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Computer Scientists Rally for Reliable Voting System

michael posted more than 11 years ago | from the voting-is-a-duty-not-a-right dept.

United States 288

Kim Alexander writes "Silicon Valley computer scientists, led by Stanford professor David Dill are asking Santa Clara county to purchase a new computerized voting system only if it provides a voter verified paper trail. Their concerns are based on the lack of adequate testing of these voting systems, and the fact that the software is closed-source and proprietary. Requiring a voter-verified paper trail will mitigate many of these problems. Dill's 'Resolution on Electronic Voting' has been endorsed by prominent computer scientists from all over the country, including Ron Rivest. Counties all over California and the US are going through a similar process. Patriotic nerds who want to do something to help protect our fundamental right to vote with confidence that our votes will be counted can help by contacting their state and local reps, writing letters to supervisors and getting informed!"

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288 comments

First? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5306857)

first? well I will be darned I hope this is a first post! Go Annoymous!

Re:First? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5306983)

YOU WON!!!

I didn't think I'd ever see it, but you won!!!

You got the first post!!!!

Way to GO anonymous!

You are my new hero. I hope they throw you a ticker tape parade down Broadway then allow you to indulge the finest prostitutes our government can buy (I hear those are are the really good ones).

If only I had known you were in the running... I would have thrown a party!

Patriotic, Schmatriotic (3, Interesting)

blair1q (305137) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306859)

The first person who writes and validates a working, bulletproof software system for collecting votes wins $$billions.

That's the kind of patriotism we need.

Patriotic Anti-Trust Voting (1)

joeszilagyi (635484) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306897)

Until they get hit for an anti-trust lawsuit, that is.

Re:Patriotic, Schmatriotic (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5306972)

This seems an appropriate time to remind everyone of this.

http://www.acm.org/classics/sep95/

The wisdom in computerized voting systems is certainly debatable.
Proprietary software, whose code cannot be publicly audited, and whose code cannot be independently tested, should never be allowed near voting booths (or sites)

And a paper trail? Will we visit everyone who voted to check their voting stub? And won't that identify who I voted for specifically in a way that can be checked and directly tied to me, defeating the purpose of a voting booth?

I hope the potential savings don't outshine the potential risks.

Keep in mind (1, Redundant)

John Jorsett (171560) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306860)

that the present occupants of those political offices are the product of the present system. Don't expect wild enthusiasm for anything that has the potential to cause a personnel change.

Re:Keep in mind (4, Interesting)

The Dobber (576407) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306890)

The reverse could also be said. Those that wish to unseat the incumbent wants something different.

The best way to elect our representatives is not through the use of technology, wiz-bang gadgets, open source software or even legal challenges.

Its gett ing Joe Six-Pack and the rest of the disenchanted voters off thier duffs and out to the polls. Rather than complain, execrcise the right to vote people. Had this been the case in 2000, we would have had a clear winner

Re:Keep in mind (4, Interesting)

John Jorsett (171560) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306928)

Its getting Joe Six-Pack and the rest of the disenchanted voters off thier duffs and out to the polls.

Personally, I think voting ought to be made as difficult and inconvenient as possible. If voting were like crawling over broken glass, only those who really really were interested would do it, and we'd get a better product. Keep the ignorant and lazy out of the electoral process, I say.

Re:Keep in mind (2, Interesting)

anubi (640541) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306984)

If voting were like crawling over broken glass, only those who really really were interested would do it, and we'd get a better product.

Well, thats what we have right now as far as getting laws passed. Note how much its like "crawling over broken glass" [slashdot.org] to submit those forms they presented to contest the DMCA. See where that is getting us?

Re:Keep in mind (1)

anubi (640541) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307023)

I think octalgirl [slashdot.org] said [slashdot.org] exactly what I had in mind here.

Re:Keep in mind (0, Troll)

SN74S181 (581549) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307129)

Hear, hear!

I am tired of 'get out the vote' drives that are essentially 'political activists' rousing all the senior citizens out of the high rise to vote for the candidate they've engineered to win.

Voting shouldn't be difficult or inconvenient, but 'get out the vote' efforts need to end. We need less politics and more common sense in government. Less activism. Government should be small, boring, and have limited power over us.

Re:Keep in mind (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5307179)

But ... who says this eagerness to get to the polls is correlated with the country's interests? It may have a lot to do with self-interest.

The Nazis were very good at climbing over broken glass (Kristallnacht).

Re:Keep in mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5307206)

How about this: Create pamphlets or booklets of information about each candidate, detailing political views, voting history, campaign contributions, etc., along with, say, five paragraphs of material supplied by the candidate, and five more paragraphs supplied by the opposition. Make these available on- and offline a few months before voting day, but otherwise prohibit advertising of any sort, by any candidate. This puts everyone on equal footing, so the minority gets screwed less.

While you're at it, eliminate political parties; too many people mindlessly vote along party lines without actually learning anything about the issues (Witness "Well, gee, my pappy done told me that them doggone lib-rul Democrats ain't nothin' but a bunch of dirty, unamer'kin, mar'jooahna-smokin' commie pinkos, so Ah vote Republican. Ya can have mah gun when ya pry it outta mah cold, dead fingers." and "I hate those damn Republicans. If it weren't for them, we wouldn't have laws like the DMCA and CBDTPA! What do you mean, 'Both of those were created by Democrats, and the DMCA was signed into law by Clinton, as was the CDA before it,' you gun-toting right-wing maniac?").

Also, can we put the senate back the way it was? They've already got the house of representatives, and I bet things would be a lot better if the uninformed voters were only able screw up one branch of the legislature, rather than both.

Covered on NPR earlier this week? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5306862)

Perhaps someone heard the interview on "Morning Edition."

Sorry I can't provide more details.

Re:Covered on NPR earlier this week? (1)

kenf (75431) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307034)

They also covered it last fall, around the time of the primary and general elections in Maryland.

I wrote them, and pointed out the lack of an audit trail in the Maryland system, including the names and contact info for several computer scientists who were studying computerized voting.

NPR ignored the whole thing.

Here it is (NPR 2/10/03) (3, Insightful)

MacAndrew (463832) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307205)

NPR link [npr.org] ("State and local officials buy electronic voting machines in hopes of avoiding the low-tech messiness of pencil marks on paper ballots and so-called "hanging chads." But some computer scientists say vote-counting computers are inaccurate. NPR's Dan Charles reports.")

Now, "inaccurate" isn't quite the right word. Unreliable? Not robust? The problem being tampering, accident, or oversight, not the machines' native ability to add accurately.

*
Good for you, to have written.

The thing is that they need a hook of some sort. I don't think they're going to understand how important it is, unfortunately, until there is a tragedy. Similarly, you wouldn't have been able to get them to do a story on your criticisms of Space Shuttle heat shielding until, well, know. We wouldn't even be dumping punchcard ballors en masse -- and switching to electonic systems of questionable pedigree -- if not for Election 2000.

What would be wonderful, if it could be done, would be a comparison of actual voter intent with vote tallies. I know they do test runs (sometimes) but what the public would find compelling is a concrete "you screwed up this election" result. Kind of like the first time DNA shows we executed the worng person.

The errors made with electronic system, more often innocent than malicious, have been amusing so far. When something ugly happens, will we even catch it, let alone see it coming?

Re:Covered on NPR earlier this week? (1)

mmol_6453 (231450) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307070)

I don't know which day it was, so here [npr.org] 's a link to their archived shows for this month.

Re:Covered on NPR earlier this week? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5307085)

Hey, just thought I'd log on and say I'm getting a blowjob as we speak.

Yeah a New voting system is good.. (4, Funny)

Hott of the World (537284) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306865)

...but who's gonna teach Florida how to use them?

Who says they need to vote? (-1)

SlashdotTroll (581611) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306921)

All they need to do is swim across the channel [resist.com] and they receive all the liberties and benefits [resist.com] established to help legitimate hard-working people [resist.com] get back on their feet.

No wonder Ossama Bin Laden coordinated the bombing [resist.com] of the world trade center; it was a ! [resist.com]

One day everyone will come to their senses... [resist.com]

Re:Yeah a New voting system is good.. (1)

UserGoogol (623581) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307040)

Simple. All they have to do is type: "man gnuvote".

Trail? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5306876)

What does it mean, "it provides a voter verified paper trail"? Kiss goodbye voting anonymously?

Re:Trail? (0)

willpost (449227) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306940)

It means they want to be able to prove the computer is counting the ballots correctly. Hopefully none of the machines will be found in the San Francisco Bay like the ballot containers were.

Re:Trail? (2, Informative)

zcat_NZ (267672) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306944)

No, kiss goodbye rigging the elections and nobody being able to prove you did it.

Here's a hypothetical example. Some guy runs for his state; nobody really likes him that much and all the pre-election predictions are for the other guy. Then he wins, although the 'exit polls' suggest that most people were actually voting for the other guy. Then it turns out that he used to be the CEO of the company that makes the all-electronic voting machines used in this election, and a few people think this is mighty odd but there's no way to prove anything because his machines don't include any kind of audit capability.

I wish this was actually hypothetical.

Re:Trail? (0)

Doppler00 (534739) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307088)

You know, exit polls are not very accurate. If I've just voted and I came out of a polling place and someone approaches me asking me who I voted for, I'm not going to tell them. Who's to say the people coming out of the polling place will be honest anyway? It's ridiculus. Exit polls are very misleading especially if they are only taken in certain districts that are known to be generally from one party.

First Kikenstein! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5306878)

And you heard it first on slashdot!

FIRST KIKENSTEIN* [resist.com]

*not to be confused with first post, so any YOUFAILIT entities need not respond!

Closed-Source? (4, Interesting)

Rimbo (139781) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306886)

I cannot support any voting system that's closed source. I want to know what the voting system is doing with my vote, and the only reliable way to do that and to maintain a free society is to be able to see the source. That doesn't mean everyone should be a contributor, but we should see what we're dealing with.

Re:Closed-Source? (1)

Pike65 (454932) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306910)

I want to know what the voting system is doing with my vote

I don't.

'Anyone who wants my vote is instantly disqualified from receiving it." [paraphrasing]

I am too pissed to remember the exact quote or quotee.

Anyone who can get's a virtual lollypop.

Re:Closed-Source? (1)

tuba_dude (584287) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307186)

Perhaps you misunderstood? (Or maybe I did...)

I think he's trying to say he wants to know with reasonable and publicly visible proof that his vote is being counted.

I don't see that as a problem. Of course, you could be right too... I wouldn't want anyone to see who I voted for either.

Interesting comment either way.

Re:Closed-Source? (4, Insightful)

GnrcMan (53534) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306956)

Well, I think a voting system with a voter-verified paper audit trail is probably actually better than having an open source voting system.

Look at it this way, even if you can see the source code for the voting system, you cannot be assured that it is installed, configured, and working properly in an actual election. Further, most of the population would have no idea what to do if they had the source code. The source code is no substitute for votes being actually recorded to paper, verified by the voter, and dropped in the ballot box, and with actual paper votes, the source code becomes somewhat moot, since you can see what you are voting for.

Re:Closed-Source? (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306981)

Or, in other words, just drop all the high-tech crap and go back to paper ballots. _Seriously_. It is not only necessary that the voting system be secure, it is necessary that it be seen to be so by ordinary citizens.

Re:Closed-Source? (3, Insightful)

GnrcMan (53534) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307011)

Almost.

I think technology can be beneficial in making voting more accessable. By having an easy to use computerized voting kiosk which prints a paper ballot that can be hand checked by the voter, you get the best of both worlds!

Re:Closed-Source? (2, Insightful)

SN74S181 (581549) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307146)

Do you mean a voting booth with an electric typewriter in it?

Otherwise, I don't know what you mean. 'Look, a shiny piece of paper with who I voted for on it' says the voter. Meanwhile, what went out over the wire, nobody is certain....

Re:Closed-Source? (1)

silas_moeckel (234313) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307221)

Ah but right now the voter can look at the system it's intended to be transparent as posible with oversight by the parties involved. Closed source stops some of that. There is nothing wrong with this they dont have to liscence the code for redistribution just publicly avalible source protected by copyright.

Open Code Doesn't Guarantee Integrity (1, Informative)

Pave Low (566880) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306958)

As it turns out, open code and "thoroughly examined hardware" do not a secure system make. The problem is that the code has to get compiled, and it has to run on an operating system, and that has to run on a computer. Even if the code and hardware (if one can examine the microcode) appears to be entirely pristine, Ken Thompson explained in his classic 1984 essay "Reflections on Trusting Trust" (available online, do a Google search) that the compiler that compiled all of that code can be rigged such that malicious code can be concealed. For example: Since the dates of US National Elections are fixed to infinity (they are always the 1st Tuesday in November) and since many voting systems (as well as computer systems) rely on real-time clocks, it is certainly plausible to create a hardware trap that only goes off on election day. And that trap doesn't have to be in the voting system either, there's tallying devices, reporting software, and so on. It's a nightmare. The only sane solution is to rely on a voter-verified physical audit trail that can be READ BY HUMANS in case of the necessity for a recount. There's a lot of ways this can be performed (including one by David Chaum that allows the voter to verify that their ballot actually was entered into the final tallies), and true improvements in voting systems will only occur when this is recognized and the "trust us" mentality (including one that says we should trust the people who will supposedly verify all the open code) is abandoned. Please read the extensive writings on Rebecca's website www.notablesoftware.com/evote.html as well as Peter Neumann's for more information on the subject. And for those of you who are convinced, PLEASE encourage all communities who happened to purchase fully-electronic voting systems to have them retrofitted with printers BEFORE the November general election. Brazil is doing just that, right now, with 3% of the 400,000 voting machines they purchased back in 2000 (more may follow).

Re:Closed-Source? (1)

Woogiemonger (628172) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306980)

I'll say pretty much what another responder already said. Auditable votes pretty much circumvent the problems spawned from abuse possible with proprietary voting software. What I really like the technical community getting more involved with voting software, and open-source might inspire this more-so, is the possibility that one day we may no longer use this antiquated electoral vote system. To be more explicit at the risk of being a bit off-topic, every vote should count directly. If I'm in a Democratic state, I should be able to vote Republican and my vote not be ignored by my state's electoral votes. With the general community getting involved with the software, the system may be more prone to mutations over time, especially as the technical, more computer literate community starts to fill seats in the government. Pardon my rambling :)

Re:Closed-Source? (3, Insightful)

geekee (591277) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307118)

All the punch card reader systems so far have been closed source. Plus mechanical voting systems makers don't provide blue-prints. Why the sudden outcry now that the machines are more modern?

Re:Closed-Source? (1)

tuba_dude (584287) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307217)

I don't really think it's sudden. The people who are informed on a specific issue are usually much more vocal than those outside it's scope. Having said that, there has probably been outcry before, but we are now the people that are on the 'inside' of the industry providing the machines.
I don't think I need to mention all the breaches of trust within this industry. We've all seen too many examples of abused trust within closed-source code recently to realistically place anything of any importance on another black-box system.

Maybe I'm going about it the wrong way. The machines are more modern, obviously, and parts are smaller. Nothing inside is readily visible. Hard to trust something you can't see, eh?

An Example of Closed Source (2, Informative)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307218)

I would recommend checking out this story, in which Senator Hagel Admits owning the Voting Machine Company [scoop.co.nz] that runs the elections in his state, Nebraska.

Completely coincidentally, Nebraska has a new law that prohibits election workers from looking at the paper ballots, even in a recount. The only machines permitted to count votes in Nebraska are ES&S.

And completely coincidentally, Senator Hagel has won recent elections by surprising margins. See also this capitol hill newspaper report [thehill.com]

there's more to this, but I can't find the links yet.

Privacy... (3, Insightful)

mmol_6453 (231450) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306889)

...Can only be possible with a sort of one-way encryption of a code, such as an md5sum. I'd hate to be able to have a vote traced back to me.

The next issue will be how to let the voter verify his vote (in the case of a recount, or contested count) without being identified as having voted one way or another.

Re:Privacy... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5307018)

Can only be possible with a sort of one-way encryption of a code, such as an md5sum. I'd hate to be able to have a vote traced back to me.

I think we know who voted for Bush!

Re:Privacy... (2, Interesting)

mmol_6453 (231450) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307097)

lol. I wasn't old enough to vote yet. My first voting experience was the November after.

It was funny, too. I hadn't been handed a privacy sleeve for my ballot, and the directions said that I should place my ballot in one. I asked for one, (got one), and learned she was absolutely delighted that I had asked for one, since it meant I had to have had read all of the directions to find that I was supposed to have one.

You have to remember that most of the voting facilities (At least in West Michigan) are manned by people who experienced Pearl Harber and whose beliefs in America's freedom was reenforced by America's role in WWII.

I'm not usually an OSS nut, or anything.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5306891)

..but I seriously can't understand why they'd want to impliment a *closed source* solution to this. I realize that corporations ran our govt before, but now they're not even trying to hide it.

If there so worried the voting soft. is closed (4, Interesting)

sls1j (580823) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306896)

If there so worried the voting software is closed source, why not start and open source project?

Re:If there so worried the voting soft. is closed (2, Funny)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307043)

why not start and open source project?

I can see the retirees in Florida now as they try to enter their vote:

[voter@miami-booth-323]$ vote -T Republican -x senate:Reno, mayor:Phillips -p 32:yes, 47:no
vote: Invalid paramters.
[voter@miami-booth-323]$ vote --help
Vote for candidates.
USAGE:
vote [-kKeiAvcIJx [-T party] [[-xkjJT] office:(name|party) [,...]] | [-qET] propnum:(yes|no) [,...] ] ...
[voter@miami-booth-323]$ man vote
No manual entry for vote
[voter@miami-booth-323]$ apropos vote
vote: nothing appropriate
[voter@miami-booth-323]$ info vote
This is the top of the INFO tree
...
[voter@miami-booth-323]$ crap
bash: crap: command not found
[voter@miami-booth-323]$

how about a reliable "liberty" system (2, Insightful)

argoff (142580) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306900)

I honestly half to say I'm not too concerned about the absoluteness of democracy (for lack of better wording). Democracy is not an end in itself, but a tool for protecting individual liberties - and like any tool it can be abused too. It's disgusting to hear people suggesting that if you don't like something isn't right in a democracy - you have no right to have any other recourse accept to vote.

What's right and wrong, good and bad, truth or lie is not decided by popular vote or public opinion - but by observable facts that exist independently. What I hope happens is that new technologies "force" democracy to become more free even if it tries not to. EG, a voting popluace would never shut down the internet - but it may be impossible to stop free mp3's any other way. A voting population would never shut down ecommerce - but this would provide the infrastructure to avoid unjust tax even if the mob desperately tries to impose it.

Re:how about a reliable "liberty" system (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5306909)

I honestly half to say I'm not too concerned about the absoluteness of democracy (for lack of better wording).

Yes, I believe the proper wording would be "have" instead of "half"

Re:how about a reliable "liberty" system (1)

Pike65 (454932) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307015)

What's right and wrong, good and bad, truth or lie is not decided by popular vote or public opinion

I agree. Right and wrong are personal.

What's right and wrong, good and bad, truth or lie is not decided by popular vote or public opinion - but by observable facts that exist independently

Observable facts that are indepentant? Here's a link [alternet.org] . Scarey, huh?

Sorry if this made no sense. This is a pist post.

Re:how about a reliable "liberty" system (2, Insightful)

SN74S181 (581549) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307154)

Right and wrong are personal?

So if I say that for me 'right' is luring strangers into the shed out behind my house and skinning them to make lampshades, that's 'right'?

No. 'Right and wrong' are values a society holds in common. That's almost the complete opposite of 'personal.' It can be relative to the society that a person is a member of, but it's not personal.

As if the "paper trail" is valid? (3, Informative)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306905)

I understand the possibility of fraud and such... we had electronic voting here in Georgia this last election cycle and it did very well.

If your disabled you can get assistance, and the machines can voice the choices as well for vision impaired.

There is a review at the end of the voting processing asking you to verify the choices you made are accurately represented.

Votes are transmitted to a central site and kept in the voting machines. They have multiple ways to prevent loss of votes due to power outages as well.

What this all leading up to is, how can the suggestion of printing out votes at the end of the day be meaningful? If the voter isn't there to review their votes who decides that anything nefarious hasn't happened?

If anything, a paper trail AFTER any voters have left is more of a risk that not having one. Suddenly you get back into the days of ballot stuffing, but instead now you just invalidate votes as needed. (or call for a new election, hoping your side turns out more this time).

Electronic voting still doesn't stop dead people from voting either, they just file absentee ballots.

Re:As if the "paper trail" is valid? (1)

MacAndrew (463832) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307158)

How do you know your system "did very well"?

"Votes are transmitted to a central site and kept in the voting machines. They have multiple ways to prevent loss of votes due to power outages as well."

That's the problem -- how do you know those votes were the actual voter choices? Couldn't the system just show you what you want to see, then corrupt the data on purpose or by error?

We have electronic voting also, and it wasn't until I read that particular critique that I realize everything going well only meant that the machines didn't crash. Now I wonder if the machine isn't just humoring me.

A paper receipt, with some kind of paper coded receipt retained by the machine, provides an audit trail. Without it, you're sunk -- although the vote will look orderly.... :)

(There are more elaborate proposals for verification, but the good ones all seem to turn on paper. Ironic for the electronic age.)

The scariest argument against computerized voting (5, Interesting)

Lord_Pall (136066) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306911)

http://www.bestoftheblogs.com/2003_02_05_bestof.ht ml#90279110

This is an article about Chuck Hagel who is a nebraska representative. He ran for office and won in a very close run off, and controls a large interest in the private company that counted the votes in his runoff election.

The majority of the information in the above blog came from http://blackboxvoting.com/, which is a book about the future of electronic voting.

Just some fairly creepy stuff that's turned me off towards any sort of private computerized voting.

A paper trail is too insecure. (4, Interesting)

wackybrit (321117) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306918)

The problem here is that a paper trail is too easy to for other people to read.

Elections in Western countries are meant to be by secret ballot, people. That means your vote is anonymous. Why? Because people don't want other people knowing who they voted for. If someone voted for the 'Kill All Geeks' party, that's their right, and you can't condemn them for their vote (although you can certainly condemn them for their actions).

The best alternative solution to a paper trail would be to use a secure database that has public access. That is, members of the public can run a set of limited commands on it.. like

SELECT COUNT() FROM votes WHERE party='republican';

Or

SELECT COUNT() FROM votes WHERE state='alabama' AND sexuality='gay';

That way, the populace can access the database over the net and query it by SQL, checking the validity of the votes.

Preferably you'd use a proprietary database system to store the votes, as then you can be sure security is not compromised. A paper trail just opens up a whole bag of communist ghouls.

Anonymous Voting != Secret Ballot (1)

semios (146723) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307004)

Anonymous voting does not mean the it's a secret ballot. It only means that it can't be traced back to you. Would you trust the fate of your vote on a ballot you can't read? How do you know it came out right?

As for your database solution, sure they can check the electronic tally, but how does that equate with checking the validity of it? You've solved nothing, and the fact that you think putting it in a proprietary database shows you've learned nothing.

Re:Anonymous Voting != Secret Ballot (4, Interesting)

thogard (43403) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307030)

The problem is I can't trace my vote back to where its been counted. Now if an electronic system gives me a vote reciept, then I can go to a web site later and say 'Tell me who "0304756745383834743646374" voted for'. If I've got that ticket in my hand and my votes don't match whats in the database, then I've got reason to complain. This has other problems because its trivial in small towns to figure out which IP address goes with which household but any verificaion system will have massive risks.

What scares me is I used to work for a largeish credit card company. They would lose records from time to to time. Thouse records invovled real money but sometimes they just disappeared without any ability to trace them. Everytime I've audited a system that logged in two places, some records just don't end up in both place. The best ones seem to have about one in a hundred million go missing, but they are still lost. I want the voting system to be at least that good.

A paper trail can be secure (4, Insightful)

stripmarkup (629598) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307007)

Suppose N people decide to vote on an issue. For simplicity, let's assume that the vote is A or B. You pick a random number that only you know. In order to vote, you add your number and your vote to a list. At the end of the election, the paper trail is shown:

1928787: A
7483978: B
1662656: B
...
etc.

Along with a tally of the votes. Every voter can verify that their number is followed by their vote. You don't know what the other random numbers correspond to, but if yours was 1928787 you know that your vote is there and was counted as 'A'.

This is the basic idea. There's more to it of course, but it can be done.

Re:A paper trail can be secure (0)

Zebbers (134389) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307053)

ummm joe bob and john all chose the same 'secret number'

Re:A paper trail can be secure (0)

yourmom16 (618766) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307201)

there is a major flaw in your idea. whats to stop it form listing the result as a vote for A when you check it using your random number but

incrementing the number of votes for B instead. It could be counted by hand but that defets the purpose of using electronic voting systems to begin with.

Hear hear! (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5306924)

It's not a vote if I can't hold the ballot in my hand, look down and see "Al Buchanan" in the PRESIDENT column and say "1 for Al!".

The ballot needs to be:

Machine generated from a touch screen like device.
Machine and human readable.
Signed so as to be verifiable.

The ballot reciept, that's placed into the voting machine, is a random private key, handed to the voter before voting that is used to sign the ballot and ensure integrity. The voter can then take the receipt/key with them and use an Id number to check that their vote was actually tallyed.

This allows machine counts of paper ballots. It allows manual, human auditing of ballots and tally. It allows machine and human recounts of the ballots. It preserves the voting record for the election on something besides magnetic media. It allows "quick summary" for those willing to rely upon the stored, machine versions of the votes before physically counting the ballots.

This is the only way. You MUST have a piece of paper you can go back to and find a vote. Anything else is simply unacceptable.

And, no, it's not over the internet, but we know that will never fly anyway.

Re:Hear hear! (1)

dubiousmike (558126) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307222)

It's not a vote if I can't hold the ballot in my hand, look down and see "Al Buchanan" in the PRESIDENT column

Then you KNOW something is wrong with voting machine!

The objection does not go far enough (5, Interesting)

originalhack (142366) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306929)


The fundamental issue is as follows....

Consider 2 elections. In one, you and I and everyone else have exactly a 75% chance of having their votes counted. In the other, the affluent young technocracy has a 99% chance of having their votes counted and the poor, old, or low-tech population has a 95% chance of having their votes counted. At first blush, the seond electiuon sounds more fair, but it is very clear that the first is totally fair and the second is terribly biased.

The problems in recent elections were not caused by technological failures. Dangling chads and the like are just a smokescreen and the recounts bore that out. The problems in elections are a lack of uniformity within the areas in which votes are pooled. Since the votes for president are done by electoral votes rather than popular vote, it is not necessary to have the entire country have identical machines and ballots, but this does need to happen at the state level. When I walk into my polling place, I should see an identical machine to every other voter in the state (randomly selected from the state pool). All the state ballots should be identical to every other ballot in the state. All the county ballots should be identical to every other ballot in the county, etc....

To do otherwise not only fails to solve the fairness problem, but it disinfranchises people for whom a mouse is a household pest.

Re:The objection does not go far enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5306938)

I dont understand. Can you explain how a different setting would influence a vote? Most people make up their minds long before they go to cast the vote. How would a different color, or sized, machine, or one having different fonts affect the result?

Electronic Gambling Machines have more oversight! (5, Interesting)

semios (146723) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306945)

What scares me is the fact that Electronic Gambling Machines have more oversight than these Electronic Voting Machines. Gambling institutions that provide electronic gaming are subject to random searches where the eeproms will popped out and verified that no tampering has been committed.

However, when it comes to protecting the foundation of democracy we can't even be given access to the source code as it is a "trade secret." Here's an example [sweetliberty.org] of this privatization of democracy:

In the West Virginia case [where an election supervisor, a candidate, a prosecutor, a county commissioner, election workers and the voting machine vendor were all sued by a group of candidates who believed that they had been cheated in the election], although the criminal charges were dropped, the judge had not allowed the jury to see a demonstration by the plaintiff's attorneys' computer expert, Wayne Nunn, PhD, a project scientist for Union Carbide who had designed multimillion-dollar computer networks.


After a nine-hour examination of the CES (now Business Records Corporation) computer system in question and in the presence of the CES president, the system's programmer, and others,

"Nunn, with one punch card, added ten thousand votes to the total of one of the candidates in a mock race for president". [ The New Yorker , November 7 th 1988, p. 68]

Nunn subsequently gave a deposition under cross-examination and revealed seven ways in which the system could be deliberately caused to miscount votes, including by manipulation of the toggle switch on the front of the machine to alter vote totals and by inserting a set of secret Trojan Horse commands into the source-code software as described earlier. So it can be done. But can it be detected and prosecuted?

A methodical expert analysis of the company's source-code could have been the key to determining the existence of fraud, but CES officials asked presiding Judge Charles H. Haden II, of the United States District Court, to block Nunn from inspecting their code on the basis that it was a "trade secret". Ultimately, the judge ordered that Nunn alone be allowed to view it, but without the computer he needed for a proper system analysis.

Nevertheless, he discovered "trap doors", "wait loops", and Christmas trees" which could all serve the same end of undetectable vote fraud. According to the New Yorker's Ronnie Dugger, after viewing the code for several hours,

"Nunn was prepared to testify that a ?debugger' in the BT-76 program, while enabling a programmer to make repairs in the program, was also a Trojan Horse; Haden excluded such testimony".

Nunn was allowed to testify that "he had concluded that the program had been altered during the counting".

The jury was also barred from seeing Nunn demonstrate how he could alter the vote count.

The case of Wayne Nunn being allowed to examine the proprietary source-code of the CES system is an extraordinary exception. The fact is that very few individuals outside of the computer vendors have ever been allowed to inspect the source-code of that or any other election equipment company. This was confirmed by Eva Waskell, the director of the Elections Project at Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility in a 1993 report entitled "Overview of Computers and Electors".

Many court cases involving allegations of fraud were brought against vendors of electronic systems. There were no convictions. Was there ever any proof of tampering presented? No. Part of the reason for this may be that during the litigation the plaintiffs were never given access to the vote tabulating program, and hence there was no opportunity for anyone to establish evidence to either prove or disprove the allegations. [Emphasis added]

We should point out that even if the court allowed the plaintiff's experts to inspect the source-code, there would be no proof that the code provided to the court was, in fact, the selfsame code used in the particular election in question. Federal election officials say that a few states are mandating that the source-code be placed in escrow so that it could be examined in the event of a particularly "fishy" election result.

Voting Software (1)

hackus (159037) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306946)

The idea of a piece of voting software that is closed and proprietary in a society that uses said software for "accountable" election results to determine the future governing bodies composition of a "open free" society is preposterous.

No such system can be designed, furthermore, no such system could be trusted.

Any voting system should be free, source code reviewed by all, understood by all, and more importantly constantly reviewed by all for honesty.

The obvious moral foundations upon which Democracy stands has, I would hope, easily indentifiable conflicts of interest with Capitalism if such a system is built by a private company.

A consortium of developers BASED IN THE US should build such a system by US citizens.

Capitalism is great, but I don't believe the system is morally appliable to every endeavor.

Some exceptions would definately be a voting system, and medical and drug treatments.

The former because there is no price you can put on the honesty of a voting system, the former is the fact that most drug companies would rather develop a pill you take every day for your condition rather than cure you.

After all, cures in a Capitalistic medical system are contrary to profit. Cures kills your market, so conditions are never cured, they are only corrected between pills till you $$$ order a refill.

And you thought your doctor was trying to help you with that medication didn't you? Tsk tsk you poor fool.

Same thing with a voting system. Thought your vote actually was recorded? You poor fool, I put a back door in the program and Sadaam Hussein is almost guranteed to win.

-Hack

In other news.. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5306953)

"Computer Scientists Rally for Easy Women"...

2010 Internet Voting Results (4, Funny)

willpost (449227) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306955)

The Code_Red worm has won by 7907980734278934 votes!

Why are people making this so complicated? (2, Interesting)

403Forbidden (610018) | more than 11 years ago | (#5306965)

They arn't looking for ways to detect rigging, they are just looking for a way to idiot proof it.

The udder simplicity of this problem, and how complicated people are making it, is staggering... A simple touch screen which returns who the voter wants, then print in the name on a piece of paper in a specified font so another computer can read it. Of course the typical "are you sure" messages are thrown in there somewhere and vola! computerized voting...

If you idiot-proof something... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5306996)

God will simply provide a more ingenious idiot.

Why not just.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5306982)

The american implementation of democracy is flawed and before you have any hope of doing it with electronics you need to.

1. Voters your preference from 1 .. n.
2. Teach your citizens to read and write numbers.
3. Learn to count the fucking things honestly
4. Don't stop people from getting to poling places.
5. Keep the lawyers out of it.
6. Set up a government independent body to regulate the whole thing.

That would be a good place to start because if you can not do it properly manually what hope have you Americans got doing it with computers.

And the next step would be to get people to actually vote in the first place so that your government is not elected by the 25% of citizens that show up to vote.

Proprietary voting systems? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5306997)

This seems an appropriate time to remind everyone of this.

http://www.acm.org/classics/sep95/ [acm.org]

The wisdom in computerized voting systems is certainly debatable.
Proprietary software, whose code cannot be publicly audited, and whose code cannot be independently tested, should never be allowed near voting booths (or sites)

And a paper trail? Will we visit everyone who voted to check their voting stub? And won't that identify who I voted for specifically in a way that can be checked and directly tied to me, defeating the purpose of a voting booth?

I hope the potential savings don't outshine the potential risks.

I hope everyone remembers (2, Insightful)

djupedal (584558) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307014)

...when it comes to proper vote management, we're no better than many smaller and supposedly less advanced countries. Next time we blast rhetoric at Slobservia or Nigrosso for corruption in their political systems, we may need to recall our own ineptitudes. Why is is so hard for us to reliably cast and count votes?

I don't really want answers to that, thanks.

It's closed source, and nearly unauditable (3, Flamebait)

Catbeller (118204) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307025)

1. Any voting system running on proprietary code should be assumed to be rigged.

2. Some of the companies that make such systems (Diebold) are affiliated with far-right wing politicians.

3. Paper audit trails do not exist. Without an audit trail, the only recount available is done by software provided by the manufacturer. Worthless.

4. In at least one state, which one escapes my memory at the moment, it is unlawful for any agency except the manufacturer of the machines to recount votes made on the machines.

5. A far-right wing ex-talk show host, now a congressman, was the primary shareowner of one of the voting machine manufacturers.

6. Exit polls have become unreliable for the first time in history. Election outcomes no longer match exit sampling. Why? Either the voters decided suddenly, en masse, to lie to exit pollsters, or mathematics have ceased to function, OR the vote tallies have been tampered with. I'd go with Occam's Razor: the tallies are being altered, just enough to win; not enough to be ridculously obvious.

7. The Florida mess. I remark on this only in passing, for I saw it mentioned by another poster. There was no mess: there was a close race, and a recount was needed. As the Floridians were proving, a perfect hand recount was easily done. But they were stopped from doing so by a partisan, panicking Supreme Court majority. Not that the thousands of operatives flooding the courts and the media weren't slowing it down to a crawl -- staged riots, lawsuits, arguing extensively over each ballot -- anything necessary to stop - that - recount. The Supremes had no legal precedent to do what they did. Constitutional scholars almost unanimously denounced the decision as BS. But they did the job.

And yes, BS headlines to the contrary, Gore won by actual votes counted. If overvotes ("Gore" written in, and also punched) were to be counted, and they would have been, Gore won handily.

And to my mind more importantly, if the military overseas votes postmarked after 11-07-00 had been disqualified, instead of illegally approved, Bush would have lost. Lieberman should be denied a shot at the crown just for caving on that point. those votes were sent in by Bush supporters after the close election was over, for the sole purpose of tipping the scale. Disgraceful.

But to report this would be to invalidate the Bush support shown in the media in Dec. 2000, and shown Bush to be a manipulator and a sham.

8. Back to point. Automated systems are fine -- but some say: a paper ballot should be printed out whenever a voter uses an automated machine. The ballot should be filed just as the hand-punched ones are today. In case of recount, the paper should be matched to the counts in the automated systems.

But here's the kicker: if the voter never sees the paper backup, how will the voter know the vote was accurately recorded? The software could mark Danny Fatcat on the file and on the printout, and the voter who voted for George Orwell would never know it.

The only way around this would be if the voter could review the printed audit ballot before the vote is committed. What if it doesn't match? What is the recourse?

And what is the use of an automated system if there is a voter review of a printed ballot? Better just to use the paper ballot and run it through a scantron.

* I don't think an automated system can be anything but rigged. The far-right ideologues in the U.S. are far too fanatical not to get involved in the manufacture and operation of these machines. It's a matter of God's will, the defeat of evil, the end of the world itself. If they can shave off a few thousand people from the Florida rolls because they have similar names to lawbreakers in other states, they can do just about anything. This is a war, and they intend to win it.

Re:It's closed source, and nearly unauditable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5307127)

I call complete and utter bullshit. If those military votes were counted, Bush would have been the clear winner in Florida. As I recall, of the 15,000 votes thrown out, 11,000 were for Bush.

Nice troll. You know crap and I'm too impatient to pick apart your entire post.

Re:It's closed source, and nearly unauditable (1)

snarfer (168723) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307202)

If those military votes were counted, Bush would have been the clear winner in Florida. As I recall, of the 15,000 votes thrown out, 11,000 were for Bush.

This is a flat-out LIE.

All military votes were counted INCLUDING VOTES CAST AFTER ELECTION DAY!

There were about 20,000 ballots thrown out IN PALM BEACH - where the voters tried to vote for Gore.

Heh. (0, Troll)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307029)


SCOTUS is going to be pissed if they find out they've got competition at rigging elections.

Right on! (1)

zogger (617870) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307031)

Right on and I got an even better idea-recognize that computerised voting is the LAMEST idea that has happened lately. All it has done is automate the ballot box stuffing potential, and made it near impossible to verify any actual count. Voting is IMPORTANT, it shouldn't be EASY, it's not supposed to be like ordering a book from amazon, it's the most important thing a citizen does besides sit on a jury and you are supposed to think about it, take it serious, and go do it. Yes, you should go stand in line,and mark your paper ballot. I filed a protest at my precinct this last election over this, it was our first "computerised voting". It was dismal, the precinct officer was completely clueless, was not even able to understand the concept of it getting programmed (and stuffed) in advance,with no way to verify it. She kept telling me, "no, it's flawless, if there's a dispute, we just rerun the tabulations!"

homer sez DOH!

I got my "voted" sticker, it has a little iconized computer pointing at itself, with the caption "I voted!". THAT'S RIGHT, the $%^**ing COMPUTER voted, I got no way to tell if I voted.

Background to some important information for USians:

votescam, the stealing of america [votescam.com]

Paper still best (3, Interesting)

teeth (2952) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307054)

Here in the UK we have a ballot system with an excellent paper trail and a near perfect validation protocol.

Each voter is given a (numbered) balot form with one column of candidate names and one (mathcing) column of empty boxes into which may be entered an apropriate mark ("X" or numerically ordered preference) to indicate voting preference.

The votes are sorted, and the sorted votes counted. This is done manually.

Any disputed votes are examined by the returning officer and representatives of the candidates and assigned or discarded by cocsensis.

Whilst the numbering of the ballots, and the recording by hand on the master copy of the voters roll at the polling station of which ballot is given to which voter, may slightly compromise anonimity, it provides no convenient way to decern the vote of any individual.

The cost of the occaisional employment of large numbers of tellers is almost certainly less than that of the various "automated" polling systems and the audit trail far superior.

Re:Paper still best (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5307102)

I still have not figured out just why Americans refuse to stick to this time-honoured method. Here in Canada we stick with the British system and mark an "X" beside the name, and our ballots are standardized across the country and haven't changed in format for about 100 years. We had a federal election at virtually the *SAME* time as the Americans and it took you guys months to complete yours, with all your hole-punching doodads and such, and it took us three HOURS (counting by hand). In a Quebec riding, one candidate won by a grand total of 7 votes, and even then we had no disputes or court action. Why can't American bureaucrats figure out that the latest cutting-edge technology will not serve democracy?

Don't use decimal please. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5307065)

Geeks hate decimal and geeks have the power to kill everyone else.

grave disappointment.... (4, Informative)

3-State Bit (225583) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307067)

...that a resolution "endorsed by computer scientists" does not propose an instant run-off system, whereby each voter ranks the candidates in order of her preference. (She can vote traditionally by ranking only one candidate 1, and no one higher).

The benefits are enormous. The system is much less open to manipulation, and it is basically the only way for minority voices to be heard.

One cannot overemphasize the fact that today a rational voter will always choose the lesser of two evils, without considering candidates that are not evil, based on the mathematics governing her vote.

Let me repeat this: If you believe that a vote for the democratic candidate is a vote for evil, and you believe that a vote for the republican candidate is a vote for evil, and there is a third candidate whose views you agree with precisely, and who you think could fulfill the office perfectly were she elected (but there is zero probability of this, as there was zero probability of Nader's being elected) then under today's system your only rational choice is to forego your preference for the third candidate and vote instead for the lesser of the two evils. That is, you will be rationally impelled to vote for a candidate with whom you do not agree, when a minority candidate exists who could better represent you.

This is no less than mathematical extortion.

You can either participate in a two-party system, or "throw your vote away." It is, in effect, a mathematical equivalent of having a voting booth in which you are to choose betweeen seven candidates by putting your token either into the republican ballot box, the democrtatic ballot box, or the trash.

Everyone who voted for Nader in our last presidential election placed their vote in the trash, since there was zero probability of Nader's winning. (Exception: vote trading.)

Read more about instant run-offs here [fairvote.org] , or do a google search.

Re:grave disappointment.... (1)

GnrcMan (53534) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307082)

I won't argue that an instant run-of system is by far better, but I don't think the resolution was addressing that issue at all. It had a single topic, which was the potential for disaster when using technology irresponsibly in a voting system. Adding an endorsment of instant run-off would cloud the main thesis of the resolution.

It has to be open, simple and verifiable. (1)

Mandelbrute (308591) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307091)

Like encryption methods, it needs to be open so that everyone can see the possible problems, not just one opportunist. Something like this needs to be open to all interesed parties, which really means all voters in this case (not just a State Governor). This applies whether it is a manaul or electronic process.

In my country (which has British based laws - similar to the USA) we have a federal authority which supervises the voting for all levels of government, which provides information to anyone that asks (debt collectors often track people down from the address they have on the electoral roll). This department is too big, beurocratic, and decentralised for bribes to make any difference. On several occasions courts have looked into allegations of vote rigging, and have easily found the anwsers. For a few years the government of my state had been decided by a few fake votes in one bye-election, but the court (at state level) discovered this. By the time this had happened, another election had occurred which changed the goverenment again. Abuse still happens, but it is easy to track down when it happens.

Now, if you look at the current US system the biggest problems seem to be inconsistancy and verification of results. The results in Florida were a mess, and the court had very little to go on - and I'm sure even G.W. Bush would have been a lot happier if the results were clearer.

How the fake votes were found (1)

Mandelbrute (308591) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307167)

They were found because a whole lot of people that didn't belong in that electorate voted. How they actually voted is only known due to their membership in a particular party - not from the actual votes. It's very easy to establish a system that verifies votes at the polling centre level, while mainly protecting the anonymity of the individaul voter. This works in most places, however my the votes of my parents were determined in one small town, since they were almost the only people that had moved there in the last three years!

Every democratic country has a famous election where even the dead vote. I believe that in the USA Truman was particularly popular with the dead.

Security Alert: Backdoor found in Democracy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5307095)

Admins with an understanding of system security may want to read the following links, it seems to me that means, motive and opportunity have allowed an inside attack on the US electoral system.

This is to my mind the biggest story of the year.

System Integrity Flaw Discovered At Diebold Election Systems
http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/HL0302/S00036 .htm

Risks digest discusses it
http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/22.55.html#subj10

The Guardian has an article today
http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,893 701,00.html

Excellent coverage by an expert
http://www.notablesoftware.com/evote.html

If You Want To Win An Election, Just Control The Voting Machines
http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0131-01.htm

Whistleblowers speakout
http://www.blackboxvoting.com/whistle.html

My experience with a new voting system. (4, Interesting)

ktakki (64573) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307113)

Here in Allston, a neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, our votes were cast in a manner similar to many urban areas, with a mechanical voting machine older than I am, the kind that has a big lever that closes a curtain and a myriad small switches for selecting candidates or casting votes for referenda.

I know that these machines have many drawbacks: they cost a lot of money to maintain, store, and "program", though I've always assumed that to "rig" these machines too commit wholesale fraudulent voting would be to time consuming and complex to pull off. Hence, I had a certain amount of faith that the lever I'd pull would actually correspond to the name on the paper strip, and my desired vote would be tallied. I know also that this faith was rooted in sentimentality; I'd accompanied my parents into machines just like that when I was a kid, back in the Sixties.

Two elections ago, however, during a primary vote in September, there was a man at the polling place who was demonstrating a new system, produced by LHS Associtates of Methuen, MA, the "Accu-Vote" system. It used paper ballots, with small circles like on a standardized multiple choice test (like SATs, except without the need for the No. 2 pencil). There was an optical scanner that looked somewhat like a paper shredder, the kind that fits on top of a wastepaper basket. You fed the ballot through the scanner and it read the marks, ejecting the paper out the other end, into a bag, thus preserving a paper trail in case of a recount.

I filled out one of these sample ballots. There were "joke" choices on the ballot, and I intentionally mis-voted, to see how fault-tolerant the system was. Under "Mayor", I placed a check mark in the box next to "Fiorello LaGuardia". For "Board of Cartoon Characters", I put a tiny dot next to "Bugs Bunny". Under "Superhero Committee", I filled in the box for "Wonder Woman", intentionally overfilling the mark, and for "Sports Authority" I filled two boxes, "Babe Ruth" and "Jackie Robinson".

I went over to the company representative who was showing the demo system and handed him my ballot. He fed it into the machine and it was spit out the other side. Though I'd intentionally cast a faulty ballot, there was no indication that anything was wrong, and I showed him the marks I'd made, pointing out my screw-ups.

"Well, this is just a demonstration," he said.

"So, all this does is roll the paper through the mechanism?" I asked.

"Um, well, it's just a demonstration."

"You mean it's not a real machine?"

"Right," he replied.

"So the real machine would reject this ballot, right?"

"I assume that this will be the case." He didn't sound too sure. At this point, the police who work the election detail started paying attention to our conversation. I guess election detail is pretty boring for them.

"So who audits the code that runs this machine?" I asked him.

"I don't know, maybe the Board of Elections," he said. "I can give you the name of the project manager. Maybe he can answer your questions." He wrote a name on the back of a business card. I took it and thanked him for his time. I called a few times but never got a callback, and I doubt I'd get a satisfactory answer.

My fear is that it's trivial for this sort of machine to register a vote for Foo to actually be tallied as a vote for Bar. With the old mechanical machines, this sort of fraud would take days, considering the hundreds or thousands of machines and the dozens of people from the Board of Elections that set them up. However a "black box" system like Accu-Vote need only be programmed with fraudulent code once, after which that code is distributed to hundreds or thousands of EEPROMS or Flash cards or whatever the Accu-Vote uses to store its programming. The barrier to entry for wholesale voting fraud has been lowered, and if the winning margin is large enough, there will never be a recount.

The Accu-Vote system was deployed for the November 2002 elections here in Boston. If there was a public hearing about this change from mechanical systems, I never heard about it, and I read the Boston Globe every day without fail.

k.

I will never support an electronic voting system (1)

Texodore (56174) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307115)

How will it ever be possible to trace any kind of voting mischief or voter manipulation or cheating or anything like that? It's all zeros and ones, and no one can see when data is manipulated like you can with a piece of paper.

Computers and electronics are good for some things. I don't think this is one of them.

Dangling Chads (1)

t0ny (590331) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307124)

I could never figure out why instead of replacing the vote counting machines they didnt just replace the ballot booths with machines that punch the ballot for you.

it could have been really slick, too, with a touch-screen, pictures, and everything. Then, you just touch who you want to vote for and page down for the next selection.

At the end of balloting, it shows you a list of who you voted for and asks you to confirm. Once you hit [VOTE], it just prints out your ballot, you hand it to the vote judge, and thats it. No changes to the system required.

Probably too intelligent, tho. Good solutions dont make as much money as bad ones.

Instead of Rock the vote, it will be hack the vote (1)

hypelog (650618) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307128)

As if voting was not already rigged, just think what eVoting will be like.

Scantron type voting equipment (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5307138)

I don't understand what all of the fuss is about. Here in Durham County, North Carolina, we use a voting system that is, in essence, something just like the multiple choice testing forms that we've all seen in school. Scantron, I think it is called. Instead of filling in the oval with a #2 pencil, one connects the beginning end (base of the shaft) of an arrow with it's pointy end by using a magic marker. The space between the two ends is detected as filled in or not by an optical scanning device. This way, there's a paper trail (the scantron type voting sheets) but the scanner/computer does the vote couting. What could be simpler than this? You slide the sheet into the scanner, it registers the votes, and then drops the sheet down into a locked container. Seriously, do we really need a touch-screen based one-arm bandit type machine that leaves no paper trail?

Paper and Pen? (0)

nlinecomputers (602059) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307145)

Why is a paper and pen such a problem? Why do machines(mechcanical or electronic) that can be easily rigged somehow the answer to a perfect election system?

I do not vote. One reason is because I don't trust voting machines or the people that run them. Even with paper ballots you can't trust the system when you can't watch them count the ballots AT THE POLLING PLACE!

In our county and state (Texas) they grab the boxes place them in a sheriff's deputy car(gee isn't the sheriff and elected official?) and haul them off to the county court house. How do I know that the ballots are the same ones that left the poll?

It is all crap, rigged from the get go(or too easily done so).

We also need to change the voting system- (2, Interesting)

Christ0ph (207085) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307152)

We are using the least accurate of possible voting systems, the plurality system. That is one of the reasons why the last election went the way it did. Our system is the worst possible, the one most likely to produce anomalies that do not reflect the will of the people. We need a preference-weighted voting system that prevents votes from being wasted if one's first choice candidate does not win. Like the "Borda Count" method. Many other countries are going this way. Most scientists and mathematicians agree.

Do the math:

http://www.princeton.edu/~matalive/VirtualClassr oo m/v0.1/html/lab6/lab6.html

http://www.ctl.ua.edu/math103/Voting/4popular.ht m

Or do a search for Borda Count on Google:

http://www.google.com/search?q=%22Borda+Count%22 &b tnG=Google+Search&num=200

Read the explanations above and then..Write your elected representatives..

I don't like this plan. (0, Redundant)

rice_burners_suck (243660) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307155)

Voting through electronic means is a bad idea because of the doors it opens to all sorts of trouble. Imagine what might happen if someone decides to fix the vote. He would change the information in the database software and then track down the paper trail and replace that with a modified paper trail. Now, there would be no way to prove that any such thing ever happened. This is a really bad idea.

Re:I don't like this plan. (1)

geekee (591277) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307204)

This can be just as easily done with the current punch card systems.

open source not an issue (1)

geekee (591277) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307156)

As people have pointed out, the general public doesn't actually know what's running on the machines, open source or not, so open source is no better than closed source. If someone tampers with the open source, joe user won't know. What is needed is an independent govt agency that is tasked with verifies the voting machine works. This can be done by hooking the I/O into a separate tester, for instance, designed by a differnt group of people. The tester votes at a rapid rate, randomly casting votes at a fast rate until the number of votes cast is greater than the number of votes actually expected to be cast. The vote totals can then be matched to the epected values to see if the machines are working. Of course, neither machine can be networked to avoid tampering after the machine has been found to work properly. A paper trail is useful in case there is an unrecoverable hardware error, although redundant systems should make the probability of this event very unlikely.

RISKS -- comments re electonic voting (3, Informative)

MacAndrew (463832) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307170)

The RISKS forum/digest [ncl.ac.uk] has had many, many articles on the potential and actual snafus of electronic voting; I thing the topic is a special interest of the digest's editor. Although the contributors are very much a part of the technology world, the mood there is pretty virulently anti-electronic voting unless there are old-school audit features such as paper trails. Closed source software is regarded very skeptically.

The most persuasive evidence is the actual experiences coming in from the field, around the planet. Many local governments are buying expensive new systems on surprisingly little information, and we may face problems like Florida's in no time -- but not actually realize it, for lack of auditing. I highly recommend flipping through the archive.

Linux? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5307182)

I sure hope they give this task to a responsible, accountable organization like microsoft or adobe, and dont leave it up to a bunch of subversive america-bashing communists.

Perhaps voting needs to be Moderation. (1)

t0qer (230538) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307190)

(Picks up unibomber manfististo pen)

We have become a society that no longer has the time to "think" about the issues anymore. Paperboys are not out selling papers on the corner, nor are we having them delivered to our houses. Instead we are a society that has begun to transition from real to "virtual" content. Instead of waiting till the next day on the farm to get our news, we simply point a browser at cnn.com, or google news and recieve it at a moments notice. Even television is close to being replaced by the net as a source of news because it is an instantanious update that's up to the minute.

The format of television will not disapear. It's function is to stream out so that your attention does not have to be directed directly towards it, as you would have to with a browser. Yet it's format is adaptable to the net, therefore it's only reasonable to note that this conversion will slowly take place over the next 15 years.

Instantatious direct response to issues now facing canidates is giving them even greater power in directing their political policies. As soon as an issue is found out, a solution can be dispatched by the politician faster than has ever been possible.

Unfortunately for %90 of the voting public, technology is not an issue because they do not understand what power it gives their representatives in this day and age. When they vote they go on the good faith that this canidate will fullfill their duties to their voters for the duration of the term. Unfortunatly we get bozo's in office, leeching off you, the taxpayer while completely trolling other counties/states.

I think the best way to get electronic voting mainstream is to wait for the current generation of goverment to leave office. This may happen in another 8 years or so. So just be patient and wait. Since all the current canidates seem leery of electronic voting technology, our best bet is to put our votes on a canidate that wont look at it as a "black magic voodoo" ballot box.

THE FLORIDA ELECTION WAS RIGGED! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5307198)

Computers are perfect for that!!!

Requirements of a voting system (3, Insightful)

Gunzour (79584) | more than 11 years ago | (#5307199)

IMHO, any voting system, computerized or not, must meet the following requirements:

- The voting must be anonymous.

- There must be a backup method that allows for tallying votes if the primary method fails.

- There must be a permanent audit trail to make recounts possible.

- There must be no way to associate a specific ballot with a specific voter (yes, this is the same as "anonymous" above but I feel it deserves special mention).

- Most importantly, the system must be designed such that its privacy and auditability are *readily apparent* to the *vast majority of voters*. You should not have to have a CS degree to be able to trust that your vote will be counted.

To me, to meet this criteria, any computerized voting system must print paper ballots which the voter can read and then turn in to a separate vote-counting entity. The system which solicits your vote and prints a completed ballot must be physically and logically distinct from the system which collects your complete ballot and counts it. I don't think open source matters -- if it prints paper ballots and the casting and counting functions are separate, it is easy to audit its accuracy.
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