odd cardinal out who votes the wrong way, letting on that God isn't in fact guiding him at all!

To be honest though, I don't believe in God, but if one existed i'd fancy it would be the kind described on Futurama - only helping out when he's sure nobody is looking.

Re:This is blindingly obvious (4, Interesting)

bondsbw (888959) | about a year ago | (#42995107)

True, and the nature of their electoral process makes it instantly verifiable by all parties. Large elections with anonymous voting and close results can be the target of sophisticated election fraud.

In American presidential elections, I would like each vote to be anonymous but traceable. You randomly select a ballot that has a randomized code, and tear-off or write down the code. Then, no less than 3 groups should receive every vote (the official ballot counters and the two main parties, and any other groups who wants to tally the results). They would each post a website, or equivalent anonymous function, where you can enter your random code associated with your vote and check for yourself that your vote was transmitted properly (alerting each group when your vote appears incorrect). Then each group would individually tally the votes and confirm the election results.

Re:This is blindingly obvious (5, Insightful)

Minupla (62455) | about a year ago | (#42995139)

The problem with this and most similar schemes is it allows you to sell your vote.

The thing that protects against vote selling is the difficulty of proving that you were faithful in your execution of the agreement. If I pay you 10$ to vote for the great flying spaghetti monster, I want to know you did in fact vote as instructed, and not for the lazy ravioli monster.

The inability to verify a secret ballot is a feature, not a bug.

Min

Re:This is blindingly obvious (4, Funny)

rvw (755107) | about a year ago | (#42995245)

If I pay you 10$ to vote for the great flying spaghetti monster, I want to know you did in fact vote as instructed, and not for the lazy ravioli monster.

Yeah that ravioli monster should be canned!

Re:This is blindingly obvious (2)

Kjella (173770) | about a year ago | (#42995333)

And coercion for example from friends and family. Claiming to not have the code can in itself be grounds for negative reactions or be taken as an admission that they didn't vote for somebody else.

Re:This is blindingly obvious (4, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#42995447)

The inability to verify a secret ballot is a feature, not a bug.

Until, your vote is not counted as you intend. Then it becomes a bug.

How about this approach? You case a vote. At that time, a cryptographically strong hash of your vote is made and printed out as a receipt. The raw data of your vote remains with a special ID generated at the time of the vote and tied to that receipt.

You can query against the data base to generate your hash. If that hash changes, then possibly your vote changed as well. Or a vote tabulator can query against the data base to get how many votes for each candidate.

But the act of tying a particular vote to particular voters, would require both the receipt and access to the raw data of the database. Similarly, changing the vote tabulation without being caught would require either creating phantom voters or getting hold of those receipts and then changing the vote associated with the receipts you obtain. Neither is impossible, but beyond the reach of much of the would-be vote manipulators out there.

Re:This is blindingly obvious (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42995483)

That's all a red herring.

What's wrong with selling your vote? If you are stupid enough to sell your vote for $10 you'd probably be stupid enough to be fooled by the politicians and their campaigns. In contrast if you can somehow sell your vote for $1000000 I'd say you aren't that stupid and I want to sell my vote for that much too!

If someone can successfully threaten you into voting for a particular party without getting into trouble (police etc) then your part of the country is probably so screwed up that you might not even be able to depend on the ballots being counted correctly.

And if such coercion could be so rampant that it is a significant influence over the election results it means your country is so screwed up that the elections are unlikely to matter much anyway. Because it means that the elections are a sham and most of the cops are merely uniformed hired thugs of your rulers.

Re:This is blindingly obvious (3, Interesting)

trout007 (975317) | about a year ago | (#42995789)

So it's OK for the politician to buy your vote by promising to give you tax payers money but not someone buying your vote using their own money?

Re:This is blindingly obvious (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42996199)

What a trenchant political wit you are.

But you'll notice that the same constraints apply to politicians; they also cannot determine whether any given individual voted for them. So basically your complaint reduces to "politicians campaign by promising politically popular things." Boy, democracy, amirite?!

Re:This is blindingly obvious (4, Informative)

baKanale (830108) | about a year ago | (#42996239)

It's less the "someone buying your vote using their own money" and more the "someone buying your vote by promising not to break your kneecaps with a baseball bat" that you should be worried about.

Re:This is blindingly obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42996919)

Or even the intermediate case of "Vote for X because your job depends on it." The ability to verify a vote after the fact might also be used by a religious group e.g. the pastor verifying that none in his flock voted for the pro-choice candidate, for example. The kind of vote-buying we have in the current American electoral system is extremely subtle and inefficient, compared to what we would have if it were possible to verify ones vote after the fact. In fact, in many jurisdictions it is illegal to even photograph a completed ballot, as a number of folks discovered after they got in legal trouble for posting pics of their filled out ballots on Facebook.

Re:This is blindingly obvious (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#42995717)

Nice try, but no. It assumes that God has similar priorities to human beings, like expedience.

Re:This is blindingly obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42995797)

a) Free will

b) If you can verify it, its knowledge not faith. Verification makes the whole concept of faith pointless and you might as well replace the job of the clerics with scientists, diplomats and politicians since its conceptually similiar to negotiating with aliens or a foreign government.
The whole point of religion is dealing with the things you can't know and for many it seems to be a pretty important part of the human condition.

I demand that Obama shows us his balls! (-1, Troll)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | about a year ago | (#42996711)

We should at LEAST adopt the catholic tradition that the new pope is carried over the heads of the cardinals so that they can inspect that he is well hung.

I don't care where he is born or his faith or what not but I do want to know the chief of staff has balls.

Re:This is blindingly obvious (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42995013)

It is astounding how many people don't understand the simple paper ballot voting system as it is still applied in many countries and hopefully will for a long time to come. It is based on the same principles as the papal vote, or actually the other way around. The most important aspect is that of public observability of all but the single secret aspect that exists in a proper election, and that single aspect is still completely observable by the person currently voting.

This scales up to millions of voters by distributing the process such that partial results and their propagation to higher levels are observed by local competing groups, and not only isn't electronic voting helping, it's actually destroying the very core of this protocol: The observability.

MOD UP Re:This is blindingly obvious (1)

rueger (210566) | about a year ago | (#42996599)

Excellent simple explanation of the beauty of paper ballots. In any sensible setting (lacking truckloads of armed goons stealing ballot boxes etc) you can't beat paper ballots and scrutineers overseeing the counting. Plus you can actually go back and recount.

Of course voting technology is the least of the problems with our current electoral and government systems.

Re:This is blindingly obvious (1)

flyneye (84093) | about a year ago | (#42996033)

I just noticed the article could be describing Capitol Hill. Not so sure this is a very good process.

Problem Exists Between Klobuk and Chalice (-1, Offtopic)

starworks5 (139327) | about a year ago | (#42994915)

Garbage in - Garbage out

I don't get it (0)

maweki (999634) | about a year ago | (#42994927)

So even in one of the oldest and most conservative institutions in the world, the black guy's votes carry as much weight as the white guys' and they aren't repressed in any way and can post their ballot in a timely fashion?

Re:I don't get it (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42994937)

Yes, but to make up for it, they're all men voting for a man who'll spend a lot of his time repressing women, so it balances out.

Its racist (0, Troll)

CncRobot (2849261) | about a year ago | (#42994995)

No, requireing a voter to identify themselves is always racist and a way to conduct voter suppression. Since all the cardinals know each other and you have to be known in order to vote it is OBVIOUSLY the method used to prevent the minority from voting, not to give them an equal vote.
I read it here [motherjones.com] what I'm told is a relyable source according to /. readers.

Of course I'm a little confused by facts though. Like you said it gives the minority an equal vote and I can't find an intelectually honest argument against that. I also have this story [townhall.com] where a black woman voted 6 times last year where voter id doesn't exist, something the Mother Jones article said never actually happens or could happen.

But, in order to not be called a racist/bigot and tea party moron, I'll have to ignore the facts and keep with the statement that voter id continues to suppress the black vote and the Catholic church should be ashamed for suppressing the votes of minorities in this situation the way they are. After all its not about facts anymore in this world, its all about not being called names by the left as they seem to have lost this debate with facts but still can rely on their name calling.

Re:Its racist (0)

houghi (78078) | about a year ago | (#42995053)

No, requireing a voter to identify themselves is always racist and a way to conduct voter suppression.

So the US voting system is racist? We know all who voted for whom because all company donations must be made public. And those companies are the ones that do the REAL voting.

Re:Its racist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42995077)

You trying to be sarcastic? Nice elaborate strawman of the typical slashdot reader, slashdot reader, now you can rest assured that someone who gives a shit about the details of your strawman will reply and confirm your suspicions. It's like some kind of persecution cycle with people.

Re:Its racist (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42995173)

Nice try. When you can come up with an intellectually honest answer as to why voter ID laws always seem to specify types of IDs that non-Republican voters tend on average to be lacking in greater quantities I might even buy it. A citation for Mother Jones saying that this "never actually happens" wouldn't hurt either. The position on the less right wing side in this country, which has always lacked a definable left wing by world standards, is that voter fraud is so statistically rare as to defy the amount of resources right-wingers seem to want to use to fight it. There is no credible evidence which refutes this.

Election fraud, on the other hand, seems to be rather more common if one studies the statistical anomalies present in US election results since the introduction of closed source corporate controlled voting machines, and the anomalies seem to follow those machines around. The curious thing of course is that the statistics also show these anomalies always favor the Republican candidate where they occur.

You remember that election in Ukraine a fe years back? The one where the US (to give credit, under George Bush) assisted the population in overturning what was clearly a fraudulent election? The way the US demonstrated the election to be fraudulent was the total disagreement of the results with the exit polls, which when properly conducted are statistically reliable. That was the trigger used to inform the population something was wrong. However, in the US, where exit polls had been refined to a good statistical science, they suddenly started diverging in the year 2000 AND the divergence is more frequent and greater in places with electronic voting machines vs. places without. If conservatives are so concerned about free and fair elections, why do they never attack the issue which provably needs investigating?

You're doubtless seething right now and about to ask why don't the Democrats investigate this? Well, their official reasoning seems to be that since it is logistically harder to get the more diverse "liberal" contingent out to vote, anything which undermines confidence in elections could hurt them more than the more monolithic Republicans who have an easier time energizing their base. I think that's stupid. I also think the real problem is they feel that anything which destroys the Republican party and (further) reveals it to be a wholly owned tool of fascist monied interests is likely to not leave them in a great position either. Whether that is because a political revolution might just leave everyone wanting to start over and abandon existing parties or a well justified fear that Democratic voters will figure out that their party is a lot more right wing corporate fascist than they let on I leave as an exercise for the reader.

Re:Its racist (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42995265)

You know, if you're going to go off on republicans and election fraud, need I remind you that in the 2012 election, EVERY SINGLE SWING STATE went democrat. You'd think for certain that at least one of them would have gone republican. That's the definition of swing state, you don't know which way they're going to go, and when you have what was it, 10 of them, odds are one of them should have gone republican, but no. Surely at least Wisconsin should have gone red, but it didn't. So if you're going to throw out your conspiracy theories, just let that one sit on your mind while you're doing it.

Re:Its racist (2)

swalve (1980968) | about a year ago | (#42996303)

Swing states are a historical thing, not a per-election thing. Some years they go one way, some years they go the other. This election, despite the media's attempts at creating a nose-to-nose horse race, was predicted very early and very accurately.

Re:Its racist (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42995341)

Nice try. When you can come up with an intellectually honest answer as to why voter ID laws always seem to specify types of IDs that non-Republican voters tend on average to be lacking in greater quantities I might even buy it. A citation for Mother Jones saying that this "never actually happens" wouldn't hurt either. The position on the less right wing side in this country, which has always lacked a definable left wing by world standards, is that voter fraud is so statistically rare as to defy the amount of resources right-wingers seem to want to use to fight it. There is no credible evidence which refutes this.

There is an avalanche of evidence and CONVICTIONS for multiple votings, fraudulent registrations, and the like. ACORN registered Mickey Mouse, and voting records showed that he voted.

Mother Jones' assertion that it costs hundreds of dollars to get ID is bullshit. I have done it recently, it is nowhere near the expensive. MJ is cherry picking by getting the most expensive documents in the most expensive states. You will have a BC/COLB unless your parents were retarded and threw it out or you were unlucky and lost it in a fire/flood/whatever. Replacements are non-free but they are cheap as BCs never expire so it is a once in a lifetime fee ($45 here). BC gets SS card. BC + SSN gets state ID ($25). If you can't come up with $25 once every 5 years you're street homeless and have bigger issues than not being able to vote.

Re:Its racist (4, Informative)

CatWrangler (622292) | about a year ago | (#42995583)

Show the documentation that Mickey Mouse voted. This is false. The Mickey Mouse thing is legitimate. It's been distorted like the McDonalds coffee case. If you hand somebody a registration form, and they put Mickey Mouse on it, BY LAW, you are not allowed to discard it. You MUST turn it in. What most groups like ACORN did was segregate these suspicious registrations before turning them in. Legally they had no choice. It has become a right wing talking point that they were all eager to register Mickey Mouse. This is false. Quit believing email forwards from your grandparents.

Avalanche? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42996209)

There is an avalanche of evidence and CONVICTIONS for multiple votings, fraudulent registrations, and the like.

Exactly what percentage of the eligible voting population is your "avalanche"? From the figures I've seen, it's less than 0.0001%. Seriously, the weather in Pennsylvania on election day has more than one hundred times as significant an effect.

Re:Its racist (4, Insightful)

pla (258480) | about a year ago | (#42995343)

When you can come up with an intellectually honest answer as to why voter ID laws always seem to specify types of IDs that non-Republican voters tend on average to be lacking in greater quantities I might even buy it.

You mean, something so rare as a "Driver's license"? Or a free (to the poor and elderly) state-issued ID card as an alternative? Yep. Clearly racist, right there. Everyone knows minorities don't drive, fly, buy cigarettes, buy alcohol, use credit cards, use checks, or visit certain federal buildings.

Seriously, how does anyone (retirees aside, but they had to have made it through the rest of their life to get that status) manage to live in the modern world without a license or ID?

Re:Its racist (3, Interesting)

Stormin (86907) | about a year ago | (#42995915)

Simple, they can't get one. They came from a place where the records were destroyed, or never existed in the first place. This is not as rare as many people might like to think - it's been a fact of recent civil wars in my lifetime, that one side systematically destroyed all birth records of the other.

There are people who can't afford to fly, who buy their cigs and alcahol off a younger family member, have no credit cards or bank accounts (using just the check cashing place and paying an exorbitant fee there too boot), and yes, can't visit certain federal buildings. Their lives are already greatly limited and with the aggressive work of republican groups screaming about vote fraud, we can ensure that they lose even the right to vote in our lifetime, since they certainly would have voted democrat anyway.

Re:Its racist (4, Insightful)

pla (258480) | about a year ago | (#42996427)

This is not as rare as many people might like to think - it's been a fact of recent civil wars in my lifetime, that one side systematically destroyed all birth records of the other.

We, uh, haven't had a whole lot of civil wars in the US since the birth of anyone currently living here. Yes, we've all heard about the sisters from middle-of-nowhere Appalachia who never left their home valley for their first 40 years of life and now can't prove themselves as US citizens. And yes, I'd still have to call that pretty damned rare.


Their lives are already greatly limited and with the aggressive work of republican groups screaming about vote fraud, we can ensure that they lose even the right to vote in our lifetime, since they certainly would have voted democrat anyway.

Does that bother you? I mean, that people (on both sides of the aisle) automatically assume voter ID laws disproportionately affects Democrats? It basically shouts to the world, "We have such a strong association as the party of complete losers, of illegals, of 3rd gen welfare dynasties, that we just assume all the human trash in our society will vote blue".


And FWIW, I don't vote red. You can't just assume that everyone belongs to the GOP who happens to believe we should verify citizenship before allowing people to exercise the core right of that citizenship. That everyone who believes in fiscal responsibility sides with the misogynistic religious whackjobs on the right. That "I disagree with you" automatically makes me a member of "the enemy".

Re:Its racist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42996213)

Because everyone lives the way you do, and if they don't, they don't count.

Re:Its racist (1)

pla (258480) | about a year ago | (#42996327)

Because everyone lives the way you do, and if they don't, they don't count.

Certain activities in our society come with prerequisites. If you want to drive, you need a driver's license. If you want to hunt, you need a hunting license. If you want to work as an MD, you need a medical license.

No, everyone does not live the way I do. But if they want to live the way I do - And that includes voting - Then they need to meet the associated prerequisites. If you can't prove you exist as a legal US citizen, then no, you shouldn't get to vote.

Re:I don't get it (-1, Flamebait)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | about a year ago | (#42995325)

Yes, the catholic church doesn't discriminate: They molest children of all ages in equal terms. They also don't discriminate when it comes to brainwashing people into believing there is a magical jew in the sky who is his own father.

Animals will treat other animals in terms of fuck or eat, If they can't eat something, they'll try fucking it. If they can't fuck or eat it, and it's not a threat, they aren't interested. The same happens with cristians. If they can't convert you (because your IQ is above 90), and they can't fuck you (because you are either female or older than school-age), and you are not a threat, they'll leave you alone.

Not scaleable (1)

EzInKy (115248) | about a year ago | (#42994933)

I can't see how their system would hold up when those who don't share the same intrinsic values and contradict the prevailing group think are included in the vote. Oft times with Catholics, as well as other sects, the idea is to fit the data to mold, not the mold to the data.

Yep. they don't mess around with voter fraud... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42994939)

They already pulled off the big lie. Why mess with that little stuff.

Doesn't Scale (2)

mbone (558574) | about a year ago | (#42994945)

As Mr. Schneier points out, this doesn't scale. There is no way you could do a US Presidential election this way.

I also think it relies some on the autonomy of the Cardinals, which wouldn't necessarily map well to a civil election. Suppose that 100 people got together to elect (say) a town mayor using this protocol, and one of them was the employer of most of the rest. Would this be sufficient to prevent him from influencing or even coercing his employees to vote his way?

Re:Doesn't Scale (2)

starworks5 (139327) | about a year ago | (#42994989)

In some ways the "circle of trust" can be used, and has been used before in elections, but there have to be multiple circles obviously, and many of them are overlapping.

Its simple as this you live if you in a small city, each person announces their name and vote, members can say "thats not really john smith", and members also keep tallies.
 

Not unusual [Re:Doesn't Scale] (4, Insightful)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about a year ago | (#42995203)

As Mr. Schneier points out, this doesn't scale. There is no way you could do a US Presidential election this way.

This is not unique, not even very unusual. What we are seeing here is members of a parliament voting for a prime minister. That happens in a hundred places across the world. Why doesn't Schneier analyze whether you can "hack the vote" in the House of Lords?

If you do want to compare it to the US, this compares to a vote in the Senate, and is somewhat much smaller than a vote in the House of Representatives.

Re:Not unusual [Re:Doesn't Scale] (1)

Sesostris III (730910) | about a year ago | (#42996819)

This doesn't quite compare to votes in either the House of Lords or the Senate. I believe that the votes in neither establishment are secret. Both you (as a citizen) and they (as a Lord / Senator) can check the way they voted.

The Cardinals' vote for Pope is different, in that I think it is meant to be secret.

Re:Doesn't Scale (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42995251)

There is no way you could do a US Presidential election this way.

Well, there is but you'd have to keep the population small and manageable. The native police force has clearly been unsuccessful in keeping the insurgency at bay.

Re:Doesn't Scale (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42995351)

Suppose that 100 people got together to elect (say) a town mayor using this protocol, and one of them was the employer of most of the rest. Would this be sufficient to prevent him from influencing or even coercing his employees to vote his way?

The newly elected pope 'employs' the remaining cardinals in effect and they can be removed by his edicts.

Re:Doesn't Scale (1)

Fieryphoenix (1161565) | about a year ago | (#42995923)

But not until after he's elected. The town mayor example starts with him being the boss.

Re:Doesn't Scale (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42995539)

Just so you know, you all take your baseball too seriously...

Procedure the result of Agile Development? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42994959)

Wouldn't it be great to have the time to design and build systems that worked reliably and delivered the results desired efficiently?

Absurdity at its best (3, Insightful)

cellocgw (617879) | about a year ago | (#42994963)

OK, step back. Take a deep breath. The pope is sort-of oughtta be elected on the basis of what the Catholic god (or maybe Jesus, it ain't clear) tells the cardinals is the right choice. So how the fuck could a vote that's determined by the Almighty(s) possibly be rigged by mere mortals?

Re:Absurdity at its best (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42994999)

Same reason the Popemobile involves bulletproof glass.

Re:Absurdity at its best (4, Insightful)

Turminder Xuss (2726733) | about a year ago | (#42995315)

Or church steeples have lightning rods.

Re:Absurdity at its best (1)

flyingfsck (986395) | about a year ago | (#42995529)

Indeed. Why do they need to vote at all? God could simply inscribe the name of the pope on the wall.

Re:Absurdity at its best (2)

findoutmoretoday (1475299) | about a year ago | (#42996149)

One more Jansenist to burn

Re:Absurdity at its best (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year ago | (#42996741)

Indeed. Why do they need to vote at all? God could simply inscribe the name of the pope on the wall.

God does inscribe the name of the pope he wants on a wall. However the church simply does not understand that no name appearing on the wall means that god doesn't want a pope at all. :-)

Re:Absurdity at its best (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42996147)

Given that they're a bunch of pedophile-shelterers trying to decide how to pick a replacement for the head pedophile-shelterer, one hopes that Jeebus ain't returning their phone calls...

Time to develop != good (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42994981)

When an election process is left to develop over the course of a couple of thousand years, you end up with something surprisingly good.

It happens only when fairness is to the common interest to all participants in power.

When you get a system, where being able to cheat is in the interest to those in power, the system will develop towards enabling such cheats (Diebold machines).

PLUS: THEY BURN WITCHES !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42994983)

And if they don't they should !! Nothing like a good witch burning to brighten the day !! Witch Dunkin is pretty good sport too !! NASCAR has nothing on these papal events !! But NASCAR is trying, I give it that much !! Now how does encryption fit in all this you may ask !! Who the fuck gives a shit !! Now get on with your Sunday !! And I better see you in church !! Or else !!

Lobbying, Bribery, Extortion, Persuasion. (5, Insightful)

mrthoughtful (466814) | about a year ago | (#42994985)

Why focus on the voting mechanism? It's like testing the quality of a democracy by looking at the voting procedure in the house of commons. The weakness, as is always the case, is human accountability. This is just as true within a theocratic oligarchy as it is within a representative democracy.

Anyone who thinks that powerful interests have no sway in the election of a pontiff is uneducated in history and blissfully naive.

Re:Lobbying, Bribery, Extortion, Persuasion. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42995113)

Why focus on the voting mechanism? It's like testing the quality of a democracy by looking at the voting procedure in the house of commons. The weakness, as is always the case, is human accountability. This is just as true within a theocratic oligarchy as it is within a representative democracy.

Anyone who thinks that powerful interests have no sway in the election of a pontiff is uneducated in history and blissfully naive.

Beyond that, anyone who claims that outside forces can't affect the election, is knowinlgy lying.

First, the system is entirely manual, making it immune to the sorts of technological attacks that make modern voting systems so risky. Second, the small group of voters — all of whom know each other — makes it impossible for an outsider to affect the voting in any way.

Worst bullshit I've read all day. There is absolutely no reason a manual system would be "immune" to anything, and if anything, having a small group of decision-makers makes it a whole lot easier for outside forces to obtain leverage on the outcome of voting. This summary is absolute nonsense and I am appaled the poster has intelligence enough to spell correctly while still writing such crap.

Re:Lobbying, Bribery, Extortion, Persuasion. (0)

Cederic (9623) | about a year ago | (#42995707)

You forgot to even mention the inherent bribery, corruption and other politics between the cardinals themselves.

Lets face it, a bunch of malicious corrupt people electing someone to run a malicious, corrupt and destructive organisation isn't an exemplar for any electoral system.

Re:Lobbying, Bribery, Extortion, Persuasion. (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | about a year ago | (#42996607)

You forgot to even mention the inherent bribery, corruption and other politics between the cardinals themselves.

Lets face it, a bunch of malicious corrupt people electing someone to run a malicious, corrupt and destructive organisation isn't an exemplar for any electoral system.

One of the better posts - I wish I had mod points.

Rig as always (1)

ccguy (1116865) | about a year ago | (#42994993)

Um...there goes my plans of choosing the next Pope myself...

Now if only it was possible to bribe the clergy that votes. Well, one can dream.

Exciting news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42994997)

This is incredibly important to literally dozens of people.

Re:Exciting news (3, Insightful)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about a year ago | (#42995205)

Well, about a billion actualy.

But you're only a few orders of magnitude out.

Re:Exciting news (0)

Cederic (9623) | about a year ago | (#42995715)

No, you misunderstand. Maybe about a billion _think_ it's important, but frankly it's all much the same to them: They get a new pope. He oppresses them.

The only people it really matters to are the cardinals. Will it be someone that'll give them a cushy job, boost their own prestige/power, massage their ego, give them blowjobs, or just some other megalomaniac intent on fucking over a billion people.

Re:Exciting news (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42996227)

No, it is important to a lot of people (probably not most catholics but still maybe more people than the # of inhabitants of the USA). There's a lot of difference between, say, John XXIII [wikipedia.org] (see: Second Vatican Council [wikipedia.org] ) and Benedictus XVI [wikipedia.org] (see: when he presided the C.D.F.). [wikipedia.org]

So, it might matter if the next pope [wikipedia.org] is a conservative [wikipedia.org] or a non-communicative extreme conservative [wikipedia.org] . Especially for poor uneducated devout catholics in Africa.

Re:Exciting news (2)

swalve (1980968) | about a year ago | (#42996515)

The pope doesn't oppress anyone. He has no control over anyone excepts maybe the inhabitants of Vatican City.

thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42995027)

FOR ALL THAT COMMON SENSE

Fox news (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42995043)

Making the other, fraudulent, election in Italy obsolete, the pope was decided to rule the whole of Italy.

Re:Fox news (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42995055)

probably, americans want their pope to go with them, transfering vatican in washington.

It should be a common practice (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about a year ago | (#42995069)

Maybe is how is really elected the president of USA since decades ago.

No surprises here (5, Interesting)

mean pun (717227) | about a year ago | (#42995083)

Considering that this voting process has evolved in the face of thousands of years of intrigue and backstabbing that makes even politicians look like choirboys, why is this a surprise? The evolutionary pressure was most certainly there.

And of course this analysis overlooks the most reliable way of rigging an election, and one that is most certainly practiced here: hand-picking the electorate. Who appointed those cardinals in the first place, eh?

Re:No surprises here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42995211)

> Who appointed those cardinals in the first place, eh?

JP II. and Benedict XVI. did since 1978. They systematically put people there that they did like. Want to bet the next pope will be a conservative like the two previous popes?

Re:No surprises here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42995287)

The one guy who can't be elected?

gerrymandering (1)

SgtChaireBourne (457691) | about a year ago | (#42995357)

"And of course this analysis overlooks the most reliable way of rigging an election, and one that is most certainly practiced here: hand-picking the electorate. Who appointed those cardinals in the first place, eh? "

That can be done on a large scale, too. It's known as gerrymandering and is done by both parties. It's especially common for congressional districts. If you look at the national map, you see all kinds of bizarre shapes designed to give one party or the other a majority. They don't follow any natural or geographic boundaries. You end up with all kinds of loops, horseshoes, dumbells, and other weird shapes. The composition of congress would be quite different if the districts were restrcited to existing counties or a plain grid.

Re:gerrymandering (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42995513)

> The composition of congress would be quite different if the districts were restrcited to existing counties or a plain grid.

Which would require waving equal population.

What I want is a well-published computer algorithm to build the regions from the population maps. Something that any third-year CS student has a decent chance of implementing. The population maps are already well-known.

Re:gerrymandering (1)

CncRobot (2849261) | about a year ago | (#42995649)

I hear this a lot about gerrymandering, and I understand how it works for state legislatures and for the US House of Representatives. However, I don't think it affects the US House all that much, I know of a few examples but its not like more than a few seats.

My question to you is... How does gerrymandering affect US Senate or US preseidental elections? Or for state governors for that matter? I don't think it does.

Re:gerrymandering (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | about a year ago | (#42996597)

There's only been several headlines about how gerrymandering got the GOP their majority in the House, even though there was a majority of popular votes for Democrats.

You might just want to spend a bit of time reading that up.

Re:No surprises here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42995537)

Not to mention it's still open to a 'Social Engineering' attack - buying the votes of cardinals. These elections have a long history of this happening, the Borgia Pope being the most famous example.

You're looking in the wrong place (5, Insightful)

Arancaytar (966377) | about a year ago | (#42995099)

Elections like this don't get manipulated during the ballot-casting, because they're not decided during the ballot-casting. Just like the decisions of a legislative body, the vote itself is merely the result of a ton of secret politics leading up to it.

Re:You're looking in the wrong place (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42995597)

In this particular case: 57% of the cardinals where appointed by Joseph Ratzinger, so in some sense the upcoming papal election is one of the biggest and most blatant cases of election fraud in recent history.

Re:You're looking in the wrong place (2)

Sloppy (14984) | about a year ago | (#42996423)

When you win a battle, celebrate that you moved the front. Don't fret that you didn't win the war yet. It is good to lock a door and make a burglar noisily kick it in, even if he still gets in.

The process changed the place. The reason elections are won by pre-election dealing, is that we have (mostly) succeeded at making it sufficiently hard to win by ballot box hacks. Pre-election deals are relatively expensive compared to ballot box hacks.

Sure, we're looking in the wrong place, but only because it was the right place. It's not stupid to work on this stuff.

except (1)

juenger1701 (877138) | about a year ago | (#42995109)

open systems conducted within a known group make voting fraud much harder.

doesn't anyone remember the Chicago political machines? if the group becomes corrupt group control is a bad thing and remember the voting all happens in front of that group ONLY no outsiders are told the vote only the result

Evolution Works! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42995117)

Who knew ?

Now all we have to do is convince our politicians that they don't acutally know how to engineer a better society than one created by the collective knowledge of our ancestors which was accrued over many thousands of years.

mod Up (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42995177)

Congress? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42995243)

Has there ever been a claim of ballot stuffing in the US Senate or House? How about the British House of Commons. It doesn't take a 2000 years to figure this one out for a limited, known group. There is actually very little of this that happens even in larger elections, absent official corruption.

The real threats to fair, free elections are elsewhere. They start with efforts to discourage opponents from voting through intimidation and violence. That was how the former confederates took political control in the south after the civil war and maintained it for over 100 years. That was, in part, how Hitler came to power in Germany. And that is how many elections in unstable parts of the world are controlled by those in power. But even where threats of violence are not a problem, there are other ways to suppress voting by likely opponents.

Republican Candidates elections (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42995267)

The lesson here is our elections are far far far from this, and yet they should be to this standard!

It's trivial to stuff the ballot in USA election, one person setting up an election tabulator can do it for an entire state. Install a tweak program and the central tabulator reports some biased result.

There was a measurable impossible bias for Romney in the 2012 primaries in the USA, an algorithmic relationship between district size and percentage voting for Romney, but only in electronic central tabulator districts. Non tabulator districts didn't have the bias. Algorithmic as in a *computer* decided the primaries.

http://www.themoneyparty.org/main/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Republican-Primary-Election-Results-Amazing-Statistical-Anomalies_V2.0.pdf

To put that in perspective, imagine a million people in a district. X% votes for Romney. Now divide the district in two at random, you would expect X% to vote in each for Romney, but with a wider margin of error. Divide by 4, now the districts of 250,000 you'd expect X% but with an even wider margin of error.
What you don't expect is that 1 million people will always vote with X%, half a million with Y% and quarter a million with Z%, regardless of location/city/ethnicity. Worse still, that X, Y and Z would have a clear formulaic (i.e. computerized) relationship. Worse still, only in Diebold tabulator districts. In manual counted districts it's always X% as expected. A very very clear clear fraud in the central tabulators.

And when it's pointed out there's a clear algorithmic bias, Republicans rush to upgrade their software at the last minute in violation of the law, i.e. hide the evidence:
http://www.salon.com/2012/11/05/ohio_republicans_sneak_risky_software_onto_voting_machines/

And if you've never seen it with your own eyes, Republican convention vote result was already on the teleprompter before the voice count:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=77W5OKStO5s#!

Fraud. Clear and simple, and nobody in power is challenging it. Yet in the Papal election, best practice is followed. Because the money isn't there to distort it.

A black pro-condom guy (1, Flamebait)

loufoque (1400831) | about a year ago | (#42995307)

Is what they need to elect.

Oh really? (4, Funny)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#42995321)

No one is going to dress up as a cardinal and sneak into the Sistine Chapel.

Challenge accepted!

Re:Oh really? (4, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year ago | (#42995461)

Dress up as The Spanish Inquisition . . . they won't be expecting that . . .

and yet still they managed to elect (1)

bitt3n (941736) | about a year ago | (#42995425)

senator palpatine

Every step of the election process is observed (4, Interesting)

Tim Ward (514198) | about a year ago | (#42995485)

That's the key, and makes for clean elections - I've observed elections in the UK, Kosovo and Ukraine.

This tends to mean manual counting of physical pieces of paper that have been marked by the voter by hand, as that's vastly easier for lay people to observe and verify than hidden things going on inside computers or other machines. (I'm not saying that proper independent observation by lay people of what goes on inside a machine isn't possible, just that nobody has worked out how to do it yet.) If I'd observed an election involving machines I would have had to write in my report that I had no confidence in the outcome of the election because I had no visibility of what was going on inside the machines.

The big problem with the cleanliness of the UK voting system is postal votes - and this is in my view precisely because this is a part of the process which is *not* independently observed - you don't know for sure who applied for the postal ballots, who acquired them, or who filled them in under what pressure.

Re:Every step of the election process is observed (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | about a year ago | (#42996581)

And it can still be corrupted. By buying the votes before hand. In fact, back home, there was one very famous case of vote buying, and the people went to their religious leader saying they were offered $150 for their votes. He told them to take the money, but once inside the voting booth, to vote their conscience.

FTW! :)

Electing the Doge of Venice (1)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | about a year ago | (#42995525)

I read a really neat paper about the implications of the Doge election protocol to distributed systems. There the focus was more on preventing bribary and less on more general fraud, but it was a pretty cool system. [pdf] www.hpl.hp.com/techreports/2007/HPL-2007-28R1.pdf

Takeaway (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42995721)

The real lesson I learned here is, you can't trust a Cardinal of the catholic church. They certainly don't trust each other...

The Vatican Paedophile club ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#42996507)

Is this the same Benedict who presided over the largest cover-up of paedophile activity in that organization for centuries?

you really think it cannot be bought? (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | about a year ago | (#42996573)

The book "Sex Lives of the Popes" documents numerous instances of corruption in the election process. During the 10-11th century, one mother and daughter pair got 7 popes onto the papal chair, by having affairs with, or giving birth to them.

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