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Australian Voting Software Goes Closed Source

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the but-wait-there's-more dept.

Software 567

Scott Ritchie ended up delivered an angry rebuttal to Friday's OSCON presentation on the credibility of election software: What's strange is that his rebuttal came in response to a talk he himself had just delivered. Ritchie doesn't have a split personality, and wasn't simply playing devil's advocate. He found himself, though, in the strange situation of having agreed (as a last minute stand-in) to deliver a presentation he hadn't yet had a chance to read, provided by Dr. Clive Boughton of Australian software developer Software Improvement. (Boughton is also a Computer Science lecturer at Australian National University.) Between agreeing to fill in and arriving at the conference, Ritchie found that Software Improvement was switching its eVACS voting software from a Free, open source software license (specifically, the GPL) to terms "even worse than that on MS's shared source," and decided to do something about it. (Read more below.)

From Diebold's last-minute installation of uncertified software updates on its touch-screen election machines in California (leading to decertification of the company's machines in several California counties) to ethically troublesome relationships between politicians and the companies whose machines count the votes that determine their employment, the possible benefits of electronic voting seem swamped at the moment by objections (from simply prudent to caustically cynical) to its security and integrity.

Within the world of electronic voting, though, eVACS (for "Electronic Voting and Counting System") has been a rare success story both for open source development methodology and for the benefits that electronic voting can offer. The first generation of eVACS (running on Debian Linux machines) was developed starting in March 2001 in response to a request for bids by the Australian Capitol Territory Electoral Commission (ACTEC), and it was done on a budget of only AUS$200,000.

(The Australian Capitol Territory includes Australia's capitol city, Canberra, as well as surrounding suburbs and Namadgi National Park.)

Besides a respectable list of features driven by ACTEC's initial requirements (like support for 12 voting languages, and audio support for blind voters), eVACS has an advantage not enjoyed by many electronic voting systems: it's been successfully, uneventfully used to gather votes in a national election. The election in which it played a part went smoothly, and the eVACS system itself functioned as hoped.

This year, though, ACTEC asked Software Improvement to update the code for future elections, and Software Improvement decided to go them one better -- or, in the eyes of open source enthusiasts, one worse. The notes Ritchie was provided to deliver announced a change to the process under which the code is released; specifically, a switch from an open source license to something the company calls "controlled open source."

According to Software Improvement, simply releasing election-machine code under a liberal license such as the GPL is undesirable for two reasons: it means a loss of the company's intellectual property, and unfettered access could lead to a compromise of the voting system, if a determined cracker could find and exploit flaws in the code. (Software Improvement has not supplied any examples to show that this has happened, however.)

The company's use of "open source" would find little support from organizations like the Free Software Foundation or the Open Source Initiative. Software Improvement's idea of software openness is rather limited. Claiming that open source development is insufficient, even inimical to creating trust in election systems, the company now says that portions of eVACS's codebase will be released only to approved analysts, and in encrypted form, to enable viewing only for auditing purposes, rather than code contribution. Repeated viewings would be reported to the company, and only a limited number of views would be permitted before the code would self-destruct.

After delivering the prepared presentation, Ritchie took a few minutes to react to the changes it announced.

"Six hours ago, while I was reading through this on the plane," said Ritchie, "I was infuriated to read what it actually says."

Ritchie, though, is a computer-literate political science student at the University of California - Davis, and behind the Open Vote Foundation. He said he's decided to resume the project represented on that site, started with the intent to fork and bring to the U.S. the first generation, GPL'd version of eVACS.

"A long time ago, I read the first news report about Diebold, wondered why we didn't have open source election software for our voting machines. Eventually, I found out that Australia had apparently beaten us to it. It seemed like a good thing; the eVACS system was developed and released as GPL code, it was checked and rechecked by computer science people and all kinds of election officials. I said, 'Why don't we bring this to the U.S.? It's GPL, let's do it.'"

So he started the nonprofit Open Vote Foundation to bring the software to the U.S., specifically to California. Ritchie went to the meeting at the California Attorney General's office which resulted in decertification of Diebold machines in that state's 2004 election process, and his involvement in the fight against Diebold's secret-source voting machines is what led him to the open source eVACS; now he finds that the restrictions on the formerly GPL software are "even worse that that on MS's shared source. To call that open source is a bit dishonest."

"As of 6 hours ago," he said, "I've decided to start that again. It's not that hard; I mean how hard is it to say 'add one to this vote'? ... I remembered my old plan, and thought 'Let's take the old Australian code, fork it, and work from that -- and that is still an option. This is the great thing about open source software. If the old lead developer goes insane, you can always fork it, right?"

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567 comments

His opening line? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9882145)

"A Dingo Ate My Vote."

Re:His opening line? (4, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882424)

"A Dingo Ate My Vote."

"To vote against the incumbent, hit the monkey!"

first post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9882156)

fp!!!

Re:first post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9882167)

u teh suxors

When is civil disobedience justified? (5, Insightful)

revscat (35618) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882159)

I have been wondering lately if phsyically damaging these machines is not justified in a system that is supposed to cherish democracy to such a high degree. Civil disobedience is justified in some cases, and I believe that the use of unverifiable electronic voting machines with known vulnerabilities is just such a case.

Remember, Americans: Bring your voter registration card, and a sledgehammer for Diebold. They are stealing our freedom to vote, the very democracy over which so much blood has been spilled, and the corrupted political process is encouraging it via awarded contracts and almost silent acquiescence.

This crosses political affiliations and affects all Americans. I strongly believe that this must be stopped it by all means necessary or we will lose the ability to collectively affect the policies of our country, no matter how small your individual voice might be. This is zealous, without a doubt, but not all zealotry is bad. "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice." And some things are too important to wait upon the justice system to work, even when it does. Sometimes men must take justice into their own hands.

Live free or die.

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (-1, Flamebait)

screwedcork (801471) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882172)

Its not like your vote matters anyway. Let's not forget the 2000 elections!

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (1)

swb (14022) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882186)

Acutallly, which millionaire do you want to elect? It's so hard to choose.

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (5, Funny)

aussersterne (212916) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882209)

The patriotic one. You know, the one with the good hair. The one who was a member of Skull & Bones. The who's strong on defense, wants jobs for working Americans, has beautiful, intelligent daughters that love him, and still believes in the American dream.

Oh, wait...

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (4, Insightful)

cvd6262 (180823) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882420)

The patriotic one. You know, the one with the good hair.

I don't remember who said this: The difference between a patriot and a traitor is success.

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (1)

Juanvaldes (544895) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882220)

the one that will fuck up this country less.

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9882274)

Which one is that? Cobb or Badnarik?

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (1)

The Vulture (248871) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882413)

And that right there is the problem with the election system in the United States. If you want your vote to actually "count"[1], you need to vote for one of the two major candidates, otherwise you lose out.

In Canada, there are multiple parties, and as long as a party gets one seat, they get to influence how things run. It's not uncommon for a minority government (where the winning Prime Minister's party holds less than 51% of the seats) to be overruled by two (or more) smaller parties combining their votes on matters in Parliament.

-- Joe

[1] Yes, your vote does count if you vote for another party, but IIRC, if the party you vote for gets over 5% of the votes, they get advertising money for the next year, or something like that. My knowledge of U.S. elections is somewhat lacking, seeing as I'm not a citizen (although a resident), and can't legally vote anyway.

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9882362)

If everyone who actually disliked evil asshole 1 and 2 voted Green or Libertarian we might actually get somewhere.

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9882449)

Actually...it's the millionaire vs the billionaire. But hey, the billionaire is really down with common citizens...*cough*....really.

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (1)

raider_red (156642) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882467)

Acutallly, which millionaire do you want to elect? It's so hard to choose.

John Kerry seems to agree with me at least 50% of the time. Of course he also disagrees with me the other 50%, and it's on the same issue...

Ok, this could be a problem.

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (0)

2TecTom (311314) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882189)

All of this assumes that voting actually ever changes anything. I, for one, remain skeptical.

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9882381)

I, for one, welcome our unelected overlords!

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (4, Insightful)

Unnngh! (731758) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882401)

Well, if most people actually would vote, maybe we could see whether it does or not. The voter turnout rate in the US is so abysmal that you probably have a point.

If you don't vote, however, you really have no right to complain about the way things work. This is a democracy after all, even if it has its share of problems, and individuals can work to change things, even if they aren't 100% successful.

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9882435)

It is really sad when Iran had a higher voter turn out in their last election than the US ever has. Plus, during Iran's election the reformers were actually boycotting the election because of the religious powers that be not allowing many of the reformist candiates to run.

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (4, Insightful)

nacturation (646836) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882511)

"The penalty for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors." -- Plato

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (5, Informative)

jazmataz23 (20734) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882227)

Well, there's always just voting en masse via absentee ballot. I've already registered in NC, and they'll mail me my ballot in a couple weeks (fifty days from voting day, to be exact). Here's [statedemocracy.com] a clearinghouse of sorts with information for all fifty states. I've already posted as to my reasons for this here [slashdot.org] .

Make sure your vote counts: make them count it by hand!

jaz

If only they would (1)

warmh2o (659654) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882417)

I called an election official to determine a way for my vote to be counted by hand. No such luck! Here in Georgia the absentee ballots are going to be scanned in by optical readers (thanks Diebold), and be uploaded via a card into the same database as the rest of the votes. At least there will be a record if a recount is called for though...

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (-1, Troll)

chimpo13 (471212) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882443)

Yes, counted by hand by state workers. Hi, I'm from the Government and I'm here to help you.

What goes around, comes around. Kennedy stole his election, thanks to his father's mob background, and entered us into an unpopular war. Bush stole his election, thanks to his father's corporate background, and entered us into an unpopular war.

Although Kennedy later pissed off the mob and got wacked, there's no reason why Bush would want to piss off the corporations.

Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos!

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (2, Funny)

TrentL (761772) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882239)

I'll destroy some machines if you let me blame it on you.

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (1)

chadjg (615827) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882244)

I'm not to surre that this is appropriate, but if you're gonna damage the machines, use stun gun, maybe with long, narrow probes soldered onto the arc-points. Much handier than a 15 pound sledge.

And how the heck is the above post flamebait? Extreme, yes, but it's a half-way reasoned post. Now I'm OT. Oh well.

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9882282)

> When is civil disobedience justified?

"Civil disobedience"? I do not think that means what you think it means.

Time to take a few hours and (re)read your Thoreau and Ghandi; damaging voting machines has NOTHING to do with civil disobedience, despite how cool you think that phrase sounds.

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9882297)

Yes, destroying the voting machines in not civil disobedience... turning them into a beowolf cluster to play Doom 3 on, now that is civil disobedience.

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (0, Flamebait)

essreenim (647659) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882288)

Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice Exactly, I have no problem with Michael Moore either! : )
But about the eVACS article:
a switch from open source development as conventionally perceived to something the company calls "controlled open source." come on? Thats gotta be a contradiction. Im sure Richard Stallman would be infuiated by this..
unfettered access could lead to a compromise of the voting system
Spoken like a true MS zealot. Yeah, we all heard athe word unfettered many times with the whole WMD Iraq thing. And its wrong. Unfettered access is the ONLY way to go. I really believe you have to have complete transparency for public voting. You need to KNOW where you're vote is really going
started with the intent to fork and bring to the U.S. the first generation, GPL'd version of eVACS.
Good luck with that!! How will the Republicans be able to disinfranchise voters now..?? I really hope something like this does take off in th U.S. There is such a great energy and enthusiasm about OSS in the U.S. I hope they can rally behind this.

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (1)

JWW (79176) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882396)

How will the Republicans be able to disinfranchise voters now..?

Yean, like only Republicans disenfrancise voters.... oh, wait, you're right, Democrats have only enfranchised dead voters before.

That being said. I distrust diebold machines not because I believe diebold is evil, but because they appear to have been totally incompetent in creating an adaquately working system for electronic voting. Give me paper and pencil anyday.

Also, the safer civil disobedience route would be to generate a large amount of static electricity and just touch the voting machine. That way you can tell them the stupid machine just broke.

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (0)

supermonkeycool (641966) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882302)

We don't live in a democracy. We live in a republic. There's a distinction.

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (1)

flibuste (523578) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882445)

And where do you live?

I come from a republic, my wife comes from what used to be a democracy (USA). Up to now I fail to see the difference in my everyday life.

Dare elaborating on what the distinctions are?

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9882312)

don't call it civil "disobedience". It's YOUR COUNTRY (well, in australia, technically it's the queen's. But fuck that inbred bitch. Actually don't. Euwww).

How do you disobey yourself?

It's not civil disobedience, it's direct rule.

Re:When is civil disobedience civil disobedience? (4, Informative)

jazmataz23 (20734) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882343)

There's a fine line between Civil Disobedience and Hooliganism. The major tenet of CD is nonviolence, that in a free society, social change can be created without resorting to violence of any kind.

It's really pretty practical actually; it's impossible to get somebody all riled up for social change, put a sledgehammer in their hands and tell them "Now, that's *ONLY* for the voting machines. No hitting!" Witness the French "Revolution": once you tell Jimmy Rebel "go forth and smash!" he rarely stops where you want him to.

jaz

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (4, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882375)

They are stealing our freedom to vote, the very democracy over which so much blood has been spilled...

The flip side of this, of course, is that you'd be unilaterally deciding to deny a large group of people the opportunity to cast a ballot, and possibly voiding an entire election. It's always hard to make an objective determination of where to engage in civil disobedience, but I'd urge you make extremely damn well sure in your own mind about when voting machine vulnerabilities justify your deciding for all of us that we'd be better off with no voting at all.

Certainly if you walk into my polling place and start smashing machines with a sledgehammer, you'll be leaving on a stretcher. I wouldn't count on everyone immediately recognizing you as the hero of freedom that you see yourself as.

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9882389)

You are going to have alot more than justice on your hands when they introduce you to your new cellmate, smartguy.

You kooks really do think that GWB is going to take over and make this some totalitarian dictatorship don't you? Are you going to admit you were a freaking idiot for thinking like that when he leaves office gracefully (possibly after eight years...count em ya crackpot), or are you going to go on in your own world thinking you saved us all by your actions? (My money is on this one...the egoes of people like that generally can't handle the former.) Do you not see the loop you've set yourself up in?

You have no more interest in 'justice' than you do in truth, IMHO.

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9882474)

as soon as a democrat takes over everything will instantly better.

the entire world will love us because a democrat is in office from day one. terrorists will stop attacking us, it will be total bliss.

oh wait. i can remember 1992-2000 again,
economy was good and based on fraud. check
the world hated us. check
terrorism. check

honestly people beleive my rant before. they are so drawn by JFK II and hung up on what the democrats say they use every oppurtunity to spout rants like mine, and bash republicans and bush. they LIVE for it.

(and they have another 4 years of it comming)

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (4, Insightful)

ElForesto (763160) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882398)

Maybe, instead of advocating the destruction of the machines, you can do what we did in Nevada and force the Sec. of State to add a paper trail. It's a lot more work and you don't get to smash things, but it does a lot more good.

Re:When is civil disobedience justified? (4, Insightful)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882482)

"...electronic voting ...is just such a case."
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice."
An opinions only, not truths. And, one I don't share.

"Sometimes men must take justice into their own hands."
Feel free to come on down to our voting country and try to take something into your own hands. Just don't whine and complain when you have your ass handed to you be people who aren't taking kindly to your presumption that you should determine that they shouldn't vote.

Ouch (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9882170)

This article hurt me brain...

More eyes will catch bad/illegal code (4, Insightful)

grunt107 (739510) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882181)

As Diebold has proven, having a private firm develop voting machine code can be detrimental to a democratic society.

More eyes checking on the code will find these problems faster than the machinations of a private corporation. Factor in corporate bias and the potential for 'back door' code is immense.

As cited, the CA elections showed how unusable the current offerings of e-machines are.

The only criteria is if it is easy to use, traceable, and accurate.

Re:More eyes will catch bad/illegal code (2, Insightful)

lukewarmfusion (726141) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882238)

"The only criteria is if it is easy to use, traceable, and accurate."

And one of the criteria of a successful election is that the votes be untraceable to the voter. It's still a mystery to me, and one of the sources of skepticism to many others.

Re:More eyes will catch bad/illegal code (2, Insightful)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882272)

And one of the criteria of a successful election is that the votes be untraceable to the voter. It's still a mystery to me, and one of the sources of skepticism to many others.

It's a mystery to you why some people would want to avoid vigelantes and the death penalty over voting for the "wrong" candidate?

Re:More eyes will catch bad/illegal code (1)

lukewarmfusion (726141) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882498)

No - it's a mystery to me how we could implement an electronic voting system with a "one person, one vote" accountability but still have an anonymous vote.

I've read some pretty good solutions, but none of them were that convincing to me. The best that I can remember involved simply tallying the number of people who votes (no anonymity) and comparing to the number of votes (with anonymity). There's no way to tie the vote to the person, but you can definitely compare the numbers. And validate or invalidate based on the comparison.

Re:More eyes will catch bad/illegal code (5, Interesting)

ComputerSlicer23 (516509) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882357)

It's simple. You can't sell your vote, if you can't prove the way you voted to someone else.

In the olden days, people would sell their vote for money. It wasn't until I believe the 1850's or 1860's that we had an anonymous voting system. In an odd coincidence, we imported the Austrialian method back then too!

Before the 1860's you wrote in the name of the candidate you wished to vote for. In small enough precinects, you could literally know everyones handwritting. Before that, you actually walked into the town capital building, and announced your vote in a loud clear voice the the people in charge of keeping track.

Each candidate would have a witness there keeping track of who voted which way, and could then pay off the people who they bought a vote from.

As the other response said, I'd imagine that the first whites to vote for a black in Georgia probably didn't make it too far out of the voting booth before getting harrassed. Unless there was an anonymous system.

Kirby

Know thy vote counter (5, Interesting)

Skraut (545247) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882188)

"It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything." Joseph Stalin

Re:Know thy vote counter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9882434)

In soviet russia the head of state was chosen by the party - in democratic America he's chosen by the supreme court.

Re:Know thy vote counter (1)

axllent (220868) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882468)

Or just the person managing Fox news who descides to publicly announce his first cousin's Florida "winning" of the presedential election before the "actual" counting had even finished.

That can be good (0, Troll)

zippo01 (688802) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882198)

That will save me so much work, now when i find a bug in the software, I CAN RULE Australia. And sence it's closed source noone else will find it. MUHAHAHAHA. ALL HAIL LORD ZIPPO

Appropos lyrics(Violent Femmes)Re:That can be good (2)

Samuel Nitzberg (317670) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882416)

The Machine Lyrics:

I got a machine
And I took over the world
In one weekend
I took over the world
With my machine
I did it because
I was looking for a project
And it was either
Take over the world or learn French
So I took over the world
And next weekend
I can learn French
I got a machine
And I took over the world
But nothing changed
That wouldn't be fair

OSS IS OWN WORST ENEMY (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9882201)

It's not Open Source, there for it must be bad evil poorly written software. GROW UP!

Re:OSS IS OWN WORST ENEMY (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9882331)

at least use "therefore" correctly, jackass.

Fork it. Absolutely. But someone will care? (5, Insightful)

cyclop (780354) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882204)

It's lovely someone wants to develop and fork something so exotic like an electronic voting system.
I just hope some government will understand that it's NECESSARY for such software to be FULLY Open Source, to guarantee democracy. How can I trust a device I don't know what is REALLY doing with my votes?

(And if someone is scared by the fact someone can maliciously change the program in the local voting machines just before the election...well,it's enough for THAT election to use a freezed code with a definite SHA1 or MD5 checksum...isn't it?)

Re:Fork it. Absolutely. But someone will care? (2, Insightful)

rob.sharp (215152) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882271)

Unless you watch every vote being counted with your own eyes, theres no guarantee the every vote is counted.

A closed source voting system is the same as the vote counting that goes on behind closed doors.

You just have to hope that those in charge of either method are competent and trustworthy.

Re:Fork it. Absolutely. But someone will care? (1)

das_cookie (619577) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882506)

A closed source voting system is the same as the vote counting that goes on behind closed doors.

Is it? Traditional vote counts are done by volunteers, are they not? And the parties do have representatives present for the counts, right? With closed source, all you've essentially got is a for-profit company's assurances that it's all on the up-and-up. I would say the open source voting approach is more like the current vote counting system, if not more so, since anyone who wants to can lay eyes on the vote counting process.

Re:Fork it. Absolutely. But someone will care? (1)

lfourrier (209630) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882432)

if you go to computer voting, it is necessary, but not sufficient to be open source.
As for your check, how can you verify, in the voting booth, that the program running is really the one in the rom, and not one in microcontroller memory :
you know, we just changed the controller from XX12587 with the XX12588, all the rest is the same. We just forget to tell you the XX12588 start from internal rom, and you checked the external one

Re:Fork it. Absolutely. But someone will care? (1)

LnxAddct (679316) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882472)

"How can I trust a device I don't know what is REALLY doing with my votes?"

More importantly pertaining to the current system, how do you know a person counting your votes, who may have different political views from yourself, is counting them and/or submitting the correct numbers? This has always bothered me, although I've never been on a committee, how hard could it be to sit there and be like " 5 for my choice, 1 for his choice, 5 for my choice, 1 for his choice, etc...". Granted, if it was too extreme of a difference then you'd probably get caught. But seriosuly, does anyone know what kind of defenses are in place to protect against this sort of thing?
Regards,
Steve

Big problem... (1)

Skiron (735617) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882216)

...is they (we?) need to sort out the cheating and manipulation in normal 'visit the booths' type voting first.

That is all engineered anyway, so until that is really squeaky clean, how can you trust an electronic vote?'

Nick

Uh... GPL? (-1, Troll)

djcapelis (587616) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882219)

So much for the GPL being viral...

Copyright and Licensing (was Re:Uh... GPL?) (2, Informative)

Proteus (1926) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882359)

So much for the GPL being viral...
According to the story text, the GPL-based version is being forked, and (hopefully) brought to the US. So, the fact that the initial version of the code was GPL is protecting its availability.

The original copyright-owners of the code have the right to change licenses -- whether to or from GPL or any other license. The "viral GPL" argument has to do with people other than the original author attempting to close the source-code for a product. If your product contains GPL code, you must either isolate and release that code, or you must make the containing product GPL. If, however, you own copyright to that code, you are free to change licenses -- you just can't enforce the new license on the users of the GNU license. :P

Re:Uh... GPL? (2, Interesting)

Ryan Huddleston (759930) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882451)

They could have either done a rewrite, or have gotten all the original writers' permission.

Under the GPL, the original writers stil hold their copyrights. By modifying the code, they submit to the terms of the GPL, but what they write is still theirs. And if the original writer wants to do away with the GPL on a GPL-licensed work, he can contact the other authors, and since they each all hold unencumbered copyrights to their own works, a closed version may be made.

Even if they cannot get permission from all those who wrote the code, if they remove the code written by those who dissent, they can still close the work.

The GPL is a very solid license. It is also quite readable. You can read it at http://www.fsf.org/licenses/gpl.html [fsf.org] .

Trust (1)

mboverload (657893) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882246)

I would trust my votes with the open source community anyday.

I mean, what a great idea. WE THE PEOPLE make and maintain the very thing that makes democracy possible. No company should make voting software behind closed doors, how can we trust them? So many companies have screwed over the people and it would comfort me that people that love freedom are the ones openly building the infratractuce of our voting system.

You should know... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9882247)


I open-sourced my jizz into your mom's ass.

She's from Melbourne though, so don't you dare mod me off-topic!

What amuses me. . . (5, Interesting)

the gnat (153162) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882263)

. . . is that the people leading the call for paper trails or even just paper ballots are either computing professionals or extremely technically literate. It's an interesting situation when technological "progress" is opposed by the elite rather than the traditional Luddites or the masses. Maybe we've all just read too much science fiction, but these machines sound like a solution even worse than the problem. I'd rather go through the Florida recount again than deal with the potentially catastrophic effects of the machines we use in CA.

I'm a little shocked, however, that more professed conservatives haven't spoken out against the new systems. To hear some of them tell it, the Democratic Party practically invented vote fraud, so you'd expect that they'd be much more suspicious of unverifiable, untrackable voting systems. But none of them seem to have anything to say on the matter - or have I not been looking in the right place?

Re:What amuses me. . . (5, Insightful)

crimethinker (721591) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882325)

Let me join you as a techincal professional who absolutely does not trust electronic voting. I prefer to punch holes in paper or mark boxes with a pen. At least in those cases, someone has to make my physical ballot disappear.

I'm a little shocked, however, that more professed conservatives haven't spoken out against the new systems. To hear some of them tell it, the Democratic Party practically invented vote fraud

Haven't you ever heard the saying "when I die, bury me in Chicago so I can keep voting" ? The Democrats did invent modern-day vote fraud, getting all sorts to vote for them: dead people, illegal immigrants, and in one California case, over 120 people in alphabetical order with identical handwriting signing the voter roll. I found it particularly ironic that Al Gore's team in the Florida recount included Daley, who is from ... CHICAGO!

BTW, the reason that the conservatives aren't screaming bloody murder about unauditable electronic voting is that the chairman of Diebold is a Republican who has pledged to help re-elect George Bush.

-paul

Re:What amuses me. . . (1)

surreal-maitland (711954) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882453)

Haven't you ever heard the saying "when I die, bury me in Chicago so I can keep voting" ? The Democrats did invent modern-day vote fraud, getting all sorts to vote for them: dead people, illegal immigrants, and in one California case, over 120 people in alphabetical order with identical handwriting signing the voter roll. I found it particularly ironic that Al Gore's team in the Florida recount included Daley, who is from ... CHICAGO!

this is exactly the reason i think that most people opposed to electronic voting are overreacting. the idea of having anonymous voting is inherently susceptible to fraud. someone posted a stalin quote about the vote counters being the ones who decide, and it's true. hell, have the machine print or email a receipt. there's physical proof.

that said, i do think that the software should be open source, for security's sake.

Re:What amuses me. . . (1)

Amer (660212) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882364)

Maybe those more professed conservatives own or have interests in companies making voting machines...?

Re:What amuses me. . . (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882393)

You probably haven't been looking in the right place.

I confess that our electronic voting machines, which have been in use at least the 14 years I have voted in La., are still working just fine, thank you. Amazingly enough, both liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans (and even the odd independent or three - and they get VERY odd down here) have been elected with them.

That said, I don't really see the advantage of electronic voting machines, myself. Paper and Pen ballots, and immutable procedures for recounts seem to work everywhere they have been tried.

Diebold conspiracy theories (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9882265)

I dismissed anti-Diebold conspiracy theorists as cranks, the political version of Project Bluebook UFO-hunters. After all, for their theory to work, the entire development staff of a major international corporation has to be in on the conspiracy, right?

But then I had the opportunity to speak with some senior managers from the company, who told me that, in fact, virtually the entire company was united behind dropping the electronic voting machines. They didn't trust the codebase (which was developed by a company Diebold acquired), felt the issue needed to be more deeply researched than it had been, and believed the bad publicity was hurting Diebold's reputation for security and reliability in its cash-management business.

But CEO Walden O'Dell disagrees. Virtually single-handedly, he has kept the e-voting project alive despite the vocal opposition of virtually everyone involved with it. When I asked the managers why they thought O'Dell was so strongly behind the project, their answers were blunt: "Politics."

If that's how management inside Diebold thinks, perhaps there's something to the conspiracy types after all....

- Watchful Babbler

"how hard is it to say 'add one to this vote" (1)

Neil Blender (555885) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882273)

Pretty hard, apparently. Diebold may be full of shitty programmers, bad designers, who knows.
But electronic voting is simply not a matter of:

if ( $vote eq 'y' )
$y++
else
$n++

Re:"how hard is it to say 'add one to this vote" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9882330)

But electronic voting is simply not a matter of...

Indeed, it's more like:

if ( $vote eq 'y' )
$paid_for_candidate++
else
$paid_for_candidate++

Re:"how hard is it to say 'add one to this vote" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9882382)

seriously, what else is there?

Re:"how hard is it to say 'add one to this vote" (3, Interesting)

Proteus (1926) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882409)

Precisely right.

The counting of the votes is easy, and a well-solved problem. The vast majority of the work goes toward making sure those votes are counted with perfect accuracy (i.e. that the simple interface never "glitches" about sending the correct vote to the counter), and in securing the device against tampering with the vote count or interface before, during, and after the election.

It is exactly because of the potential problems that a printed, hand-countable, voter-verifiable paper audit trail should be an essential part of any e-voting rules.

Re:"how hard is it to say 'add one to this vote" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9882431)

You speak the truth, Brother Blender. In these trying times, we must use, not Perl, but ADA.

Why not an AVM? (3, Interesting)

Donoho (788900) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882280)

it means a loss of the company's intellectual property

That's not the voter's problem.

and unfettered access could lead to a compromise of the voting system, if a determined cracker could find and exploit flaws in the code.
Or it could lead to anyone in the community blowing the whistle on propriatary back doors or the poor coding practices of the developers or....
These arguments are completely backwards.
how hard is it to say 'add one to this vote'?

Why not model these voting machines after ATM's? Every registered voter starts out with a single vote per election. Accounts are credited and debited and everyone is accountable... Automatic Voting Machine anyone?

Re:Why not an AVM? (2, Interesting)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882337)

Why not model these voting machines after ATM's? Every registered voter starts out with a single vote per election. Accounts are credited and debited and everyone is accountable... Automatic Voting Machine anyone?

Sounds good to me- ATMs keep paper records in the background (even when you choose not to get a receipt, listen closely and you'll here the "bllaurp" of a dot matix printer going off for a line for every transaction). To preserve vote privacy, your "account" to be debited or credited would only record that you did vote in such and such election- not how you voted, which would be recorded separately. And to top it off, you could get your printed reciept BEFORE you saved the record- just to be sure.

Re:Why not an AVM? (5, Funny)

provolt (54870) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882351)

Why not model these voting machines after ATM's?

You know you're right. I wonder where we could find an ATM company? They have the knowledge and skills. I wonder where we could find one of those [diebold.com] . They'd be really good at it.

Re:Why not an AVM? (1)

sk8king (573108) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882419)

And no mod points. That idea is simply awesome. I'm sure my initial reaction will be overturned due to some unforseen circumstance, but it seems quite logical as I look at it now.

You simply must be able to confirm that each registered voter was credited ONE vote in their account to begin with. No more, no less.

+1 Insightful/Interesting.

Re:Why not an AVM? (1)

lylfyl (553727) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882426)

Why not model these voting machines after ATM's? Every registered voter starts out with a single vote per election. Accounts are credited and debited and everyone is accountable... Automatic Voting Machine anyone?


Actually, that's a question I desparately need an answer to. Why are ATMs more secure and trustworthy? (or at least, seen to be more secure) then voting machines?

The reason I ask: I just noticed that my ATM with its touch screen and extra large "so-everybody-can-guess-my-damn-PIN" keypad is made by DIEBOLD.

Opting out not possible with Open Source (5, Insightful)

ajs (35943) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882283)

I find the idea facinating that open sourcing your product is a binding contract with the community. You cannot back out unless interest in your product is so low that no one ever bothers to fork it. But time and again we see with efforts like this one or XFree86 that the idea of backing out of an open source stance is actually more harmful than remaining that way. While some will view this as a problem, as a consumer, I view it as a boon.

Even making motions toward open source without going all the way can result in "pseudo-forking" (I'm posting this from a Gnome desktop which was originally created in response to the original licensing terms of the Qt library upon which KDE was based).

It will be very interesting to see what the next few decades bring to the table in terms of open source business practices. I envision a sort of corporate ethics evolving around the benefits and dangers of open source development, and this can only be a healthy process. Much as I think RMS took leave of his senses in the mid-90s (who didn't), I have to say that he nailed it when he decided that the GPL would have the power to change the software industry. I doubt that any other legal tool has been able to so profoundly shape the future of business since the anti-trust laws of early last century.

Specifications? (5, Insightful)

justanyone (308934) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882284)

Where are the specifications for this code?
What language is it written in?
Where is the source kept?
What platforms does it run under?

MoveOn.org is sponsoring a petition drive to urge U.S. voters to demand voter-verified paper ballots that can be audited and recounted if necessary. This is the ONLY solution.

A SECRET ballot means that the association between a specific person and a specific vote cast is vital to democracy. Doing otherwise can very easily lead to vote buying ("I'll pay you $x for proof you voted for my candidate!").

We need a specifications document laying out the requirements for this software, which platforms it runs on, etc.

We also need a copy of the existing code to (a) have a place to start from, (b) provide us something to look at and thus give us ideas for development methodologies, (c) give us a point of reference to use when lobbying congressmen, etc.

This must be on a paper trail so I know who I voted for. Election monitors (the people, one from each party, who literally looked over the shoulders of the people counting ballots in Florida) need to be able to verify the count afterwards in some statistically valid way.

Re:Specifications? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#9882326)

Doing otherwise can very easily lead to vote buying ("I'll pay you $x for proof you voted for my candidate!").

You lost me there. Isn't this a point for secret ballots. If it is secret then nobody can buy my vote because they won't have any proof. If it is open the person can easily come back and see if I did indeed vote for the agreed upon person.

Re:Specifications? (1)

5m477m4n (787430) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882379)

demand voter-verified paper ballots

That'll work great, as long as you can get every city in every state to agree to a unified Florida-proof system.
That being said, why not have electronic voting booths that print out a small paper reciept at the time the vote is cast for a backup?

Re:Specifications? (1)

shadypalm88 (753382) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882491)

With any open-source voting project, there must also be some way of verifying that the source was not tampered with between the source's release to the public and its actual usage. Having the source to the voting software is no good if it's not the source that is actually used.

Insane... (5, Interesting)

Lodragandraoidh (639696) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882289)

If the old lead developer goes insane, you can always fork it, right?

Yep. However, getting the politician's buy-in on certifying the fork will be problematic:

On the one hand, we have academia and open source developers pushing their idea. (Politicians aren't real comfortable around smart people or people with multiple piercings)

On the other hand, we have a group of respectible business men pushing their idea. (Politicians can relate to business men because they wear the same suits and ties, and many of them were business men themselves at one point or another)

Who is going to win? Hmmmm....

Fork it in Oz, as well (1)

Eadwacer (722852) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882322)

I would hope that the Australian FOSS community would rapidly mount a two-pronged attack. First, is strong representations to the Australian Capitol Territory Electoral Commission about the impact of licensing changes. In addition to a discussion of the impact of the restrictions, I'd ask if changing the license didn't invalidate their contract. Second, I would hope that someone in Australia would fork the project itself.

Is there any sort of open source lisence (1)

foidulus (743482) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882354)

That would allow the voting machine manufacturer to release the source, but not allow anyone to make a derivative work of it? In the general software world, it's kind of hard because you can't always tell where code came from, but in the realm of electronic voting, there are only a few players, and if you require them all to release their source, it would not be hard to spot someone who created a derivative work. Diebold can protect it's trade secrets and at the same time, the community could evaluate the source.
That of course still leaves the option of procedural fiddling(changing the vote counts after capturing etc) open, but it requires a lot more effort and a much larger chance of getting caught.

SI arguments: YECH! (3, Insightful)

schodackwm (662337) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882390)

"According to Software Improvement, simply releasing election-machine code under a liberal license such as the GPL is undesirable (because) ... unfettered access could lead to a compromise of the voting system, if a determined cracker could find and exploit flaws in the code."

Let's see: the audited access assures that no cracker can ever see the code, right?

And besides -- if we can't see the three-card-monte-man's hands, he can't cheat us?

The only argument that holds water is the IP/profit explanation I skipped in the quote above.

yech!

check out GVI (1)

RussP (247375) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882395)

Check out GVI [electionmethods.org] , the Graphical Voter Interface. It's free software in every sense, and I think it's pretty nifty.

The original American way... (1)

ForsakenRegex (312284) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882442)

If paper isn't working, and computers aren't working, then you've still got that last solution: weapons. That doesn't look likely now, but one lesson that's been learned repeatedly in history is that people will only allow themselves to be screwed so many times.

I say we vote with the tea. Everybody, get your tea, and head to Boston. Maybe the second time's the charm.

i don't understand this election software stuff (3, Interesting)

Triumph The Insult C (586706) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882466)

"...only a budget of AUS$200,000 ..."

i don't understand how it could be this expensive, exchange rates be damned, whatever

i don't see why this voting software needs to be so complicated? wouldn't some linux/*bsd/windows/mac/beos/atari/xbox/gamecube/dr eamcast box with a touchscreen suffice? have it run a simple web browser, have it verify the voter (perhaps some card sent to them post-voter-registration), and ++ some variable? write it out to compact flash (hey, we'll get redundant and use 2!). then have some trained monkey go around, pull the cards, and tally the numbers

the romans and greeks used rocks or sticks or whatever the fuck they could find on the ground, and voting worked. 1500 years later and it has to be so complex?

where did these software engineers go to school? have they never heard of occam?

Voter Fraud Forever! (1)

sciop101 (583286) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882471)

Voter Fraud will occur somewhere! Whether it is dead Democrats in Texas or state penal "residents" in Illinois. A relentless "patriot" will find a way to advance his cause.

When (if at all) will the software be checked during a vote recount?

The software check will probably be a checksum. This will not validate the voters.

Don't destroy the machines.... (1)

tx_kanuck (667833) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882483)

That does no one any good. Now, if you were to carry a really strong magnet with you when you vote for a local election, then maybe something can happen. Just wave the magnet over the machine when you're voting for your mayor and then complain that the machine is screwed up. Do it on one, and have 3 friends do it on others.

The machines are screwed up, and the election gets tossed. Plus, only a minor election gets screwed up so it would be easier to re-hold the election.

Scanners (1)

Shrique (457689) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882508)

I personally don't understand what the heck is wrong with optical scanners that use paper ballots. It's simple cost effective and you have a paper trail. You could setup some sort of a system that prints the ballots at each polling site to speed the prior setup currently needed. (right now the ballots are pre printed at outsourced printing companies...well at least in MN)

This push for touch screens confounds me. Being a gadget nut this goes contrary to all my instincts but when it comes to voting,(especially what happened in the last presidential ellection) I want easily usable, simple technology voting machines that in the end the voters intent is easily determined. If someone can't figure out how to fill in big ass circles with a marker on a piece of technology* that has been around for thousands of years then they dont deserve to vote anyway.

* paper for you slow folks

Back to punch cards (1)

dacarr (562277) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882509)

No, I'm serious. We should go back to punch cards. as was the standard here in California until 2002. Why? Because you can't degauss a piece of paper with an EMP, and it's simple.

Greedy switcharoo (1)

Saeger (456549) | more than 9 years ago | (#9882512)

It's not that often you hear about GPL'd software switching to an (effectively) closed-source license; especially recently, it's been exactly the opposite trend.

It would have to take a LOT of pork and power to get your average "GPL idealist" to sellout, but the stakes are too high with voting software to allow corruption to be closed source! They claim they need to protect their "intellectual property" for security reasons when in fact security by obscurity has nothing to do with it, and they know it.

--

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